Secondary: Healthy Habits
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March 2022

As a parent of a teen, you are beginning to see your child become an adult. These are critical years that will affect both their current and future health. Being physically active, eating right, managing stress and getting enough sleep all improve your teen's mental well-being. Mental well-being is at the heart of overall wellness and is essential for learning, physical health, emotional
growth, resilience and self-esteem.

This Snapshot will support you in guiding your teen to become a healthy and fulfilled  adult.

70% of males and 66% of females ages 15-30 reported having excellent or good general health
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2019 Canada Health Survey on Children and Youth ages 15-17 years
supporting healthy habits
Studies have found that autonomy supportive parenting works best in helping to establish beneficial health behaviours in childhood and adolescence. Autonomy supportive parents communicate clear expectations and involve teens in making choices within specific parameters. These parents are open to discussions, receptive to their child's input, and will consider modifying the parameters if necessary. In short, these are flexible but consistent parents who provide guidance. 
This may involve having discussions with your teen about how much fruits and vegetables they should be eating for optimal health, having a balance between screen time and active time or ways to manage stress.

You can get your teen involved in grocery shopping for the family or scheduling breaks from screen time. In doing these types of things, you've set clear expectations or guidelines for your teen to follow and you've allowed them to be involved in making their own healthy choices. 
Sleep wonderful sleep!
2019 Canada Health Survey on Children and Youth ages 15-17 years
- 41% reported having sleeping difficulties at least once a week
- 29% that had difficulty sleeping reported their mental health as poor
- 36% found it difficult to stay awake during the day at least sometimes
Most teens today are living with mild to severe sleep deprivation. Experts say teens need over 9 hours a night to be healthy. But over a third of teens get only 5 to 6 hours a night. The major reasons for sleep deprivation in teens are biology, screen time and high expectations.

Biology- due to hormone changes, teens are more awake at midnight and would wake at 10 or 11am if they didn‘t have to get to school. Studies show that teens don‘t function well before 9am. When they try to catch up on sleep on the weekends, it messes with their sleep even more.

Screen Time - the light coming from screens keeps our brains from making melatonin, which is the sleep hormone. Between doing homework on computers and socializing on phones, teens screen time is generally excessive. 
High expectations - some teens who want to be perfect in school stay up all night to study. However studies show students who sleep less suffer academically, as chronic sleep loss impairs the ability to remember, concentrate, think abstractly and solve problems. Students with higher grades reported sleeping more, going to bed earlier on school nights and sleeping in less on weekends than students who had lower grades.

We also live in a culture that values activity over sleep. Teens often participate in more activities than they have time for. The more they do, the less sleep they get. 

Adolescents are entering a period in which they are striving for autonomy and want to make their own decisions, including when to go to sleep. But studies suggest adolescents do better in terms of mood and fatigue levels if parents, in discussion with their teen, set a realistic bedtime. Growing teens still benefit from someone who will help set the structure for their lives. 

Healthy stress management
Everyone feels stress from time to time. We can’t always control the things that cause stress, but we can control how we cope with it. One of the most important things parents can do is model stress management skills  and support their teen to practice these skills.

A healthy lifestyle includes healthy eating, physical activity, and good sleep habits. Research has found that healthy lifestyle habits can be as effective as some medications. A healthy lifestyle in conjunction with counselling, may be more effective for mild to moderate anxiety and depression than just medication interventions alone.
Healthy thinking means thinking in a balanced way. When youth feel stressed, helping them to think about the stressful situation in a balanced way can give them the confidence to manage their fears and worries.  

Families can use the following green/ red thought resource to start looking at helpful thinking strategies:  
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Healthy peer connections are always  important, but are particularly important if your child is experiencing a lot of stress. Encourage your teen to participate in fun activities and spend time with friends or try relaxation exercises like mindfulness, visualization, or deep breathing. 

Also be aware of the stress connected to being overscheduled. Help your teen prioritize and be aware of the impact their commitments may be having on their stress levels. However it remains crucial for youth to have some outlet that includes social connections.
Working through problems is a healthy way to manage stress. Try to support youth to work through problems without solving it for them.  

This video demonstrates how parents can  model good problem solving skills to their teen.
Self care
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As a parent give  yourself permission to focus on your own self-care — and practice a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy snacks and meals, exercise, and get quality sleep to help keep stress at bay. By showing your family you care about your own well-being, you’re teaching them how to respond more positively to stress and even build up their own resilience to it. There’s nothing like getting outdoors to recharge and help de-stress. Play, move and have fun!
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Sources and Resources

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