Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on August 03, 2011 with No Comments

“You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Have you heard that saying lately? Is it something you say to your children; and, if so, do they understand the meaning? Do they buy into the meaning?

The idea that a person’s character is more important than what’s on the outside can be a hard sell in the world today’s teen inhabits. As we’ve discussed before, mainstream media repeatedly sends the message that every one of us needs to improve our appearance in some way. Our hair needs to be shinier, yogurt will make us thinner, and the right clothes and glasses will truly rock our world.

The often fragile self-esteem of teen boys and girls makes them especially vulnerable to these messages. It’s very common for a teen to compare himself to others and find himself coming up short –sometimes literally.

Boys, for example, tend to worry that they’re not tall enough, strong enough, or big enough. Girls, too, often seek to fit into smaller and smaller sizes, no matter what the price to their health. Hormonal changes can bring skin eruptions, squeaking voices, and less-than-hoped for chest measurements. Self-doubt arises and fear of not fitting in can consume the spirit.

You, the parent, are there to regularly remind your teen how cute, smart, and adorable he is.

You’re there, too, to encourage him to share experiences, doubts and concerns and to praise him for things he does well.

And you’re there to set an example of how one must cope with life while not putting yourself down. While doing so, you’ve probably noticed that any harsh words or criticisms from you can be easily blown out of proportion by your adolescent and you try hard to avoid uttering them as a result. You know that he needs lots of praise and reminders of the importance of his inner qualities.

Yet, your teen’s resulting opinion of himself counts for much more than your opinion of him. Frighteningly, allowing any resulting low self-esteem to prevail can lead to self-destructive behavior, including experimentation with drugs, alcohol, or sexual activity.

Good self-esteem will help teens make healthy choices. That’s why A Positive Approach to Teen Health is offering three, completely free Planned Potential Youth Rallies, designed to provide area teens with a great time and to help them develop their self-worth. Beginning at 6 p.m. and concluding at 11 p.m., each event includes a male and female fashion show, followed by food, games, inflatables, rock bands, and dancing. Among the prizes to be won are an iPod, bike, and camera.

Highlighting each evening is Julie Hadden, the woman to lose the most weight on NBC’s The Biggest Loser Season 4. She is the author of “Fat Chance: Losing the Weight, Gaining My Worth.” Hadden struggled with her self-worth for years, due to her size. She has since appeared on Access Hollywood, Extra, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, E! Entertainment Television, the Canadian television show “Reality Obsessed”, The Larry King Live Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The 700 Club and in numerous other magazines and print publications throughout the U.S. and abroad. Hadden’s message stresses that one’s weight, shape or appearance does not determine his worth as a human being.

This is an opportunity to provide your teen with a healthy dose of free summer excitement while enhancing his self-esteem and providing new ways to cope with adolescent pressures. So, get his attention, give him a hug, and send him to www.pathblazer.org to register for one of the local rallies.

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About Harriet Fagan

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

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