Adolescence is a critical time for setting the course for lifelong health. It’s a period of rapid change and development and a time when rapid learning can occur. Expanding social connections and engaging in relationships beyond the family is normal during adolescence as teens seek greater independence and more autonomy. For this reason, parents, professionals, and other adults who interact with teens have a unique opportunity to support their healthy development – socially, emotionally, and cognitively. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health’s national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG), challenges individuals and communities to make the health and healthy development of adolescents a high priority.
What You Can Do:
- Learn what to expect. There are many important developmental milestones adolescents navigate on the path to adulthood. Learning about adolescent development, including brain development, can help adults understand how and why young people behave the way they do. It also enables us to help teens make better decisions. Learn about typical adolescent development and take this short, free online course to test your knowledge.
- Encourage physical activity. Adolescents who exercise with their family are more likely to keep exercising on their own. Plus, it’s a great time to catch up on what’s going on in their lives. Take the first step and plan a family hike.
- Help teens stay engaged in school. Education is a key factor in the healthy development of adolescents. Take steps to ensure the schools in your community are supportive of every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual identity or sexual orientation. Find out more about the strengths and needs of schools in your community with this school climate survey.
- Encourage teens to pursue their interests. Being involved in activities is good for health and happiness. Help teens identify opportunities to cultivate their talents and interests by joining clubs, playing on sports teams, singing in the choir, learning a skill, volunteering, or working at a part-time job.
- Create opportunities for teens to learn and grow. During the teen years, the brain is primed to take on more decision making and healthy risk taking. Positive experiences that allow teens to make decisions in a safe and supportive environment promote learning and build resilience. Check out these TAG in Action strategies to see how community partners are promoting healthy adolescent development in new and innovative ways.
- Eat meals together. Make time to eat meals with your family regularly. And, consider inviting friends of your teens to join you, as this family You may be surprised at the power of the dinner table!
- Talk and listen. Make time during the day to hear about your teen’s activities; be sure that he or she knows you are actively interested and listening carefully. Talk with your teen, not at him or her. You may think teens aren’t listening, but research shows they are. OAH has tips for how you can maintain a healthy relationship with your adolescent and help him or her manage relationships with other people.
- Volunteer together. Volunteering in adolescence is associated with increases in overall satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence and esteem, and with improved health and well-being. Find opportunities to volunteer in the community together.
- Keep watch. Even though adolescents are increasingly independent and will pull away from their parents, they still need someone watching out for them. Keep an eye out for changes in behavior that could signal substance abuse or mental health problems.
- Enjoy them! Although there may be some challenges as adolescents mature into adulthood, there are lots of positives as well. Teenagers can be energetic, fun-loving, high-spirited, and passionate. Take note of their individual strengths. Find ways to spend time together doing something they enjoy and you may be surprised at the benefits it can have for your relationship!