We all know how challenging this last year has been for families; teens have been especially affected by the restrictions they have faced.

    Increased screen times, lack of social interactions and no extra curriculars have left teens bored, stressed and frustrated leaving  it difficult for parents to understand  how to support them.

    As weather warms up and restrictions eased, here is a quick guide to get teens started back on track to optimal mental health and well being.

    Get Them Outside

    The benefits of fresh air vitamin D and getting dirty are countless. Dust off those running shoes, scooters, and bikes (you too Mom and Dad) hit the waterfront or your favorite trail and just get their bodies moving again. Increased movement also means better sleep and better overall physical health.

    Social Connections

    Let them connect safely with their friends. Social interactions during the teen years are vital for social/emotional growth. When they do not have regular access to their peers it can create a sense of loneliness and have negative effects on self esteem. Arrange for them to meet at the park and have a social distance picnic, play soccer or even just a walk and talk. This will boost their sense of social connection increasing their overall mood.

    Put Them to Work

     We all have chores that pile up, get them out helping. While they may grumble at first kids do better when they have a sense of purpose and responsibility. Have them rake, cut grass, pull weeds, fix up projects, paint etc… We do not give teens enough credit for what they are capable of and the more we encourage them to take part in family responsibilities the better sense of ownership they feel. Don’t forget the positive feedback and praise to keep them motivated. If they are motivated enough, they may even be able to take this further and earn some cash from neighbours and extended family.

    Getting Hands Dirty

    Get their hands dirty. Build a garden together. Got a woodworker? Get them to build a raised garden or flower bed. Don’t want to tackle a project that big, no problem, get them planting a small flower or herb garden instead. Gardening can be so therapeutic. Allow them to choose what they want to plant make them responsible for the care and upkeep. Maybe they can build a small planter and gift it to a grandparent or family friend they have been missing.

    Gratitude Practices

    Practice Gratitude Daily. It has been a tough ride this year, no one can deny that we are all warriors. It is important we also acknowledge the things in our lives that bring us joy and happiness. Sit with your teens once a day and say out loud one thing each of you is grateful for, all the things big and small. Start a family gratitude journal, leave it out on the kitchen table and encourage everyone to contribute to it (Mom and Dad lead the way!). Put up white board or chalkboard in a common area and start a list of things you are grateful for, change it up weekly. The little things are the big things, and a daily gratitude practice can increase mental and emotional well being.

    Which strategy will you and your family start today?

    This great advice is brought to you by Samantha Barnes of Sweet Spot Family Counselling.  Samantha’s team is available to help find better ways to manage difficult emotions.  Working with families they are able to teach healthier coping strategies and improve relations.  Together with their clients they assist with re-building inner strength and resilience by increasing self-love, self worth and acceptance.

    If you are experience difficulties within your family circle – reaching out is the first step in good mental health awareness.

    Call today.

    When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions its our job to share our calm not join their chaos…

    -L.R. Knost

    Written By: Jane Laker

    Photo Credit: Veronika Kovecses

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