CHOC teen advisers encourage peers to wear masks during COVID-19

Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, some teens are struggling with staying home more than usual, disappointment over canceled events, and wearing masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of cloth face coverings in public for those over age 2. The governor of California has mandated that face coverings be worn by the general public when outside the home. Read the full order, including exemptions, here.

Being a teenager isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s helpful to get advice from a parent or trusted mentor, but sometimes as a teenager you just want to hear straight from other teens.

CHOC’s teen advisory council – a group of outstanding teens who are active in their community, committed to academic success and support CHOC’s mission – share their perspective on why wearing masks during COVID-19 is important, and their advice for other teens struggling with this aspect of the pandemic.

Noah
Noah, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Noah, age 16

My mom works at CHOC Children’s Hospital, so I understand why face coverings are required. I believe it is important to wear a mask because it has proven to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. People should take responsibility and wear a mask, so hopefully we can go back to our daily lives.

None of my friends have the same medical background as my mom does, so they don’t understand why masks are required and how they help slow down the spread. It is obvious that my friends do not like wearing masks, but they wear them when they have to.

I would say to teens or people in general that they should take responsibility and just wear the mask because they are either helping slow down the spread or keeping themselves safer than when they aren’t wearing a mask. In this case, helping yourself is helping the needs of others.

lauren
Lauren, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Lauren, age 15

Wearing a mask is essential to protecting not only yourself, but others around you. It is extremely important to be courteous of others to wear a face mask to save lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is particularly dangerous for those with underlying health conditions so wearing a mask and taking necessary precautions (limiting outings, frequently washing your hands thoroughly or using hand sanitizer, etc.) to stay healthy will help flatten the curve!

Some of my friends are really passionate about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and have gone the extra mile to make and sell masks or make stickers to continue spreading awareness.

To teens who don’t feel like it’s important to wear face coverings in public, I would tell them that by not wearing a face covering, it is putting everyone around them at risk. Not wearing a face covering compromises the safety and health of everyone that they interact with, especially the elderly and/or those with underlying health conditions. It is vital for everyone to do their part during this pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

andei
Andei, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Andei, age 17

Masks have become the new normal and as uncomfortable as they are it is required again. We have to make the best of it. As much as I would love to stop wearing them, it is what is best for the time being. For now, all we can do is do what’s best for our nation and our loved ones around us. Let keep fighting strong and with hope there is a solution in sight.

Hopefully in the near future we can actually see each other’s faces and beautiful smiles.

Carina
Carina, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Carina, age 17

I feel it’s important to wear a mask because it helps ensure that others who may be vulnerable, like grandparents or the immunocompromised, are not put at risk. Wearing a mask also reassures me that I am keeping the ones I love safe by doing my part, which is very fulfilling considering how small the action of wearing a mask may seem. I feel that wearing a mask shows your consideration for others while also slowing the spread of COVID-19.

My friends do wear masks while going out, whether it be to go grocery shopping or just for a drive around the block. The idea of wearing a mask isn’t a polarizing issue between my friends since they understand it’s for their protection and the protection of others. Some of my friends also have relatives that live with them who may be at greater risk which makes them more inclined to wear a mask when going out.

To teenagers that do not feel it’s essential to wear a mask in public, I would encourage them to think about all the other people they could possibly affect without even realizing if they don’t wear a mask.

choc-childrens-teen-advisor-zoe
Zoe, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Zoe, age 16

I believe masks are essential because they are proven to be very effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19. If I knew someone was not wearing a face covering in public, I would show them statistics of how the virus impacts people who wear face coverings versus those who do not. I found those numbers to be very eye opening.

I think that masks are quickly becoming a new way to simultaneously accessorize and slow the spread of COVID-19. I find masks to be a fun and interesting new way to express yourself.

Sam
Sam, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Sam, age 13

By wearing face masks, we are doing our part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and showing courtesy to others.

For the sake of everyone, please wear a mask out in public. Not only does this slow the spread, but it shows courtesy and respect to others around you.

christian
Christian, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser, in a photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic

Christian, age 17

I believe it is extremely important that everyone participate in wearing a mask. We are all in this pandemic together and we will only overcome it if we all work together in stopping the spread.

