A look at the Teen Years (from Joyful Movement)

 The need for healthy movement does not of course end at age 14! As children – youth – move through the teen years, the need for nurturing the senses, being in balance and harmony, and using the body in a healthy way continues. But, as the teen years progress, the teen needs to take on more responsibility for her body and her health now that she is leaving childhood be­hind.

And that can also mean experimenting with very unhealthy ways of living…suffice to say that it is beyond the scope of Joyful Movement to provide guidance on the challenging years of parenting a teen, when adults need to provide firm and loving guidance but to also step back as necessary so teens can experiment and start to follow their own inner guidance.

Now is the time for sports, yoga, dance and personal fitness regimes. Yoga is particularly helpful to teens, helping them become conscious of their bodies and its tension, to the breath and giving guidance in mindfulness and relaxation. Overly regimented dance can be harmful to the body but…as with sports, if it is now clear that your child’s path in life includes dedication to dance or sports, it might be time to let go and allow your child to find his own way with such endeavors whilst gently from time to time checking in about how his body is coping-and whether he is becoming too one-sided in his passion. Yet…it is also part of the human condition that some of us do become one-sided and that nothing other than our passion for Mozart, hip-hop, baking cakes or downhill skiing matters. That’s just part of life. Every parent would love that his emergent hockey pro has a Plan B, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Of course, another picture of the teen is the couch potato who feels that walking between the fridge, the couch and the car is quite enough exercise and quite enough in terms of a life plan, thank you very much. This teen needs to be motivated to move – and yet at this age, the best motivation is that which comes from within. Nevertheless, if this problem is tackled by the family as a whole, with canoe trips and family walks being part of ‘what we do as a family’ this could help. Maybe.

Gentle coercion can come in handy-some teens will do anything to avoid play and movement but if it’s part of what they need to do with and for a younger sibling or a child they baby-sit for, that could help. Walk or bike-a-thons and similar activity not for oneself but for someone else can also motivate a teen to get moving. Having a dog to walk or a horse to ride can also be a boon.

Whichever way your teen tilts – toward always being at the gym or never getting out the door­ movement itself is only part of the picture. A well-rounded approach to life and to learning, the importance of nurturing the senses and a holistic approach to life are important for the well-being of all human beings, including teen age ones. Important life lessons are here and it can be galling to watch your child, who you took such pains to protect from unhealthy ways of living, as he now dives head-first into garbage snack foods and generally seems to have disdain for his body.

But…teens also change dramatically as they head toward adulthood. A 15-year-old who only wants to listen to blasting techno and refuses to eat what the rest of the family eats is – well, a teen. And by the time she is 18, she might be totally different in her tastes, values and relationship to her body, soul and spirit. Somehow, we need, as adults, to continue to inspire healthy ways of living in our teens whilst also letting them go a little crazy and push against what we do. In some ways teens are like giant toddlers—one keeps hitting against this seemingly impenetrable ‘NO’ all the time. It’s just that unlike toddlers, you can’t just throw them into the bath when it all gets out of hand…!

© 2023 Donna Simmons

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