Teenage happiness and wellbeing
Happiness is a state of mind or a mood. Teenagers are usually happier when they’re satisfied with their lives and relationships, although nobody is happy all the time.
Wellbeing comes from physical, mental and emotional health. It’s also about understanding your emotions, taking part in different activities, having good relationships and social connections, finding meaning in life and feeling that you’re doing well.
Happiness and wellbeing are related, but they’re not the same thing. There are no clearly defined links between them. Teenagers can be happy because of some of the things that make up wellbeing, but they don’t need all these things to be happy.
Boosting teenage happiness: tips
You can boost your child’s happiness with praise and encouragement, clear rules and boundaries, a healthy family lifestyle and warm family relationships.
Praise, encouragement and positive attention
- Give your child praise when he behaves in ways you want to encourage, like helping out, doing chores or getting homework done. For example, ‘I really appreciate it when you put your dirty clothes in the laundry bin’.
- Give your child attention. For example, go to watch her playing sport, send her a friendly text message or just give her a special smile.
- Encourage your child to try new things. For example, if your child is interested in playing a new sport, you could offer to take him along to the local club’s registration day.
- Value your child’s strengths, and praise her for who she is. For example, ‘You’re really good at looking after the younger children in your Scouts group’. This helps to build self-esteem and protects her from comparing herself to other people.
- Let your child know that you’re proud of him when he tries, especially when things are tough. For example, ‘I was so proud of you for running all the way in your cross country race, even though I could see you were tired’.
Rules and boundaries
Clear and fair rules help teenagers feel safe when lots of things in their lives are changing. If you involve your child in making the rules, she’ll be more likely to stick to them. Negotiating rules with your child is also a way of showing that you respect her growing maturity.
- Encourage good sleep habits: teenagers need about 8-10 hours of sleep each night.
- Help your child aim for at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
- Encourage your child to make healthy food choices to fuel his growth and development.
- Help your child keep a healthy balance between study, work and play. This might mean looking at how many nights your child is out doing things, how much down time she has, how much she can contribute to family life through chores, how many family meals you have together and so on.
- Share and make memories together. For example, take photos or videos on special family days or at school events and look over them with your child, or talk about and remember things you’ve enjoyed as a family.
- Make time to talk about individual and family successes. For example, you could try going around the table at family meals and giving everyone a turn at sharing something that went well for them during the day.
- Establish and maintain family rituals. For example, cook pancakes on Saturday mornings, watch special movies together, go for milkshakes after school on Fridays and so on.
For older teenagers, happiness depends a lot on having freedom to make choices without too many restrictions – although they still need you to monitor what they’re doing. It’s about being respected, developing independently of parents or carers, making their own friendships and social life, and being taken seriously as individuals.
Boosting teenage wellbeing: tips
Here are some ideas for fostering different aspects of teenage wellbeing.
When your child takes care of himself physically, it’s good for his wellbeing. For example, being active, having a break from technology, getting outside and getting enough sleep can help your child’s mood and improve his physical fitness.
Mental and emotional health
Good mental and emotional health is important for teenage wellbeing. For example, teenagers with good mental and emotional health can develop resilience to cope better with difficult situations. If your child develops resilience, she can ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong, which will boost her wellbeing.
Good emotional health also includes being aware that it’s normal and OK to sometimes feel sad, embarrassed, angry and frustrated – but these feelings usually pass.
A positive focus
If your child can notice and appreciate the good things in his life, he’s more likely to feel positive. This can also help him keep difficult times in perspective, so they don’t become overwhelming.
Your child can do this by just taking a few moments each day to focus on what she’s grateful for. You could even make this a family activity by asking everyone at the dinner table to name one thing they’re grateful for. You can be grateful for all sorts of things, like being together at dinner, the sun shining after a week of rain, having good health, being part of a great group of friends and so on.
Trying new things and getting involved in different activities keeps your child’s options open, and can build his confidence and sense of self-worth. You can encourage your child by helping him find activities he might be interested in. It’s also important to praise him for being open to new things and willing to have a go.
Relationships and social connections
Relationships and social connections are vital for teenage wellbeing. Your child needs close and supportive family and friends. And good parent-child relationships tend to lead to good teenage friendships.
Meaning in life
Meaning in life can come from doing good things for others. Your child could look for everyday ways to help family or friends – for example, giving someone her seat on the bus, or helping someone pick up papers they’ve dropped in the street. Or she could get involved in community activity. This type of ‘giving’ lights up the reward centre in the brain, which makes your child feel good.
Feeling connected to something bigger can also help to give your child’s life a sense of purpose. Meaning might come from spirituality, life philosophy, or a commitment to a cause like the environment. People with meaning have less stress and get more out of what they do.
Goals and achievement
If your child has goals that fit with his values, are fun and attainable, and let him use his strengths, it can give him a sense of purpose and achievement.