Wellness is defined as a state of optimal thriving, and not only the absence of illness or disease. According to the World Health Organisation,“wellness is a state in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
The concept of well-being or wellness can be applied to every stage of life, adolescence being no exception. Teen wellness takes into account an understanding of adolescent development and recognition of the seven critical pillars of holistic well-being. Considering the rapid shifts in growth, emotions and social contexts that teens must navigate, their wellness must be actively ensured at every step along the way. The transition from childhood to adulthood is perhaps the single most significant time in life through which holistic interventions reap significant rewards. It is therefore urgent that communities invest and ensure the wellness of tweens, teens and young adults.
The wheel of teen wellness
The significant physical changes due to puberty and growth during adolescence require optimal balanced nutrition, quality sleep and preventive care. It is recommended that tweens and teens receive annual health care visits to ensure that their clinical examination, vision, hearing and oral health are intact, as well as to screen for any emerging chronic illnesses. In addition, HPV immunisation should be provided. Young people with diagnosed conditions will require more frequent review to ensure adherence to management plans as well as control of their disease process.
The teen years are filled with dramatic shifts in mood and emotion. While it is essential for parents and young people themselves to understand the normal ranges of emotions during adolescence, it is equally important to recognise when mental health concerns are arising. Depression, anxiety and eating disorders are the more commonly occurring conditions in adolescence, all hallmarked by persisting changes in mood and behaviour. Emotional health involves an understanding of feelings, the ability to pause and reflect and then make rational or conscientious decisions, rather than acting on impulse. These all should be taught and reinforced to young people to support their holistic wellness.
Social development is an essential part of adolescence. From late childhood, young people will start to demonstrate the desire to spend more time with their friends. This continues to increase through middle adolescence and is often a source of conflict between parents and teens. Nevertheless, healthy social interaction is the foundation of communication skills, emotional intelligence and teamwork and should be fostered and supported through the teen years, under the watchful supervision of parents.
Academic health involves not only a sense of connection to school community, but understanding the learning style, interests, passions and goals of young people. In order to make use of their fullest potential, investment in academic health is required to unlock the talents of youth. While many educational systems place a heavy emphasis on exit examinations, academic health ought to have a more rounded view of the many skills and varied aspects of learning and development. While this concept is still in evolution in some educational settings, academic health and the intersection between teen health and education is a well-recognised pillar of teen wellness.
It is never too early to teach young people the value of money and the need to save, invest wisely, budget and prioritise needs. Whether through an assigned allowance or permitting them to assist in family budgets, young people should be actively taught financial health and management.
Communities rely on the environments around them to survive and thrive. Teaching young people to respect and care for the natural world is integral to supporting the climate, agriculture and animal life. Simple acts including re-purposing household goods, reducing waste and responsible disposal of refuse go a long way towards protecting our islands.
Connection between self and spirit provides young people with anchoring and relief. Whatever specific religious practice or belief, young people should be encouraged to practise acts of prayer, meditation or mindfulness on a daily basis. Infusing divinity into their lives acts to improve their resilience, especially during periods of self-doubt or questioning.
A strong sense of well-being allows teenagers to not only feel good in their lives, but permits them to be empowered to make good decisions, navigate challenges, plan for their futures and invest in themselves. Each pillar on its own can only support a young person so far, but through actively supporting every aspect of the wheel, we are able to move teens forward into a fulfilling life in the future.