There’s been a lot of talk about self-care in recent years — in particular, self-care for women and for parents. That’s important, because when parents practice self-care, they have a better chance of caring for their children with patience and compassion, and thus forging healthy relationships with their kids.

But too often, adults turn to self-care as a last resort, when they realize they’re burning out and have to make a change. Instead, we need to start building self-care habits early in life, so that when we hit difficulties and roadblocks, we’re able to navigate them skillfully and stay strong and steady.

There’s no time when that’s more essential than in adolescence. The teen years offer many hills and valleys — challenges that come with this stage of life. These include challenges presented by the outer world, such as academic pressure, college applications, jobs, sports, family problems or issues with peers. And teens also deal with all the inner ups and downs that naturally come with growth and development — hormonal changes, which catalyze mood shifts; struggles with self-image and self-esteem; and the ongoing, often confusing process of forging their independence and unique identity. In addition, the adolescent brain is still under construction, so to speak, with the centers of executive function not fully matured, which can lead to impulsivity and poor choices.

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