Teaching Your Teen To Value Mental And Physical Health

Posted on November 17th, 2016


The world holds a multitude of cross-cultural values that are weighted differently across nations, ethnicities, and religions. In the U.S., we value success, ambition and self-assertion, which is not surprising considering our competitive economic systems, confrontational legal systems, and achievement-oriented child rearing (1).

Were you raised to emerge from the nest wealthy, knowledgeable, aggressive, or benevolent? Are you raising children to be “happy,” motivated, or risk-averse?

As a pediatric acute/intensive care nurse closely wired into my local educational structure and raising a loving son, I gravitate toward introspection and long conversations about our place in the world. Recently, I started to contemplate a world in which we raise and are raised to a single tenant: to promote and achieve a maximal state of mental and physical health for ourselves and those we are closest to. To first and foremost make decisions within our means that nurture and protect body and soul.

This does not necessarily include a heated pilates membership. In practice, it is all-encompassing – healthy decisions construct an ethical and moral underpinning for society that re-shapes our reality.

Living up to this goal affects how we create, use, and dispose of day-to-day items. It ladders up to how we transport ourselves and our “stuff” and how we communicate. How much strain can we subject our eyes to? How does the way and where we live impact our lungs? Can behavior fluctuations stabilize in the presence of more responsible sugar consumption?

Brilliant minds and manufacturing techniques have given rise to a plethora of consumer goods. Technology, agribusiness, and healthcare would benefit from responsible inventions by the very people bringing us 20+ brands of chips, gasoline additives, and “just-because” pharmaceuticals.

Living to achieve health increases the power to say “no, this isn’t good for me.” This permission to decline to participate in detrimental living is sometimes all we need to hear. Health promotion does not equal lack of missteps or anything beyond trying. It is the layer of conscience that protects us from carcinogens in flame-retardant pajamas, heavy metals in water, and tar in our lungs. It changes how and with whom we communicate, and how we connect in a healthy and organic fashion. It is not a luxury of the rich or inaccessible to those who are resource-challenged. Would a society that prioritizes heath allow any of its constituents to go hungry?

Imagine a world that prioritizes healthy and ethical progress over anything else. Imagine the impact at the household level.

It’s not about me, mine and now.

It’s about us and forever.

 Here are some ideas that you can both teach your teen and model:

  1. Eat breakfast, and one not laden with sugar. A stressful morning can ruin the day.
  2. Fruit is naturally packaged. Try to have the bulk of a meal or snack be fresh, rather than coming out of a factory-sealed box.
  3. Choose to walk or bike, rather than drive, whenever possible.
  4. Take a break from the screen to cleanse your brain. Keep a written journal with illustrations and charts to sort your thoughts out.
  5. Look for the positive in others and tell them what you see.
  6. Play music or make music – as much as possible.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and a country-wide shift in values won’t happen instantly. It’s important to teach our teens the impact holding these values will have on their own bodies and in the lives of others. Starting to implement change now, maybe with the ideas listed above, can have a major influence on what values we promote in generations to come.


(1) Fundamental Questions in Cross-Cultural Psychology. Edited by Fons J.R. vande Vivjer, Athanasios Chasiotis, segar M. Breugelmans. Cambridge University Press. P. 471


* * * * * *

* * * * * *


Would you like additional guidance in this area? Teen Therapy Center provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.