Wearing a mask shows respect for others’ well-being and helps reduce the spread of COVID-19. We all must take this pandemic seriously and heed the guidance of scientists and medical professionals who understand the virus and the best way to overcome this pandemic.

To other teens who don’t feel like wearing a mask is important, I would try to convey the importance of wearing a mask to stop the spread of the virus. Leading health agencies have advised us to wear masks; we should practice their recommendations. Wearing a mask is a public health issue that can save lives.

This article was updated on July 22, 2020.

Get more information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Related posts:

How are teens coping with changes brought on by COVID-19

Changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing have greatly impacted teens. They’re not in school or seeing friends in person, and many are struggling with the reality of missing milestones they had looked forward to celebrating, like graduation or prom.

It’s normal for teens to feel anxious during this period of their lives, and we want them to know they’re not alone. We checked in with our teen advisory council to see how this time has impacted them, how they’re coping with these changes, and their tips for other teens struggling with changes prompted by COVID-19. Despite the challenges of this uncertain time, they also shared good things that have come out of this period.

Read on for their experiences and advice, plus more tips from CHOC experts.

Layla, age 14

Layla
Layla, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

I’ve had two performances, a school tradition and my spring musical postponed. My volleyball season is paused, and sadly, I do not think that we will be able to resume. The first week of cancellations and postponements was very rough, with more and more bad news piling on top of each other.

Strangely, as much as I miss my friends, I have not been contacting them as much as I thought I would. A huge part of our friendship was seeing each other every day at school and having many opportunities to joke around. Since being in quarantine, I find myself texting them about once a day.

Instead of talking with my friends a lot, I have been having more alone time. This has given plenty of time to think, which has come to be both good and bad. Sometimes when I am alone too long, I begin to feel negative and I put myself down. The most effective way of balancing this out with good is hanging out with my family or trying out new activities and putting my energy toward productive things.

There are good things that have come out of this time. One of my favorite things to do is to discover and listen to new music, and I have had a lot of time to do that recently. Another good thing is that I feel like I got a break.  Before, I was balancing school, theater, volleyball and other extracurriculars, and my life seemed to be moving incredibly fast. This time has given me a chance to reflect and take a breath.

My advice to others is that it’s important to remember that during this time, we are all sacrificing something so that our Earth can heal sooner.

Carina, age 17

Carina
Carina, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

Some special events that have been canceled or postponed because of stay at home orders includes my junior year softball season and a concert. The softball season getting canceled was really disappointing considering my teammates and I have been practicing hard almost every day before we got the news. Currently, the softball season is over, but I see my teammates and my coaches every Monday through video calls. My concert getting postponed was devastating because it is an experience that you can’t recreate on a video screen. The energy, the music, and the emotion are all something that I was looking forward to, especially since junior year was getting stressful.

I’ve kept in touch with friends by having a group chat via text and group FaceTime with them almost every day. Most of my friends have been keeping themselves busy with schoolwork and video games. However, we know that if someone calls the group chat, they are lonely. That’s why most of us answer the call and talk about school or relationship drama. It is really effective, and we can add anyone to the call at any time. I also play video games with my friends and it helps me work on my problem-solving skills within a group while also joking around and having fun.

The stay at home orders aren’t difficult to follow, but being able to see my friends has taken a toll on my emotions. I have sometimes struggled with motivation to do my schoolwork or exercise but this time has given me a chance to reflect on what I want to do in my future in regard to college and beyond.

During this stressful time, I have noticed that I am more aggravated and have less of a patience with my brothers and family, but that talking to my friends over the phone helps me a lot.

The good thing about these stay at home orders is that I get to spend more time with my family and get to do some of my hobbies. This has given me more time to write in my journal, sew and draw with all my free time. I also have more time to focus on my homework and actually work through problems rather than find a quick solution and not understand the concept.

