From Matthew Porter, Director of Student Wellbeing
The holiday break offers a welcome opportunity to step back, unwind and rest up for a busy term ahead. Unfortunately, students will often fall into bad habits or undo some of the positive gains made in Term One due to a lack of consistency and routine. It is easy to stay up late, sleep in of a morning, spend too much time on screens and devices and occasionally making some poor choices in how boys utilize their new found freedom.
Losing the positive social connections, daily routines and learning habits of normal school day can lead to a backward step in the early part of Term Two when poor habits can be hard to break. For Year 12 boys who will face their HSC assessments at this time, staying focussed and maintaining healthy lifestyle choices could be the key to success.
There are a number of ways you can support your son’s mental health and wellbeing in these term holidays:
Social relationships are important to any young person’s general wellbeing. Having a variety of friendship groups both in and out of school will provide a diverse social support network essential for developing appropriate relationships. Encourage your son to keep in contact with friends and the broader family over the holidays. Be aware if your son is isolating himself or does not feel up to going out. While social media is great for connecting to a wide range of people it is not the be all and end all and should not take the place of face to face communications.
Stay in a routine
Getting a good night’s sleep not only helps boys to feel energised, focused and motivated but is also essential for neurological growth and development. Adolescence is a time when a number of changes to the “body clock” impact on sleeping patterns and young people are more likely to feel tired later than their parents and sleep in later as a result. Developing a sleeping routine can help. Encourage your son to wake up around the same time each day, get out of bed when they wake up, and go to bed around the same time each night.
Staying up late in the holidays and sleeping in the following day will make it that much harder to snap out of this routine when classes resume for term two. Avoiding caffeine after lunchtime, having a quiet, dark and uncluttered bedroom and shutting down electronic devices before bed can also help them to get a good night’s sleep.
Stay physically active
Physical activity elevates heart rate, oxygenates the brain and increases the release of endorphins which have positive effects on health and wellbeing both in the short and long term. Often boys fall out of the routine of exercising regularly without the structures of school sports and training. Even small activities, like walking the dog, can help relieve stress and frustration, provide a good distraction from worrying thoughts, improve concentration and improve mood. Exercising as a family will not only benefit your health but also creates a fantastic way to reconnect and strengthen the bond between parents and their sons. Make time to go to the beach take a hike or kick a ball together. You may be surprised by what your sons will discuss or disclose when they are relaxed, energized and having fun.
A healthy well balanced diet doesn’t only reduce the risk of physical health problems, like heart disease and diabetes, but it can also help with sleeping patterns, energy levels, mood, and general health and wellbeing. Good dietary choices include avoiding junk foods which are often high in fat, salt and sugar and opting for a well. balanced diet with fresh vegies, fruit, lean proteins,whole grains and plenty of water will ensure your son has all of the nutrients to fuel those growing beds. Perhaps the best part is they will stay full for longer.
For more information on adolescent diet and exercise please see the following link:
Talk a little, but talk often
Try to avoid setting up unnatural “we need to talk” talks. Often doing something together, taking a drive or a walk or having, device free times such as in the car or at meal times will lead to more natural conversations. Keep calm and non-judgmental, use open ended questions and don’t feel as though you need to “fix” the problem. A big part of adolescent development is helping our boys to build their own problem-solving strategies and resources for managing challenging situations. Often being heard is enough. You want your son to know that no matter what it is that is on their mind, you are always their to listen.
Nothing turns boys off more quickly than “helicopter parenting” or spying, being nosy, overly protective or suspicious. Adolescents is a time where each individual will form their own identity and strive for independence on their journey towards adulthood. Unfortunately the prefrontal cortex in the male brain which controls emotional regulation, planning and decision making doesn’t fully mature until around age 25. This can often lead to boys doing some really silly things, where the answer to the age old question “didn’t you think?” can quite honestly and genuinely be “No!”. At this time conflict in the home may seem unavoidable as the needs wants and priorities of our sons differ from the expectations or rules of their parents. So how do we strike the right balance between concern and care without being too controlling?
The following web sight provides some useful tips on keeping teens safe:
Have a happy safe and enjoyable holiday break and we will see you all back and ready to go in Term Two. For our Year 12 boys best of luck with your upcoming assessments.