Do you ever talk with your teen about health and well-being? How about in the zone of specifics (i.e., specifically their health, such as something they’re dealing with, wondering about, or maybe hoping does/doesn’t happen)? This summer, Lexie and I went there for a summer project.
I find talking about health and well-being in a general sense fairly easy, though going into the zone of specifics has the potential to be a minefield. There’s the risk of telling and soapboxes (great if you want someone to shut down and quit listening), defensiveness (because the zone of health specifics isn’t necessarily comfortable to be in), irrelevant personal stories (oh my, can I can get stuck here), feelings of “should” (which never feel good), and differing views and priorities (because no one has the same experiences in life), among other things.
However, we’ve all got a body and mind that need tending to regularly, so braving the minefield needs to happen at times. And it’s important that we do, because when someone feels crappy physically, mentally, and/or emotionally? It can get really hard to show up in life (and not showing up bites for all involved). So into the zone of specifics we went this summer.
Acne can be part of the teen experience, and for Lexie, it has. Over the past years, she’s tried a number of options to see what might help; for whatever the reason, not much has made a difference. As she’s considering what option to try next, the idea of experimenting with diet (i.e., “food as medicine”) came up. Yes, I did share some stories though tried hard to gauge interest and keep relevant — from personal experience changing up what I ate (and then seeing a huge impact on my mental and overall well-being), as well as the experience of a former coworker who had severe cystic acne that resolved when he changed up what he ate. Lexie decided to give the food route a try this summer, so for a three week stint, she’s going gluten and dairy-free (check out her week 1 thoughts here).
Currently finishing up her second week, it’s been an interesting ride thus far, equal parts disappointing and useful. No, her acne hasn’t cleared up much, if at all (at least yet, and we are keeping in mind that such changes aren’t likely to happen over night). Yes, it’s been challenging for her stick with, especially when eating out (catch her thoughts on week 2 challenges here). AND — Lexie has been working hard on keeping this commitment to herself. HOW AWESOME IS THAT? I think her willingness to try something new and then follow through on such a commitment to herself, to the best of her ability because there is no “perfect” and that’s real life and a-okay, is huge and absolutely important to recognize. She set a goal (3 weeks gluten and dairy-free meals) — and she is trying her best, meal by meal. Rock on, Lexie. Huge kudos for your efforts.
On an adult/parenting end, the experience thus far is offering some useful reminders:
- Different strokes for different folks (and it’s not personal). When supporting someone else, keep in mind that what works for you may not be what works best for them. While I’ve eaten gluten and dairy-free myself the past few years the majority of the time, my snacks/smaller meals routine isn’t the best fit for her — Lexie prefers several solid meals over grazing. So for week 3, we’re going to actually sit down and plan some meals out. Which brings me to the next point:
- Preparation and planning in advance make a HUGE difference. Last week we visited family in a different state, and after flying in the first day, Lexie found herself hangry and facing a lunch of snacky-type items based on what was available, gluten-free, and dairy-free. Suffice it to say, things were ugly for a while (and the diet nearly got chucked). Note to self: Plan, plan, and plan a little extra, especially if you won’t be in your own space. And if helping someone out? Don’t assume the plan in your head matches the plan in their head. Talking about it in advance can save a huge headache later.
- Look at the bigger picture + making a change takes time. Switching up her diet may help the acne — and it may not. We may see an impact quickly, slowly, or maybe not really at all. And however it turns out, it’s okay. Lexie is working on taking responsibility for her own health and what she wants, as well as practicing keeping a commitment to herself — all hugely important. So when disappointment or frustration on the parenting end comes up, take a moment and remember this. My hope for my kids is that they learn to take responsibility for their whole selves and courageously try new things. And she is doing this.
While I don’t know how things will look in another week, I do know that we’re both learning as we go (there is always something to learn as we human, which I love/hate and have to shake my head and laugh about), that I’m glad we stepped into the zone of health specifics to try something different, and that I’m proud of Lexie’s efforts thus far. I don’t know that I’d have been willing to try something like this when I was her age. More on how things are going next week!
Is it time to step into the health and well-being zone of specifics with your teen? If so, I’m with you, one step at a time, and I’d love to hear how it goes.