Parents, do you hear this ALL THE TIME? Is your adolescent child constantly complaining of feeling exhausted? Here are 5 reasons why teenagers in 2017 are just plain worn out:
1. They need more sleep. Did you know an adolescent still should be getting a little over 9 hours of sleep per night? Adults need about 8 or 8.5. The difference here is that teenagers are still growing and developing. You wouldn’t allow a 2 year old child to get only 7 hours of sleep per night, so why are you allowing your 15 year old to only get 5 or 6? Sleep needs to be guarded and prioritized above friends, screen time (video games, phones, Netflix), sports and sometimes even homework. It is the magic elixir that prevents illness, prevents depression, allows clarity of thought, elevates moods, improves memory, gives incredible amounts of energy, and restores breakdowns within the body. Sleep is imperative.
2. Their diet needs to be improved. It is really easy to overlook diet in children because they’re children. They are so active that they don’t look fat. They seem to eat whatever and feel fine. Honestly though, once you feed your teenager a truly healthy diet you’ll probably see a difference. Teens go out to eat often. This means they are possibly filling up on empty calories. They aren’t getting enough vitamins through fruits and vegetables, and they are getting too much salt and sugar. Teenagers also consume a pretty good amount of caffeine. While caffeine is a band-aid, it isn’t part of the recipe to optimum health. Help them eat right so their energy can improve.
3. They don’t know how to be still. Psalm 46:10 in the Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Our culture has lost the art of being still. Oh sure, we know how to sit and not physically move, but we never still our minds. I bet your teenager sleeps with his phone beside his bed, uses it as his alarm to wake up, checks texts and social media right away, and always has music playing. We are never just quiet and still anymore. It helps your teenager re-energize if he can learn to sit outside, enjoy the breeze, listen to the sounds and observe what is around…without an electronic device.
4. They are over-committed. There are so many good things to do with our time. However, saying yes to everything prevents any of us from doing one or two things well. Believe me, if I said yes to every client who called, I never would have learned how to specialize in working with adolescents. Your teenager can’t say yes to everything either. Your child might already know she intends to major in engineering in college. In that case it is probably better that she learns AP Physics well instead of halfway understanding AP Physics and AP US History. Maybe, just maybe, AP US History isn’t useful for her particular goals.
5. They need to shut off their phones. Do you realize how much longer it takes to complete an assignment when you stop every one to two minutes to read and respond to a text message? It will easily double the time needed. Imagine driving in traffic. It is much slower to start and stop constantly than to just cruise along to your destination. Your adolescent is a master at keeping two or three threads of thought running at the same time: your daughter is engaged in two different text conversations and is concentrating on that paper she’s trying to write. Help her see something very important: things that feel urgent aren’t always important. Answering someone’s text feels like it needs to be done quickly, but usually it isn’t important. Can you remember the text conversation you had with your friend from three weeks ago? Your teen can’t either. Help your child learn that while Americans constantly multi-task, all the research shows this is detrimental to performance and efficiency. Can you imagine if your surgeon were multi-tasking!?!
Parents, I’m sure you noticed that these 5 things don’t just apply to kids. They are also why you feel tired. They are also why I get tired. I find it’s a constant battle to sleep more, eat better, say no to good things, rest my body AND mind, and put down my phone. However, it’s a battle I’ll keep fighting because I don’t want to be cranky and exhausted. I know you don’t want to be either, and neither does your teen.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT