Michael F. Opitz

Helping Adolescents Achieve Optimal Wellness: Five Tips for Parents

Physical and nutritional fitness are in the media spotlight, and for good reason. Both help fight against obesity. As important as they are to adolescents' health, so too are social and emotional fitness. When combined, all four areas of fitness (physical, nutritional, social, and emotional) are necessary for the optimal wellness that leads to living enjoyable, fulfilling lives. I suggest using literacy as a catalyst for moving toward optimal wellness and offer these five suggestions:

  1. Use adolescents' interest in technology to learn more about the importance of physical activity and nutrition. Two helpful websites for parents and adolescents are www.actionforhealthykids.org and www.choosemyplate.gov.

  2. Capitalize on adolescents' belonging needs by teaching them how to use social skills to recognize and combat bullying behaviors. Give them some know-how by providing books such as Jay McGraw's Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies (McGraw, 2008: Alladin).

  3. Body image is on the forefront of adolescents' minds. Understanding the difference between ideal image (as portrayed in the media) and real image (how people really look) is a sure way to help adolescents develop positive body images. Consider reading and discussing titles such as The Body Book for Boys (Mar & Norwich, 2010: Scholastic) or The Girls Body Book (Dunham, 2008: Applesauce Press).

  4. Learning how to set and meet goals is another part of growing up. Reading Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Grant Halvorson, 2010: Plume) is sure to provide a wealth of information you can use to help your adolescent learn both.

  5. Advertisers use trickery to lure us into buying products that might not be in our best interest. Viewing and discussing these tricks, available at www.nutritionandmedia.org and http://pbskids.org/dontbuyit/advertisingtricks, enables adolescents to be more savvy consumers.

Michael F. Opitz is professor emeritus of reading education from the University of Northern Colorado where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses and supervised doctoral dissertations. Currently he is an author and literacy consultant who provides inservice and staff development sessions and presents at state and international conferences. He also works with K–6 teachers by planning, teaching, and evaluating demonstration lessons focused on different aspects of literacy, including integrated fitness and reading lessons. He is the author and coauthor of numerous books, articles, and reading programs. Connect with Opitz by liking his page on Facebook and by e-mailing him at Michael.Opitz@unco.edu.

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