I’m the author of “Dad’s Great Advice for Teens,” and the father of four kids, three of whom are professional teens, and a fourth who acts like one.
Now that we’re over that previous year whose name shall never be spoken out loud again, I think we all agree it’s time for a major reboot. Everybody’s got their own personal resolutions for the new year, but how do you know exactly what the right thing is for you to focus on? Here is some “great advice” on how to figure out the best way to define the “new you” for the new year, in addition to some of the best suggestions for almost everybody’s new-year focus.
Advice for teens
- Define your weaknesses and build a NEW YOU on top of those weaknesses
The first step towards building the best new you imaginable is to figure out the aspects of the old you that just weren’t working for you. List out what you think are some of your top personal weaknesses. Then throw that list away and make a real list, this time being absolutely honest about what your weaknesses really are. Then devise a small, realistic and measurable goal around each of those weaknesses. If your biggest weakness is staying up late on your phone, set a goal that the phone gets put away and charged outside your bedroom at a certain time at least three nights a week.
- Set a physical and mental goal for NEW YOU
Almost everything in your life, from your schoolwork to your friends to your relationships relies on a foundation of the two most important aspects of your day-to-day life. No, it’s not Twitter and TikTok– it’s your body and your mind. If your body or your mind falls out of shape, stand back, because lots of other things are going to fall apart around it. As a result, make sure you set at least one goal for a new you that’s focused on your body, and one that’s focused on your mind. For your body, you could commit to running a 10K race, increasing your flexibility enough to touch your toes, or doing 10 chin-ups. For your mind, you could decide to not get so stressed out by homework, meditate five days a week or eliminate negative thoughts about yourself.
- Don’t just set goals for NEW YOU, set one for NEW THEM
After coming up with a list of goals, make sure you include one goal that helps develop a “new them,” with the “them” being anybody less fortunate than yourself. Set a goal for hungry people to have more food to eat, and help them reach that goal by volunteering at a soup kitchen once a month. Or set a goal for a homeless person to have a more comfortable night, and help them reach that goal by giving them warm clothes, or thick socks or a heavy blanket. You may realize that helping create a new them for the new year will probably do more towards creating a new you than anything else you could possibly do.
4. Make NEW YOU take a ME day
There’s nothing that teens focus on more than their friends and relationships (with the possible exception of their hair, which obviously requires a great deal of focus). And that’s a good thing, because it’s our friendships and relationships that contribute more than any single other factor to our happiness. But every once in a while, make sure you focus an entire day on the most important person that you spend the most time with: yourself. At least once a month, take a day off from texting, calling and hanging out with your friends, and devote the entire day to numero uno. You can use that time to focus on a new hobby, setting other goals or just vegging out in front of the TV. It doesn’t matter what exactly you do, as long as you learn to be comfortable and enjoy the time you spend alone.
5. Don’t let NEW YOU procrastinate
If there’s one thing that’s almost universal among teens (and many adults too), it’s their amazing superhuman ability to push things off until later. But procrastination causes a lot of anxiety, and I think you’ll agree that anxiety is something we’re trying to eliminate, or at least reduce, from your repertoire. Recognize that procrastination is usually driven by a feeling of uncertainty about how to go about starting to do something. Once you come to terms with that, as well as learn some time-management skills like scheduling out smaller, more manageable goals, then you’re halfway towards reducing procrastination.
Advice for parents
It’s one thing to parent a teen, but to do it during a pandemic takes a superhuman feat of strength… and some strategy.
- Give some new, additional responsibilities
With all the extra time at home, your teenager is probably able to take on a bit more responsibility than they otherwise would have. Ideally, choose something that they know they’re going to have to learn once they leave home. For example, ask your teen to cook dinner for the family one night a week and give them the assistance they need to be successful at the undertaking.
Or if you can’t stand their cooking, ask them to start doing their own laundry. Giving them some additional responsibilities might not make them too happy at first (ok, it definitely won’t make them too happy) but it will allow them to spread their wings and feel a sense of independence, which is even more important when this pandemic has them feeling anything but independent.
- Emphasize exercise
Back in the good ol’ days when schools weren’t all online, there was something called P.E. class. Now more than ever, it’s important that teens remain active as much as possible. The best way of doing so is by asking them to propose their own exercise plan to keep active. Give them flexibility to keep active in whatever way they’re going to enjoy the most, but also make sure that any “Emphasize Exercise” plan meets the following criteria:
- Plans for some physical activity at least five days a week
- Plans for some physical activity at least 30 minutes per day
- Defines physical activities that are aerobic enough to get their heart rates up and build a sweat
- Balances different types of exercise (aerobic, strength, flexibility, etc.)
- Reevaluate social media and screen time policies
Living under quarantine probably requires a different screen time policy than teens would normally have. On the one hand, being home all day makes it very easy for teens to spend hours and hours on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, and let’s just say that those hours probably aren’t doing great things for their development. On the other hand, their phone and computer are likely to be their primary method of interacting with their friends, and those social interactions definitely are something you want to encourage. As a result, you still want to manage their screen time and curtail it to a reasonable amount each day (2-3 hours per day seems reasonable for most teens), but you also want to allow and encourage almost unlimited time on live interactions with friends, be it Zoom meetings, Facetime, texting, or even gaming together online. It’s bad enough that they can’t see their friends in person very easily, so compensate by allowing them as much time as they need to see their friends virtually.