Habits & Behavior
4 Healthy Habits To Set Your Teen Up For Life
4 Healthy Habits To Set Your Teen Up For Life
5 min read
By Kathryn Rawson
4 Healthy Habits To Set Your Teen Up For Life

Adolescence is the best time for habit formation. Why? The teenage brain is undergoing rapid changes in its structure. This process is called neuroplasticity. It's a big word for a simple process - the brain is changing and learning as it goes.

This means it's easier to learn and form new habits when we are teenagers compared to later stages of life.

It's a great time to encourage your teen to develop healthy habits that will benefit them well into adulthood and set them up for success in school and life.

Here are 4 core habits that, according to the research, will be the most beneficial to your teen:

Habit #1 Quality Sleep

According to Michael Crocetti, a pediatrician at Johns Hopkins, teenagers need between 9 to 9½ hours of sleep per night. Not only is the quantity of sleep teenagers get essential, but so is the quality. 

Quality sleep is vital for your teen's cognitive function, concentration, mood regulation, and physical health.

Unfortunately, stresses and irregular sleeping patterns often have a negative effect on the quality and quantity of sleep teenagers get. A high workload at school, overloaded schedules, and electronic devices can all contribute to poor sleep. So how can we help our teens get better sleep?

3 Top Tips to Better Sleep

💤 Encourage your teen to maintain a regular sleep pattern by consistently waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, including weekends.

💤 Create a sleep-friendly environment: Keep digital devices (smartphones and tablets) out of bed, keep the lights off or dim, and ensure their room is cool and comfortable.

💤 Introduce a calm pre-bedtime routine: try relaxing activities such as reading a good book, practicing deep breathing, taking a warm bath, or writing down their thoughts in a journal.

Read more of our science-backed tips for better sleep here.

Habit #2 Digital Wellbeing

The earlier your teenager can learn to develop a healthy relationship with their digital devices, the better it is for their wellbeing.

Excessive device usage is associated with poor mental and physical health outcomes such as anxiety and loneliness. It can also affect sleep quality and lead to poor grades.

Device usage is not all negative - a healthy relationship with devices can help teens build meaningful social relationships and empower them to use technology as a tool. So how can we help our teens develop a better relationship with their devices?

3 Top Tips to Digital Wellbeing

📱Manage screen time:  For many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended no more than 2 hours a day of screen time for teens. This recommendation has recently been updated since screens now infiltrate many areas of a teens life (homework, making plans with friends, and planning their weeks). We suggest setting limits for recreational screen time, including tv, gaming, social media, etc.

📱Establish tech-free zones: Set zones around the house where devices are not allowed, e.g., at the dinner table, in bed, and in the study area.

📱Use digital wellbeing tools: Many devices and apps can help monitor and manage screen time. These help teens be more mindful of the time spent on their phones, which will help them make better decisions about their device usage.

Habit #3 Balanced Scheduling

Many teenagers have schedules jam-packed with extracurricular activities - sports, extra classes, music lessons, socializing, part-time jobs, etc. While activities outside of school are excellent opportunities for learning and growth, their schedules can quickly become overloaded.

Overscheduling can quickly lead to stress and anxiety and negatively affect their academic performance - they may struggle to balance their academic workload with other commitments.Many teenagers get home late, leading to them completing their homeworking well into the evening, so it's no surprise they aren't getting enough quality sleep.

Prioritization is an excellent skill for teenagers to learn and is the first step to helping them avoid overscheduling. A great place to start is to help them answer the following questions. The answers can help them determine if their schedule is too full and plan how to make adjustments going forward.

3 Questions for Balanced Scheduling

📆 Do you feel rested when you sit down and complete your homework? 

📆 Do you think that you have enough time for your friends and family? 

📆 Do you feel like you get enough sleep?

Habit #4 Managing Stress

In a 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association, teenagers reported higher stress levels than adults. Teenagers are transitioning from childhood to adulthood, and this developmental phase makes them highly susceptible to stress.

If not managed properly, high stress levels can result in mental and physical health issues in teens. Chronic stress can also lead to poor academic performance and even risk-taking behavior.

How can you help your teen manage their stress?

3 Top Tips for Managing Stress

🧘🏽‍♂️ Creative Outlets: Creative expression is an excellent tool to manage stress, providing a sense of relaxation and accomplishment. Encourage your teen to try drawing, writing, playing a musical instrument, or crafting. There are so many creative activities to explore.

🧘🏽‍♂️ Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises, like the 4-7-8 technique. Inhale deeply for a count of 4, hold your breath for 7 counts, and exhale slowly for 8 counts. This helps calm the nervous system relieving the physical sensations of stress (heart palpitations, shortness of breath, etc.).

🧘🏽‍♂️ Physical Activity: Regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, dancing, or yoga, can help release endorphins and reduce stress levels. Encourage them to find and incorporate an enjoyable activity into their daily routine.

Final Thoughts

Adolescence is the best time to learn new and healthy habits to set your teen up for life. Learning a new habit - and making it stick - can sometimes be difficult for kids and teens. Follow our easy 4-step guide to helping teenagers build a new habit here! 


American Psychological Association (APA) Stress in America™ Poll: Are Teens Adopting Adults' Stress Habits? February 11, 2014.


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