Lauren, age 15

lauren
Lauren, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

My church had several events planned that were canceled or postponed. This has impacted me a lot because my faith is very important to me, and with mass gatherings being cancelled it has been quite a challenge to adjust to new routines. My family also had to cancel a few fun events like our kayaking trip and other bonding activities. Having these events cancelled has made me really sad because it prevents me from spending time with some of my family and closest friends.

To keep in touch with friends, I have been FaceTiming and texting them every day so we can chat and catch up. Working together on school assignments has also allowed me to collaborate with my friends.

The pandemic has its ups and downs regarding my emotions and mental health. While staying at home allows me to have more time for myself, it takes away a lot of the social aspects of my life. Staying home has its perks, such as how it has allowed me to dedicate more time to self-care, learn new hobbies, and relieve me of the pressure that comes with going to school with other students and teachers. I’ve also been able to catch up on all the sleep I missed out on during the school year. I have also taken more time to read the books I didn’t get the chance to finish, and to finish learning piano pieces. Distance learning has allowed me to work on schoolwork at my own pace rather than following a specific schedule at school.

I am closer to my family as a whole as a result of being quarantined since we are spending all of our time with each other. We have been going on family walks around the neighborhood and nearby trails.

Zoe, age 16

choc-childrens-teen-advisor-zoe
Zoe, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

COVID-19 has caused a lot of cancellations. I was planning on spending a day at Disneyland with my friends on my birthday, but Disneyland has closed until further notice. I still find time to catch up with my friends, however. FaceTime and Zoom calls have been a good pastime and a great way to keep in touch.

In terms of my emotional state, it’s been difficult to stay positive when nothing is definitive. Everything is up in the air and there’s no answer to when things will return to normal. There are a few positives, however. I have a lot more time during the day due to the fact that all schooling is online. I get to watch more movies since I can’t go outside and it’s a lot easier to relax. I get to spend more time with my sister and parents which has certainly brought us closer.

Overall the coronavirus has made it hard for everyone in at least some way, but everyone is learning new ways to adapt and thrive in uncertainty.

Christian, age 17

christian
Christian, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

I am currently a senior in high school and all my senior activities, including prom, graduation and grad night have been canceled. Our graduation ceremony will be virtual, and the day we get to pick up our diploma I must wear a mask and gloves and I am allowed 10 minutes to clean my locker out and leave the campus. My family had to cancel an upcoming vacation that was originally planned to celebrate my graduation and my parents’ 20th wedding anniversary. All these changes made me very upset. I felt robbed because I spent my entire life working very hard to get to this moment of graduation, yet I will not receive a celebration or commencement as others have received.

I am now feeling better and I am thankful that my family and I have been healthy through this pandemic. Also, knowing that I am not the only one dealing with this has helped. I am among many students in this country not able to walk across the stage on graduation and celebrate their achievements with the people they love. I feel this pandemic has brought many students together and knowing my generation, we will come up with a way to make up for our losses.

During this time, I have mostly kept in touch with my friends through texting and social media. I have also played video games with a few of them to pass the time, which has been fun. Although in the end, talking to them through social media or a video game is just not the same as physically being able to talk to them.

Since the start of the stay at home order, I have noticed my mental health change as a result. After a while of no major human contact, except for close family, it starts to get a little lonely. I have also noticed that sometimes I get the feeling of frustration from being indoors all day. Despite these feelings, I try my best to stay occupied so that these feelings do not occur.

While most of the effects of this pandemic have been negative, I have noticed some positives. One example is that I have been able to spend more time with my immediate family. Since the start of social distancing, we have been watching more movies, playing board games together and cooking. Before this pandemic we were all so busy and hardly spent time together. Now we do a lot of activities together and I am thankful for this time with my family.

Trevor, age 16

trevor
Trevor, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

My volleyball season and my 16th birthday party were canceled due to COVID-19. It’s a shame the season had to end. We went undefeated last year and I was looking forward to repeating our success. My mom did the best she could to still celebrate my birthday under the circumstances. We got takeout from my favorite restaurant and she even had a cake shipped here from New York City.

I’ve kept in touch with my friends through social media and group chats, but I’ve started to feel claustrophobic. My room’s four walls seem closer than usual. I play video games, do homework, browse social media, and even eat some meals in my room for a change in routine.

