How to Lead your Teen Toward a Healthy Lifestyle By Leslie Rusch Bayer, RD, LDN, CPT

What we discuss with your teen daughter at the Couri Center:

Survival. It is never easy. Retrospectively, survival always provides a life lesson. Whether titled middle school, puberty, teenagers or ‘kids these days,’ the age from 13 to 19 can be quite traumatic, confusing and all sorts of awful.

Me? I felt overweight and inadequate. At age thirty-five, I still wonder how I made it out of middle school with only a few ‘bumps and dings.’ I desperately wanted to be skinny and beautiful.  Even without social media, gossip, friends, grades, developmental changes, and body image issues haunted me every day.

I had an excellent support system. My parents were, and still are, the perfect parents for me. However, like many teens, I was close-minded and “knew” my parents had no idea how bad it felt. My parents saw me as a growing, young, beautiful girl. I saw and felt entirely different.

The Couri Center understands the need for support and guidance for young teens. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) is recommending girls visit the gynecologist for the first time between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. This first appointment at our office is multi-faceted. We discuss gynecological issues, as well as topics including how to reach or maintain a healthy weight, diet, exercise, guidance toward healthy relationships, emotional well-being, acne and smoking, and drug and alcohol prevention. Our goal is to create healthy relationships with teens that ensure a safe, non-judgmental environment where communication is encouraged.

The Couri Center will provide suggestions and guidance for your daughter; however, we strongly encourage parents, family members and guardians begin talking about health and showing children what a healthy lifestyle looks like through personal actions.

Here is a list of ideas to help your teen nurture a healthy lifestyle:

  • Do not openly complain about your weight or use terms like fat and ugly.
  • Set strict guidelines for screen time and social media use.
  • Set an example of a healthy exercise routine. Let your children see you active. Mow the grass, go for a walk or take an exercise class.Take them hiking, kayaking or biking.  Encourage your children to play outside and run. Children and teen activity recommendations include greater than sixty minutes daily of movement and activity.
  • Prep healthy snacks together.Teaching teens to wash and cut vegetables in not only a great life-skill, but it also provides the perfect time for relaxed conversation while establishing healthy eating habits early on.
  • Cook together. Encourage young children to help bake or cook dinner by measuring or stirring. Give older children the responsibility of preparing dinner once a week.
  • Talk to your daughter about what a healthy relationship is and looks like. Talk about sex, birth control and/or abstinence.
  • Eat together. Turn off all screens and talk. Ask about their day. Laugh. Cry.
  • Set guidelines for extracurricular activities. Encourage children to be involved, but find a healthy balance between school, sports, events and rest.
  • Tell your children it is okay to mess up or fail. Discuss healthy coping strategies. Apologize when needed. Show maturity to children. Discuss learning from mistakes.
  • Model confidence in your own abilities by being a role model.  Encourage confidence and resilience by teaching them proper social skills, to make eye contact and how to act confidently.
  • Encourage and praise children when you see healthy habits forming and maturity developing.
  • Love children no matter what.

The world is hard to navigate. Social media makes it even harder. I encourage you to schedule your daughter’s first visit with one of our providers to help gently guide her toward understanding her body, how certain choices impact her body, healthy attitudes, and relationships.

I am happy to report middle school did mold and shaped me for the better. I eventually found my forever friends. Sports created an outlet for my competitive nature and changed my body. My experiences through my teenage years paved the way for my current lifestyle and career. I am great at what I do because of what I went through, and what I learned.

Let our team-approach to ‘all things female’ guide your daughter through her teenage years.

Leslie Rusch-Bayer, RD, LDN, CPT