Supporting Adolescents and their Wellbeing

Top 5 tips for supporting adolescent wellbeing

As the world is currently experiencing change in nearly every aspect, we are reminded of the importance of wellbeing in our lives. Our organisation has been working with young people for nearly seven years, supporting them to maintain a positive wellbeing, and we would like to offer families some of our expert knowledge in this space. We have developed a simple list of strategies and techniques you can also use to support your child’s wellbeing. 

1. At the most fundamental level, their physical needs must be met. This obviously means healthy sleeping, eating and exercising. Out of these three factors, the one that can have the greatest impact from the least effort is a healthy night's sleep. The Harvard Sleep Clinic has a great eight-point guide to a healthy night's sleep which can ensure that if nothing else, they are well rested and ready for the day’s challenges. Healthy eating and exercise are also fundamental to a healthy state of mind so ensuring that they have access to a nutritional diet and are engaged in some type of exercise is crucial.

2. One of our key coaching techniques is to listen without judgement. Carl Rogers, championed the listening approach known as unconditional positive regard. It is about “valuing the person as doing their best to move forward in their lives constructively and respecting the person’s right to self-determination, no matter what they choose to do”. That can be pretty challenging for a parent when we don’t approve of what they do.  But taking this approach, combined with some genuine active listening skills, will let them know that someone is really there for them - no matter what. Sometimes, that is all that is really needed to feel supported.

3. Normalise what they are going through and share stories of your own weird journey through adolescence. We all went through it no matter how long ago it was!

4. Ensure they have access to relevant and accurate information about the physical, social, cognitive and behavioural changes they are going through. This can be done by getting in touch with organisations like Headspace, a government run not-for-profit specifically established to support youth mental health. Use them to inform yourself or put them directly in touch with the young person you may have concerns about.

5. The Helmsman Project draws on the theories of leading psychologists like Richard Ryan and Edward L. Deci to assist adolescents find their own ways of improving their psychological wellbeing. In Ryan and Deci’s theory of Self Determination, they argue that there are three core factors that lead to a healthy psychological headspace. By working with an adolescent to develop these three factors, you can facilitate their shift to a better state of wellbeing: 

a. Purpose/Meaning: this is a tricky one for adolescents as a sense of purpose can be very abstract. Plus, their main drive (even if it is subconscious) is to create and define their sense of self - who they are / want to be - separate from their family and older generations. To help them determine their purpose or meaning, ask them about the values they think are important to them and use future-focused  questions such as: “What is the story that you want to be able to tell your children about your life?”. This can help to bring their meaning out of the abstract space and into the concrete space. 
b. Social connections: Ensure that they are well connected socially, i.e. friends and family are available and engaged.
c. Mastery: Find something that they can constantly be getting better at, whatever it is! And if this is not happening at school, find it elsewhere, e.g. a sport, a hobby, etc. Creating opportunities for adolescents to ‘achieve’ is critical to their ‘self-worth’ and wellbeing.

This list is far from exhaustive, but hopefully it has helped you to develop or explore at least one new strategy to help support that important teenager in your life. If you are interested in more of our expert knowledge, watch our home schooling tips videos to help you and your children succeed with learning from home. 

Matt Robinson

Starting in 2015 Matthew has coached on every iteration of The Helmsman Projects Adventure program, incluiding the Sailing Program, the Outward Bound Program and the more recent OEG collaboration. He began his work as a volunteer coach, becoming one of the first ever contracted coaches and is now our Head Coach. Matthew has masters level qualifications in Education and Psychology and 20 years experience in both these fields.

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