A good thing that has come out of this time is that I’ve gotten even closer to my mom.

Sam, age 13

Sam
Sam, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

Some birthdays, graduation and school festivals have been canceled. I have kept in touch with friends through FaceTime, Zoom, texting and phone calls. Once I found out we could do group FaceTimes, I was so excited to be able to talk to more than one of my friends at a time and actually see all their faces at once. Zoom and Google Meet have also been super helpful for soccer team meetings and school meetings.

I have noticed that I am becoming much less social since I have not seen my friends in more than one month. Though I have been talking to my friends on the phone, it is different from being able to interact and see them in person.

During this quarantine, I have much more down time to spend with my family. Since both my parents work in the hospital and work pretty much every day, I have had a ton of time to get to know my grandpa and learn more about him since he doesn’t live with us full-time. I have also learned to be more productive and active during the day because of this extra time from no school or soccer practice. I have taken this time to really take care of myself and family.

Tips for parents of teens struggling with stay-at-home orders

Many teens are complying with stay at home orders and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many of us have also heard stories about teens who were seen hanging out with friends in large groups, celebrating birthday parties in person, as well as being upset with parents who are trying to implement rules to keep their families safe. For those cases where teens are struggling to understand the seriousness of the pandemic, and observe social distancing, the question is, how do we promote increased teen understanding and compliance? Read more from a CHOC mental health therapist here.

How to help your teen cope with COVID-19 cancellations

To high school seniors, schools being closed doesn’t equal a vacation – to them, this is time they won’t get back with their friends. It’s normal for teens to feel anxious during this period of their lives, as they close one chapter and begin another. However, teens may feel especially anxious as they realize they may never walk through their high school hallways again, attend prom, perform in their final theater production, compete in their final season, or celebrate graduation.

If you’re a parent or guardian of a teen who is struggling with a loss of control and trying to cope with canceled celebrations, we have tips for talking about it and coping. Read more from a CHOC psychologist here.

Get more information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Related posts:

Teen advisers offer tips on avoiding peer pressure to vape

The dramatic rise in vaping among teens is alarming to pediatricians and parents alike. It’s common for teens’ first exposure to vaping to come as an effect of peer pressure, says Dr. Katherine Williamson, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician.

“The rate at which vaping has increased over the last several years see is really scary for me to see as a pediatrician,” Williamson says.

CHOC Children’s teen advisers, a group of teens active in their community, committed to academic success, and who support CHOC’s mission, offer their advice for teens struggling to deal with peer pressure to vape.

  • It’s just not worth it – “My freshman year of high school, I was offered the opportunity vape more than 10 times. In these situations, it’s your choice how to respond. Vaping is simply not worth it. Do not be guilted or tempted by those around you.” – Andei, age 16
  • Consider the long-term consequences – “You may not feel it at first, but as you vape, your lungs are being damaged. You could end up in the hospital as a result of vaping. Turn down the offer to vape and walk away from the situation.” – Sam, age 12
  • Offer a valid excuse – “My parents always told me that to get out of a peer pressure situation, I could tell a white lie and blame it on them. I could say something like, “My parents are super strict and will drug test me, so I can’t. Or, I remove myself from situations by saying I have to get to volleyball practice or have another commitment.” – Noah, age 17
  • Complications of addiction – “Teens endure tremendous social pressure, which makes it easier for teens to fall victim to vaping. Avoiding peer pressure to vape might not be an easy task, but it’s far easier than having to withdraw from addiction.” – Christian, age 17
  • Health consequences —
    • “Always think about the serious health consequences of vaping. It’s very addictive, causes breathing difficulties and increases your risk of cancer or even death.” – Lauren, age 15
    • “Although it is marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, they contain addictive chemicals. It’s a newer trend, and some teens may not be as educated on the dangers of vaping.” – Layla, age 14
    • “Vaping can change your life in an unhealthy way. Not only can you damage your lungs, but it can impact your life in others way, too. You could be punished by your school and parents, as well.” — Carina, age 15
    • “Although the side effects may
  • Re-evaluate your friend group – “Walk away from the situation and stop hanging out with friends who are pressuring you. That means they don’t care about you. Find new friends who do.” –Trevor, age 15
  • Social/school consequences – “Schools take vaping seriously. They can take away your ability to participate in activities, sports or dances.” – Jorian, age 15

Harmful effects of vaping

As more teens develop an addiction to vaping nicotine or CBD oil, Williamson has treated more and more teens with lung problems, agitation and anxiety.

