• By Elizabeth Coots, Extension Agent

Family and Consumer Sciences: Nurturing your teen’s brain development

Teenagers go through critical changes at emotional, psychological and physical levels, making adolescence a stage in a child’s life that should be nurtured. Because the brains of teenage children are still developing until they are in their twenties, it is important that you help your teens protect their brain from harm. Here are some tips on how to maintain your teen’s brain health:

• Good sleep - Sleep that happens during the first half of the night is crucial for the brain. Hormone growth takes place during this deep sleep. When teenagers do not get quality sleep, their memories can become affected. Researchers recommend that adolescents get more than nine hours of sleep. Quality sleep leads to a healthier brain, a stronger immune system and prevents symptoms of depression. Some ways to help your teen get good sleep include: reducing activities in the evenings, keeping technology out of the bedroom and limiting caffeine intake.

• Mental and physical activities - Meditation has a great effect on your teen’s brain. Yoga for example, can help teenagers improve their emotional intelligence and stability (self-control and self-reflection/awareness). Yoga can influence their mood in a positive way. Yoga can also help manage stress and adverse situations and will have a positive effect on mental health. Also, practicing any kind of sport or exercise can have positive effects on self-esteem, brain functioning and can prevent mental problems such as depression and anxiety.

Encourage your teen to get involved with activities such as yoga and meditation.

• Safety first - Adolescents are often involved in sport activities that can lead to accidents or injuries. Here are some ways you can help your teens protect their brain:

1. Allow the body time to rest. It is essential that teenagers have at least one day off per week from sport activities to let their body recover.

2. Wear the appropriate protective equipment when playing sports. Some of these will include: neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee and shin pads, helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups and eye safety glasses. 3. Warm up and cool down with proper stretching exercises before and after games or practice. Stretching can help increase flexibility. 4. Drink plenty of water or fluids before, during and after exercise or play. Avoid heat injury by decreasing or stopping exercise during days of high heat and humidity. It is also important to wear loose-fitting clothing.

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