How parents can model happiness for teenagers

  • David Larson

    David Larson

 
By David F. Larson
Glenbard High School District 87 superintendent

A parent's ultimate desire on graduation day is that their son or daughter's future path will lead them to be a balanced individual who will thrive, both personally and professionally -- and be happy.

Unfortunately, much of a parent's attention during their teen's high school years is often centered on goals that can cause anxiety and stress. Striving to achieve a certain GPA, feeling pressure to be in certain activities and being admitted into the "right" colleges can contribute to unhappiness.

Summer provides a time for parents to regroup and center on and model attributes and dispositions that contribute toward greater happiness and contentment.

Research findings reveal that while life's circumstances outside of our control have an impact, a large portion of happiness is determined by one's habits, attitudes and outlooks on life. Those habits and attitudes are often shaped by the individuals we spend the most time with -- our family.

Let us look at some key attitudes and dispositions that parents can reinforce to help their children find happiness:

Discover Your Passion and Interest:

• Take time for "down time." Pick up a hobby that has lapsed over the years or explore a new one. Local park districts, public libraries and the College of DuPage offer an array of programs and classes for every interest.

Build a Network of Quality Friends:

• Healthy relationships with friends who share common interests, believe in us and bring out the best in us can have a positive effect on our physical and mental well-being. It's critical to be intentional about making time for friends.

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Foster Old-Fashioned Values:

• Help others through a volunteer project in the community. So often, we hear volunteers say they get more out of volunteering than the people or organizations they are serving.

• Be sincere and honest with one another.

• Be loyal.

Spend Time Together as a Family:

• Something as simple as a weekly dinner together on the deck or patio or a family trip are great opportunities to slow down and connect with one another.

Follow Healthy Routines and Habits:

• We know that exercise, nutrition and good sleep are crucial elements of a healthy lifestyle. It is important to go from knowing this to taking steps to improve in these areas.

Limit Social Media:

• Balance is key. Schedule breaks from social media and take the phone out of the bedroom at night. Know the pressure that teens feel to maintain a social media presence -- one that often depicts an "ideal" life. Help your teen understand the truth behind filtered photos and posts on social media.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Avoid Blaming and Criticizing:

• Blame and criticism can lead to resentment and distance in a relationship. Manage stress and emotions in positive and constructive ways.

Realize that your teen probably pays attention to 1 percent of what you say, but they notice 100 percent of what you do. Model positive behaviors.

The good news is that the teenage years are an ideal time to mold and shape teens' attitudes, habits, dispositions and outlooks. It is important to remember that family life should focus on what is best for your child, not on your child being the best at everything.

• David F. Larson is superintendent of Glenbard High School District 87. His column appears monthly in Neighbor.

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