Vaping hasn’t been around long enough for us to know its long-term effects on the body. But health experts are reporting serious lung damage in people who vape, including some deaths.

E-cigarettes also:

  • Irritate the lungs
  • May cause serious lung damage and even death
  • Can lead to smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco use

Some people use e-cigarettes to vape marijuana, THC oil and other dangerous chemicals. Besides irritating the lungs, these drugs also affect how someone thinks, acts and feels.

Related posts:

 

How teens can deal with bullying: Teen advisers weigh in

One in five students age 12-18 in the U.S. have experienced bullying, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice. More than 70% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools. Kids and teens who are bullied can experience physical and mental health issues, and problems at school.

CHOC Children’s teen advisers share their own experiences observing and dealing with bullying, and what they do to cope. CHOC experts also weigh in on what parents can do to support a child who is being bullied.

Talk openly about bullying

One of the best ways to protect your child from bullying is to talk openly about it, says Dr. Heather Huszti, CHOC’s chief psychologist.

Dr. Heather Huszti
Dr. Heather Huszti, chief psychologist at CHOC Children’s

“Have a discussion about why some kids might be bullies. You can explain that most bullies have low self-esteem and that they bully other people to try to feel better about themselves,” she says.

CHOC teen adviser Heather Bisset, age 14, has seen this play out firsthand.

“When someone bullies another person, it is often because they are insecure and do not know how to emotionally handle it,” she says. “A bully does and says things to make others feel hurt or down, and if you do not show a response, they will most likely leave you alone.”

choc-childrens-teen-advisor-heather
Heather Bisset, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

Dr. Huszti also recommends parents ask open-ended questions of their children such as, “Is there anything going on at school?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?”

She adds that this approach usually works better than firing off a list of specific questions and can facilitate a bond between parent and child that will encourage them to open up to you when something is affecting them.

Find a trusted adult to talk to

CHOC teen adviser Zoe Borchard, age 15, knows the benefits of having someone to talk to when you have been bullied.

“At a high school football game, a girl that I don’t even know called me stupid along with a bunch of other nasty words behind my back. When I heard what she had said, I thought it wouldn’t affect me at first, but it started to eat away at me. I walked away to a quieter area during halftime and called my mom. I told her what happened, and it made things a million times easier to process and even let go,” she recalls. “To this day, I’ll call my mom every time I need help. If you can find someone you trust to share your problems with, it lightens your emotional load and gives you room to breathe and feel better.”

choc-childrens-teen-advisor-zoe
Zoe Borchard, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

Teens can look beyond their parents in finding someone to talk to.

“The best advice I could give someone who is being bullied is to talk to an adult you trust and know is willing to help you,” says CHOC teen adviser Carina Alvaro, age 16. “This could be a teacher who has openly expressed willingness to help, or another trusted adult who can help you resolve these problems.”

choc-childrens-teen-adviser-carina
Carina, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

Teens and cyberbullying

Nearly 15% of high school students have experienced cyberbullying, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Cyberbullying can include text messages, instant messaging and other apps, social media or gaming.

CHOC teen advisers see a clear link between social media and bullying.

“Social media plays a part in bullying because it’s a lot easier to target someone and attack them online,” says Sanam Sediqi, age 16, a CHOC teen adviser. “On social media, everyone is hiding behind a phone or computer screen, so they more freely throw out hurtful comments towards the victim, often without actual consequences.”

choc-childrens-teen-adviser-sanam
Sanam, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

CHOC teen adviser Layla Valenzuela, age 14, agrees.

