What do you do regularly without thinking? What are your habits? Do you make coffee first thing in the morning? Get on your phone when you’re bored? Exercise? It’s the things we do again and again that form us into who we are, for better or worse.It’s the things we do again and again that form us into who we are, for better or worse.
Now think about your teen. What are his habits? What does she do unconsciously when she’s bored or tired or upset? These things, far more than anything your teens are aware that they do, are shaping who they are becoming. Here are 3 teenage habits that are wrecking your teen (plus suggestions for new habits your teens can use to replace them!).
1. Sleeping with a Phone
There are two main reasons this is a bad idea, both of which lead to increased anxiety and depression in teens. First, the blue light emitted from a smartphone actually disrupts our circadian rhythms, inhibiting the ability to fall asleep. Second, by sleeping with a phone, teens are virtually guaranteeing that the first and last thing they’re doing every day is paying attention to social media, focusing on how many likes or comments they’ve received.
New Habit: Choose a designated place the phone goes before bedtime. Require your teens to put their phones in the docking station and to leave them there until the next morning. Encourage other ways to spend that time that are constructive, such as reading or talking to you.
2. Staying up Late
This is challenging. Not only does your teen have a growing list of academic responsibilities and extracurricular activities that press on bedtime, but sleep is also a place of control. Teens want to be in charge of when they go to sleep. But lack of sleep is a big contributor to increased anxiety and depression.
New Habit: Restrict phone usage until homework is done. There may need to be some exceptions, but if a teen is not allowed to be on his or her phone until homework is completed, having this habit will decrease distraction and increase efficiency. It will also improve retention.
It’s common for a teen to withdraw from time to time. This isn’t all bad and is sometimes even necessary. However, habitually doing this creates a knee jerk response where teens go inward when they need to ask for help. They learn to remove themselves from those who care when they need to open up.
New Habit: Create a daily check-in. This could be the family meal, but if you’re unable to swing that, get creative. During a particularly busy season of our lives, we were unable to do a daily family meal. Instead, we’d take 15 minutes every evening and share a unique snack. This didn’t end the desire to withdraw, but it did create new rhythms of connection that will serve our family well in the long run.
Sound off: What teenage habits do your kids need to break, and what new teenage habits do you want to encourage?
Huddle up with your teen and ask, “Can you think of a habit that you have that is helpful and one that isn’t?”