Laura Kastner, Ph.D.
Author, “Getting to Calm and Wise-Minded Parenting”
Teens cannot succeed in life without good mental health, which has become the new hot commodity among youths.
Research has shown things that help kids do well in school, careers, and relationships also improve their mental health. These seven strengths are the keys:
1. Secure attachment
Secure attachment is more than love. It includes accepting your children just as they are while nudging them toward growth. To do this, prove to your kids that you are reliable and trustworthy, and that you are tuned into their interests and lives. A close relationship allows you to influence your teen positively even while they buck like a bronco.
Self-control is a better predictor of success than IQ and academic measures. Think carefully about those goodies you hand out freely. Help your teens delay gratification, develop patience, and plan for long-term goals.
3. Academic success
Applying pressure on your kids to achieve superstar status can be harmful, but failure in school failure should not be an option. If you must, advocate, seek help, and sell your TV for tutoring fees — anything to keep your children engaged in school.
4. Social thriving
Social skills are important, but so are deep friendships and rich networks of support. Kids learn by relating, receiving feedback, and learning self-awareness. Invite people to dinner. It reduces moodiness because teens will up their game for others!
5. Emotional flourishing
Appropriately expressing feelings enables connection and self-soothing. Try to validate your teen’s feelings, without saying “Yes, but … .” Model and support the development of emotional intelligence skills — like recognizing, naming, expressing, and coping with feelings. Those skills leverage success in every aspect of life. Get your teens help when signs and symptoms of mental health problems arise.
6. Strong character
Virtues are often acquired the hard way, through mistakes and struggle. Lectures don’t work. Teens build character through a delicate balance of challenge and support. Participating in after-school activities is shown to boost spirits, improve self-esteem, and build positive connections with peers and adults. Sign ‘em up!
7. Physical health
Teens need an hour of exercise per day. The easiest way to get it is by participating in sports programs at school or in the community. Other great ways to keep kids healthy are to make sure they eat nutritious food, get plenty of sleep, limit their screen time, are exposed to nature to nature, practice mindfulness, effectively limit risk-taking, and are involved in spiritual/faith communities. Parents can influence their children’s development of these seven strengths by staying mostly positive and balancing their authority with warmth and respect for their teens’ feelings, thoughts, and evolving identities. It’s hard work, but watching your teen blossom into adulthood is one of the most gratifying experiences on Earth.
Laura Kastner, Ph.D., Author, “Getting to Calm and Wise-Minded Parenting,” [email protected]