“Having the power of technology comes with responsibility. When you send a message, people can’t see your face or hear your voice, so there is no way of conveying sarcasm or playfulness,” she says. “A simple joke could be interpreted in an unintentional, harmful way. Being responsible for everything you do online is a huge part of being considerate and staying away from bullying.”

choc-childrens-teen-advisor-layla
Layla, a CHOC Children’s teen adviser

Social media and technology use contributes to a rising number of mental health concerns in young people, says Dr. Christopher Min, a CHOC Children’s psychologist.

“Technology is great, but it has consequences, especially on our younger population,” he says. “it’s made teenage culture very unstable.”

Tips for staying safe online

Dr. Min offers the following tips for parents on how to keep kids safe online:

  1. Monitor teens’ social media use
  2. Encourage teens to get together in person
  3. Remember that parents control access to social media

For teens, his advice includes pausing before posting.

“When you’re ready to post something, pause for five to 10 seconds to consider your actions, the post’s meaning and the possible consequences,” he says. “This will help you avoid posting things you don’t want cemented on the internet forever.”

psychologist-tips-back-to-school-anxiety
Dr. Christopher Min, a pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s

What to do if your child is being bullied

There are several things parents can do if they learn their child is being bullied, Huszti says, including:

  1. Inform your child’s school about bullying
  2. Talk to the bully’s parents about the behavior
  3. Help your child build up their self-esteem. The more solid their self-esteem, the less impact a bully’s behavior will have on their overall well-being.
  4. Monitor your child’s online activity.
  5. Remind your child of the trusted adults in their lives in whom they can confide.
  6. Pay attention to signs in your child that show something is wrong, such as acting withdrawn, irritable or sad; or changes in appetite or sleep. Some children will show none of these signs, so an open dialogue with your child is key.
  7. If your child needs additional support, ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric psychologist.

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative and to receive tips and education from mental health experts..



Related posts:

  • Cyberbullying and COVID-19
    Cyberbullying has become an increasingly common and serious issue in recent years largely due to the easy access, and in some cases the anonymity, of digital devices. As children and ...
  • Talk Openly To Your Kids About Bullying
    Bullying continues to make headlines around the country.  In particular, cyberbullying has become an increasingly common and serious issue largely due to the easy access, and in some cases the ...
  • Weight-Related Bullying – Tips Parents Should Know
    Bullying continues to be an unsettling epidemic that’s most apparent in our children’s schools. There are many forms of this negative behavior, but weight is one of the top reasons ...

How teens can build healthy habits: teen advisers weigh in

Being a teenager isn’t easy. There’s academic pressure, hormones, and college applications to juggle. While it’s important to seek advice from trusted adults, sometimes as a teenager you just want to hear straight from other teens.

Here, CHOC’s teen advisers share their best tips for building and maintaining habits that help them lead their healthiest lives. Read on for their advice on staying organized, staying healthy and more.

Heather, age 15

Over the last few years, I have learned a lot of ways to avoid procrastination. Each morning, I like to sit down and think of everything I need to accomplish that day, and I plan out when I am going to do it all. One of my favorite things is the reminders app in my phone; I use it all the time and it gives me a good idea of when I need to get things done and how long I have to do them.

Whenever I want to complete any nutrition goal, I find a friend who wants to do it with me. For example, my friend and I are both trying to give up soda. I always find myself not drinking enough water, and to drink more I will set reminders in my phone and I always try to bring an insulated water bottle to school every day. By working towards a goal with a friend (in this case, no soda), it’s easier to achieve.

Adopting healthy habits as a teenager is very important because behavior as a teen is laying the foundation for behavior as an adult. My friends and I constantly encourage each other to make good decisions and live healthier lifestyles. We often talk about eating healthier, or help each other clean our rooms, or complete goals together, like quitting soda.

Zoe, age 14

For me, getting involved with sports has helped me make progress towards leading an overall healthier lifestyle.

Going into high school, I never pictured myself getting into sports because until very recently, I haven’t been much of an athlete. Outside of the mandatory physical education classes, my exercise was limited to karate twice a week. I couldn’t tell you how I got into wrestling a few months ago, I never imagined being a part of a sports team― let alone a varsity letterman― but here I am, and I’ve never felt better. My parents have always encouraged me to be active, but wrestling takes this to a whole new level. I went from working out for an hour two days a week to working out three hours five days a week.

