You are your teen’s most important role model. 75 percent of American children say family members are among their top role models, compared to 25 percent who identify their role models as celebrities or athletes, according to a survey by the Horatio Alger Association. This makes the example you set crucial to your teen’s development. Here are some ways your example can influence your teenager and ways you can make sure you’re setting the example you want your teen to follow.
When it comes to diet, what you eat directly impacts your teen’s health. Unfortunately, in many cases, teens are learning unhealthy eating habits. One-third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, citing the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Health and Agriculture Departments’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that all persons aged two and older should maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat and fat-free dairy products. Additionally, both parents and teens should consume less than 10 percent of their daily calorie intake from added sugars, less than 10 percent from saturated fat and less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Serving and eating the right food at your meals will help your teen develop healthy eating habits of their own.
The government’s dietary guidelines are meant to work in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Only one in four U.S. teens gets enough exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Parents who model good exercise habits and encourage their teens to be physically active can help promote health in teens. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderately-intense physical activity or 75 minutes of intense activity each week, including strengthening exercises two or more days a week. Youth between the ages of 6 and 17 need at least 60 minutes of activity each day, which should include muscle-strengthening, bone-strengthening and aerobic activities. Engaging in family activities and sports that involve physical activity can help motivate you and your teen to follow these guidelines.
Your teen’s education begins at home. Children of parents who have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of finding themselves at the lowest reading levels, making them more likely to get poor grades and drop out, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Education writer Varda Epstein recommends taking some proactive steps to get your teen to read. Model good reading habits by giving your teen a copy of your favorite book from when you were their age. Buy them a book related to their own interests; leave interesting reading material in the bathroom or other places in the house where they are likely to see it; give them a gift card for a bookstore; or perhaps declare a No-Tech Day to get your teen off the smartphone.
Your behavior can also help influence your teen’s career development in a positive direction. Modeling and encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit can set your teen on a path toward career advancement or even owning their own business.
Acceleration Partners founder Bob Glazer suggests using simple activities such as mowing lawns to teach your teen basic business skills. You can have your teen do such activities to increase their allowance or earn money from neighbors. Encourage them to follow their own ideas to think of other ways to earn money. Get them involved with organizations such as Junior Achievement. Get yourself involved with an organization such as Amway where you can explore entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial activities and get your teen involved in what you’re doing. You can also try opening a savings account for your teen to teach them how to save what they earn.
The average teen spends nine hours a day online consuming media such as videos and music, according to a study by family technology education non-profit Common Sense Media. Your behavior can have an impact on what influences your teen during this large proportion of their time.
One precaution you can take is to search for yourself on Google and see if what you find reflects the type of person you want to model to your teen. You should also learn about parental controls for devices and apps on your family’s network and find out about the apps your teen is using and what precautions you need to take for them. Avoid taking arguments online to social media in front of your teen. Lastly, try scheduling down time where your family can be together offline.