Topsy-Turvy Teen? 7 Healthy Habits That Can Make a Big Difference

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By Mirela Bitkowski, MA

The teenage years can be pretty chaotic.

Lots of changes, lots of new experiences, lots of learning and struggles.

Making the transition from carefree child to responsible adult isn’t a walk in the park. Though, for some, it comes easier than for others.

Cultivating healthy habits is crucial for navigating this turbulent phase of life.

How can your teen develop good habits? Habits that not only help them stay more balanced and focused but that will serve them a lifetime?

Developing Healthy Habits That Make a Difference

Sound habits can help teens during the exciting yet challenging time of adolescence while they still live with their family, but even more so when they move away from home. Often, it’s only then when they confront the baggage of bad habits they may have racked up. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Consider these 7 helpful habits that can stabilize your teen:

1. A Good Sleeping Routine

A lack of sleep can affect a teen’s overall health. Research shows that a lack of sleep can increase mental and emotional challenges, lead to poor academic performance, and even put your child at risk for obesity. Teens who get serious about sleep are usually much more balanced emotionally and physically.

A good sleeping routine that will help your teen relax would include going to bed at about the same time each night, turning off the electronics 30 minutes before retiring, and perhaps listening to soothing music or taking a warm bath.

2. Healthy Eating Practices

Healthy eating includes various aspects, such as making the choice to eat sufficient nutrient-rich food, drinking plenty of water during the day, eating timely and regularly, and not eating in a hurry. A body fueled with healthy food will help your teen stay energetic, focused, and calm.

Paying special attention to snack habits is also crucial. Often teenagers have a need to unwind after coming home from a long day of school. They may habitually grab for anything that’s in reach—a bag of chips or cookies—and go zone out on the couch watching TV. However, to encourage healthy eating habits, it’s highly important that teens learn to detach eating from decompressing.

3. Daily Physical Activity

Regular exercise or physical activity has a ton of benefits—especially when you get into the habit while young. It helps to maintain a healthy weight, boosting energy and mood, prevent diseases, and lowers stress throughout one’s lifetime.

Encourage your teen to incorporate activities such as walking (perhaps the family dog), jumping on a trampoline, jogging, or playing outdoor games into their daily routine. Being active will help them to stay fresh—mentally and physically—and prevent them from spending too much time in front of the TV, the computer, or playing video games for too long.

4. Concern for Bodily Health and Hygiene

Seeing the importance of a regular physical checkup isn’t automatic for teens. But early prevention will decrease future regrets. Bad habits such as smoking, consuming too much sugar, and drinking alcohol can increase their risk of illness, diseases, and other life-threatening health problems.

Moreover, taking care of personal hygiene may seem an annoyance for some teens. Yet, regular baths or showers, brushing and flossing teeth, and keeping their surroundings and clothing clean are habits that contribute to their overall well-being. Showing concern for these matters should not be underestimated.

5. Attending to Mental and Emotional Health

The teen years are full of stressful situations—tons of changes, tons of new experiences, tons of struggles. It’s good to get into the habit of knowing how to handle stress and worry. Too much can not only zap the joy out of their life but also harm their health. And chronic anxiety can lead to depression, insomnia, physical ailments, and more.

It’s important that teens learn how to take time out and refresh themselves. Practicing meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness can help them handle stress better. What is more, taking time to really get to know your thoughts, feelings, and responses to various trying situations can help teens to be more confident, content, and self-assured.

6. Strong Boundaries and Support Systems

To make their health and well-being a priority, teens must learn to set healthy boundaries. Saying “no” to a demanding friend, not giving in to peer pressure, developing a sound and healthy body image, or choosing to reduce their busy schedule is not being selfish—it’s good sense.

Developing a reliable support system and strong relationships will serve your teen a lifetime. People who can assist them, accept them for who they are, and encourage them to embrace their flaws and grow are one of the best things for all aspects of their health.

7. Wise Time Management

Using time wisely isn’t a strength of most teenagers. Helping them to establish good study habits and overcoming procrastination is imperative for their future. Time management comes even more into play when your teen graduates high school. If your teen moves on to college, or decides to work immediately after high school, they will not have anyone to look over their shoulder telling them what they need to do. Developing good time management skills during the teen years is an important part of managing life when your child leaves home and launches into the next phase of their life and development.

Part of managing time has to do with not spending endless hours online. Not only does it waste precious opportunities, but it can cause a lot of stress, negatively affect a teen’s eyes, and even lead to internet addiction.

Clearly, if you assist your teen with developing these healthy habits now, you’ll be able to make a big difference in their life. They’ll be able to maneuver those confusing adolescent years with much more grace and balance.


Mirela Bitkowski, MA, LPC Intern, works with parents, teens, and families at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. For parents needing guidance through the pitfalls of their child’s teenage years, call Mirela at 512-270-4883, ext. 103, or go to the RCC Austin Scheduling page to request an appointment with her.