According to certified recreational therapist, Corey Hickman, today’s teens are experiencing a recreational crisis.
Mental health professionals agree that too little physical and/or social recreation can have significant mental-health implications for teens and can compound pre-existing emotional and psychiatric issues. “You can’t separate physical and emotional well being,” says Corey Hickman, CTRS, a residential life director for InnerChange. Because of this, his team of recreation specialists engineers their recreation program to be more than just fun and games. They consider recreation to be a critical treatment modality, equally as important as talk therapy and other treatment approaches for addressing adolescent emotional problems.
But Hickman points out that the structure and the absence of emotional triggers–like negative peers and easy access to television and computer screens–makes health and wellness programming a bit easier for students to sustain during treatment. During the transition home, these positive changes can be threatened.
BRINGING WELLNESS HOME
Hickman encourages parents to take a proactive stance in helping their adolescent maintain positive recreational habits after treatment. “It’s tough,” says Hickman, “but it can be done.”
Here are a few tips he offers to parents who want to help support their child transfer healthy recreational habits back home:
Model: If you’re too busy, too tired, or too stressed for healthy recreational activities, you won’t have the credibility you’ll need to effectively encourage your teen to maintain positive habits. While your child is in treatment is the best time to engage in your own recreational renaissance, establishing good habits so that you can model positive behavior when your child returns home.
Invite: Inviting your adolescent to participate in your own activities can deepen the impact of modeling and create an opportunity to connect. Invite (but don’t coerce) your teen to attend your yoga class or go to the gym with you.
Encourage: Don’t forget that recreation is supposed to be fun and fun is a matter of personal taste. So provide a wide range of options for your child to participate in and keep the conversation positive and encouraging!
Challenge: If your child is having a difficult time selecting an activity to participate in, don’t accept inactivity as an option. Challenging your teen to try something new or pursue their passion can yield a little resistance but a lot of payoff. “I was a shy kid,” says Hickman, “but my dad really challenged me to participate in a team sport. I picked Little League, which ended up being a life changer for me. I would have missed out this formative opportunity if my dad had been willing to take ‘no’ for an answer.”