My journey has proven that you don’t have to be a born and raised athlete to compete in sports. I didn’t grow up wrestling, but I took a leap of faith and I haven’t looked back since.

Along with the sport, I learned how to take care of myself physically. For example, I learned that if I didn’t eat healthy food before practice, I would feel terrible during and after, so eating right just fell into place. The same thing applied to drinking enough water and getting enough sleep. Because I’m growing, I realize that these things are vital now more than ever, for the sake of my development and my overall well-being.

Workouts may seem daunting, especially if you’re as busy like me, but if you set aside a little time each day to do something healthy, you’ll see how much happier you are throughout the day.

Carina, age 16

One healthy habit I’ve implemented in my daily routine is to stay hydrated. While the saying “stay hydrated” is often overused on social media today, I’ve realized that the positive effects it has on your overall health play a significant impact on how you feel throughout your day. After drinking the recommended amount of water per day, I feel energized and more awake than if I was dehydrated. Since I have to wake up very early for school, drinking water has made me more inclined to work in class and keep me full of energy until my practice starts at the end of the day.

Friends are a great support system while adopting a new healthy habit. To make sure that you stick with your change, you can start your new journey with your friends and help each other through the process. This way, rather than attempting to go through a lifestyle change by yourself, there is someone to talk to and encourage each other while pursuing this new habit.

Layla, age 13

The hardest part of creating habits is starting them, or sometimes, breaking old ones. I love sharing my tips and tricks on healthy habits.

My habits are built off my schedule in the day. I wake up early to get to school on time, and I always eat breakfast, even if it is just an apple or granola bar. There is a reason that breakfast is called the most important meal of the day. Eating breakfast gets your mind and body ready to take on the day.  I study hard in school and socialize with my friends. After school, I have volleyball practice, or other after school activities. When I get home, I finish my homework, and then I go to bed. My routine may be strict, but it helps me develop good habits.

It’s important to remember that no one is perfect.  When trying to make improvements to my routine, I try to focus on getting rid of one bad habit at a time. Right now, I am trying to read more. I love reading, but I feel like I never have the time anymore. So, I am using some of my phone time to read and relax. I already love being able to read again, and it inspires me to take on more of my bad habits.

Creating good habits as a teenager is good for responsibilities later on in life. If we keep pushing away responsibilities and saying that we’ll get to them later, we build bad habits for adulthood. Our brains develop the most at childhood and during adolescence, and if we become responsible now, it will be so much easier to live like this as we get older.

My friends have been a great support system in When my friends remind me of what I need to do, it helps me prioritize what’s on my plate. Sometimes, I’ll say that I won’t study for my test, and that I think I know the material enough. My friends will look at me and say, “You’re gonna regret that, Layla.” Having good friends to help keep me accountable is important.

Finding a system that works for you is important in building good, healthy habits. Good habits can be very difficult to develop and maintain, but when your put in the work, you will become used to the routine, and develop a good system in getting things done.

Sanam, age 16

I do a few different things to help stay healthy. I play a sport at my high school, which helps me stay in shape. I always take water with me wherever I go because sometimes when our brains tell us that we’re hungry, we’re thirsty. This keeps me full and hydrated. Plus, drinking enough water helps maintain healthy and clear skin.

Whenever I’m stressed, I check in with myself and do what makes me happy. That could be watching my favorite TV show or spending time with family. I also choose to work out when I’m stressed because it keeps me busy and healthy.

As teens, it’s important for us to take on healthier lifestyles right now because this is the age where are brains are still developing and we can cement our healthy habits.

My friends and I always talk about how we must stay healthy. They support me, and I support them. We’ve made our own plan to start eating healthier and working out together.

Focus on your health over meeting a certain ideal. Listen to your body and yourself and talk to your doctor. Don’t force yourself to go on diets or do extreme workouts you can’t handle. Looks aren’t what matter. It’s all about self-care and self-love. Don’t just listen to others; listen to your body and do what’s best for you.

Submit a question for our teen advisers

More posts from our teen advisers: