As our children grow into their teen years, parents need to be armed with the knowledge of what it takes to keep them healthy. The following is a guide to accomplish this most important task for a parent:

As our children grow into their teen years, parents need to be armed with the knowledge of what it takes to keep them healthy. The following is a guide to accomplish this most important task for a parent:


Teenagers need 9.5 hours of sleep per night, according to the American Sleep Disorder Association. Studies show that the average teen only gets 7.5 hours.

The National Sleep Foundation says signs of sleep deprivation includes:

- Difficulty waking up in the morning.

- Irritability in the afternoon.

- Falling asleep during the day.

- Oversleeping on the weekend.

- Having difficulty remembering or concentrating.

- Waking up often and having trouble going back to sleep.


- Establish a reasonable bedtime and wake time, and make this consistent throughout the week.

- Establish a bedtime routine — taking a hot bath or quiet activity beforehand.

- Cut down on caffeine consumption.

- Daily exercise, but make sure it’s at least two hours before bedtime.


From During the year of the greatest growth in height (age 12 in most girls; age 14 in most boys), the average female requires 2,400 calories per day, and the average male needs between 2,800 and 3,000 calories per day.


- Mealtime is a pleasant time when the family enjoys being together, and no one gets nagged about what they eat.

- Family members are encouraged to stop eating when they’re full. No one is forced to eat just a little more or to clean their plate.

- Food is not a reward.

- Food should not be used as a substitute for comfort.

- Adult family members model good eating habits, and if they diet they do it safely.

- The refrigerator is stocked with healthy foods, and most meals are nutritionally balanced.


Given that only 62 percent of teens don’t get enough exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise, and more than 16 percent of teens and adolescents are obese, it’s obvious that parents need to be involved in getting our kids to become more active.


Here are some family-oriented exercise activities, recommended by the Mayo Clinic, that do not require any special skills:

- Walk the dog.

- Go bike riding around the neighborhood.

- Tend to a garden — if you don’t have space for your own, get a plot in the community garden.

- Nature hikes.

- Swimming at the local pool.

- Visit a climbing wall.

- Park farther away from stores.

- Take the stairs, instead of elevators.

Coping with stress

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, teenagers, like adults, may experience stress every day and can benefit from learning stress management skills. Most teens experience more stress when they perceive a situation as dangerous, difficult or painful, and they do not have the resources to cope.

Some sources of stress for teens might include:

- School demands and frustrations.

- Negative thoughts and feelings about themselves.

- Changes in their bodies.

- Problems with friends and/or peers at school.

- Unsafe living environment/neighborhood.

- Separation or divorce of parents.

- Chronic illness or severe problems in the family.

- Death of a loved one.

- Moving or changing schools.

- Taking on too many activities or having too high expectations.

- Family financial problems.


- Monitor if stress is affecting their teen’s health, behavior, thoughts or feelings.

- Listen carefully to teens and watch for overloading.

- Learn and model stress management skills.

- Support involvement in sports and other pro-social activities.

Needless to say, these basic recommendations are just a small part of raising teens these days. But without providing a foundation for keeping our kids healthy, school, sports, friends, social activities and many more aspects of teenage life may suffer.

Mike Anderson is the director of operations at Wave Health & Fitness in Boston. He has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from the University of Massachusetts and has been a personal trainer for more than 20 years. Anderson has been coaching youth sports in Danvers, Mass., for several years, including baseball, football and wrestling. He has two children, Sam, 13; and Jack, 11. They are both deeply involved in sports, as well as many other activities.