- Don’t Drink or text and Drive: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for US teens, according to the CDC. In fact, 12 kids age 16-19 die every day from accident-related injuries. Dangerous driving behaviors—like drinking (obviously), but also texting/calling, and having multiple passengers in the car—play a big role in these shocking numbers. Lead by example—don’t let your kids see you fumbling around in your purse to answer your ringing phone when you’re at the wheel.
- Tell your kids that it’s OK to worry: And make sure your kids know that you’re there for them. Check in with your kids frequently about whatever may be going on—whether it’s bullying, virus fears or someone losing a job—to see how they’re feeling, and explain how your family is dealing with it.
- Teach your child to love his/her body: Studies routinely find that about 40% of elementary school girls and 25% of elementary school boys are dissatisfied with their bodies. Unhappy and self-conscious kids report more frequent feelings of depression, insecurity, and anxiety. Thwart unhealthy body image and counter the media images that bombard your kids by talking to them.
- Help them get sleep: More than 25% of the kids surveyed (between 11 and 17 years old) had one or more symptoms of insomnia—and were much likelier to use drugs, experience depression, or have problems with school work, jobs and perceived health. Set a technology curfew with your kids, and make sure they understand why. Shut off the TV and have your children stop using phones and computers at least an hour before bed.
- Be smart about the web: If your kid’s active online, ask to see her social network profile(s)—and tell her not to post anything that you, a teacher, or a college recruiter shouldn’t view.
- Maintain an open line of communication so the big chat isn’t such a big deal. If your kid comes to you and asks about sex, turn the question back, and ask her what she knows, or what she means, by the term. Also reiterate family values into conversations about intimacy and sex.
- Value Friendship: It’s not about being the most popular kid on the playground. Having one or two best friends is more closely correlated with staving off depression and loneliness than is overall popularity.
- Be grateful: Research suggests that grateful people have more energy and optimism, are less bothered by life’s hassles, are more resilient in the face of stress, have better health, and suffer less depression than the rest of us.