A huge thank you to Lotte Stringer, CEO of Hector’s House, for these easy to follow and relatable wellbeing tips for teens. Lotte joined us for an Instagram Live to explain them in person – you can watch it here.
Lotte, as well as being the CEO of Hector’s House (a brilliant teenage suicide prevention charity), is a licensed RTT therapist and clinical hypnotherapist. She holds qualifications in ASIST: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training and from the International Association for Rewind Trauma Therapy. She advises teens as an expert by experience, with 10 years of lived experience as a survivor of suicide & PTSD – living, surviving and thriving through loss.
Eat, Move, Love
When Lotte and the Hector’s House team go into schools, they focus on healthy habits for teens through their Eat, Move, Love movement. Here’s how Lotte explains these small, simple steps to improve mental health to teenagers:
“If we eat those whole, single-ingredient foods and make sure we’re eating that colourful diet, it’s so much better than waking up and having a Red Bull and a doughnut, for example! It sets us up for the day in a way that is nutritionally dense. We need to learn how to eat the rainbow, even if it’s just adding micro dosages. Think about eating a handful of blueberries instead of (or as well as!) some Haribo. We need to make sure we are nourishing ourselves in the best way we can.”
“Even if you’re not into the gym or sports or taking regular exercise, ask yourself if you can move a little bit more than you did yesterday. If you’re studying, for example, can you make sure that you’re regularly stretching in your chair? Shake out your hands if you’re feeling anxious. Build those micro dosages of movement throughout the day. Do two minutes of push-ups, or some calf raises, squats or lunges while the kettle boils. You need to get the body moving in order to move stagnant energy through you. So move, shake like jellyfish – anything works!”
“Here we’re talking about stress management techniques. If we’re having a conversation in our mind, what does it sound like? Are the words towards ourselves kind and compassionate or are they hard and hurtful? Praise lifts us up and criticism brings us down. So it’s important to be mindful of what your inner dialogue is saying and whether those things are helpful or harmful to us. What builds your battery up? We know what drains and depletes our internal batteries. Studying is very energy-heavy, for example, so it’s important that you offset that by working out what brings you joy – if it’s being outside, gaming, whatever keeps that battery full. Wellness and living well are so important in preventing illness and mental health issues – we need to work culturally and collectively on staying well.”
How can you help as parents?
Leading by example is so important. And allow them to explore what fills them up and engage them in conversations about it. Encourage and educate them to make these choices for themselves – we’re better when we can get curious and develop coping strategies by ourselves.
Find out more here
Our lovely Instagram followers sent in plenty of questions about for Lotte to answer during the Instagram Live. There are some brilliant tips for parents here:
In your experience what are the biggest issues that affect our teens’ wellbeing?
Any change and transition affects our teens. Whether this is a move to GCSEs, to A levels, or from school to uni. These types of environmental changes are key, whether it’s from a more structured environment to one where there is a different routine, or into an environment with more freedom or different choices, or maybe new friends.
After the environmental change, we have the transition – a psychological, internal transition, that will happen a little later. It’s important to be mindful that our brain needs time to catch up. Sometimes feelings of anxiety or a period of low mood can be a result of change, and knowing that this is normal is important. Be mindful to say “that’s the change we’ve gone through, now we need to allow the transition to happen”. It’s a time to be really gentle, compassionate and kind with ourselves and to take time to catch up with what we’ve gone through. The best way that we can help with this is to tell them our story – don’t say “you’ll be fine” but say “when that happened to me…”. Help them feel that change and transition is normal and all feelings in response to change – sadness, anxiety, happiness – are normal and welcome.
How can we help with the issues that the Covid pandemic has caused?
It’s obviously had a massive effect on teenagers, as on all of us, and some of the coping tools that we had were removed. For example, I worked with a wonderful girl who had turned 18 without going clubbing or really out much at all, so there was no opportunity to gradually build confidence in social situations. You need to encourage your teens to explore the issues caused by Covid gently and realise that their levels of uncertainty will be greater as everything is completely new.
When do we know that teenage behaviour is not just down to hormones but there’s something more worrying going on?
You know your own teens really well and when they’re going through those internal changes and transitions, it’s about recognising what’s out of character for them. If there’s a pattern of out of character behaviour, you might want to look at getting extra help for them. Again, try and remember how it felt, and be compassionate and kind. Don’t dismiss it as “just hormones” and remember that in the moment, it feels horrific. Notice any changes in character that don’t feel quite right, get curious about them and explore it further.
How do you measure a teen being too consumed by their phone or by tech?
It’s a challenging one, for sure, especially as tech is double-edged. There are so many positives as well as problems. Think about whether to have rules in the house eg. everyone puts their phones in a stack at meal-times, or we all spend half an hour every evening together with no phones. But it’s important to remember that tech is a large part of how they communicate and learn. Encourage healthy time off but be mindful of the fact that their phones are vital to their lives. It’s best to work together collectively and collaboratively with your teens, as a family, to work out ground “rules” to give everyone appropriate time off. Another tactic that can work well is to share time together on phones and manage it that way – all look at the same TikTok, for example. The more involved you are, the better.
When should we just back off and let them be?
Have that conversation with them. If you think there’s a problem and you’re not sure if you can help, ask them “how can I help you with this situation, as your parent/caregiver?”. “How do you need me to help you come to a solution?” Teens are human beings and it’s easy to forget you can collaborate with them. Ask them “do you need me to back off or would you like to vent?”. Remember, they might just want to be listened to rather than look for a solution.
There are so many resources available that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’d love to suggest an “influencer” account to my teen that’s someone brilliantly sensible and relatable and offers all the help they’ll need. Is there anyone you can recommend?
Dr Julie Smith is fantastic in terms of mental health. She’s a psychologist and is everywhere. Dr Julie has also recently released a book of coping tips called “Why has nobody told me this before?”. She’s great for micro-dosages of psycho-education, such as understanding what happens to cause low mood or anxious feelings. Her two minute TikToks are entertaining and great for normalising language and to help us understand that we can often move through these feelings without a problem. Find Dr Julie on TikTok here.
I’ve recommended Suzy Reading to you before (you can find more details in our article on “Understanding teenage mental health“). She’s great for educating about change and transition, and has recently launched a journal called “And Breathe”.
In your opinion, what’s the single most important aspect to focus on as parents of teens?
As my dad always says, “two ears, one mouth”. Listen more than you speak – teenagers really need to be heard. Approach a conversation by thinking, “I’m not trying to fix this, I’m here to listen and then maybe collectively we can come to some solutions, if that’s appropriate”. Sometimes we already know the solution, but they need time to explore the options for themselves. Teens can panic if you say “I’d like to sit down and have a conversation with you”, so handle that carefully. Go out for a drive or a walk, or ask them what song they’d play to show how they’re feeling right now. Encourage them to talk to you about how they’re feeling but on their terms. Take the pressure off…
Thank you, Lotte – brilliant advice as always. We’re so grateful to you for sharing your wellbeing tips for teen.
If you’ve found this helpful, you might like to read Lotte’s advice on teenage anxiety:
You can contact Hector’s House here. They are always ready to listen and to help.
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