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Teen Health 411

What Are Your Priorities?

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I was really struck last month on vacation by how much I loved having unstructured time with my daughters and in comparison how much of our time together during the school year happens while on the way to medical or dental appointments, school activities, and other structured activities like music and gymnastics lessons.

I am also feeling a little guilty about all of the things I encourage parents to do with their teens. Not only are parents responsible for the day-to-day stuff, the working, cooking, cleaning, driving, and homework supervision, but then comes the responsibility for teaching values, community service and media literacy. How on earth are we expected to "do it all" and where do we place our priorities?

Here is an interesting activity to do yourself, and then with your teens. It is an activity to help you identify if your stated priorities match how you spend your time, and it will start plenty of conversations around the dinner table. You could do this activity after watching the movie "Click" about a guy whose choices do not match his priorities!

Here are some facts you need. There are 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 8 hours a day, then you are awake 112 hours a week. When your teen does this, they should sleep 10 hours a night, so they are should only be awake 98 hours a week. Start with two pieces of paper and draw a big circle on each one - you are going to make two pie charts. On the first, you are going to represent your priorities - family, work or school, love, friends, and time for self. Divide your circle into 5 sections and label them, writing "priorities" on the top of the page.

Now, copy the list at the bottom of this post, transfer it to a word processing document, add other things you do each day, and take off the activities that you usually do not spend time doing. If you want the next step to be really accurate, you may need to keep track a day or two so you know exactly how much you spend on things. Now, write down how much time you spend on each activity, total it up by category and then write down the percent of time you spend on each section. Now, complete the second pie chart that reflects how you actually spend your 112 hours a week.

Do the two pie charts match? If so, then your are "balanced" and your priorities are reflected by your daily activities. More likely, your priorities do not match your activities and the difference is what causes you some frustration. If you can bring the two together, you will be happier! Have fun!

Here is a list to get you started. Please note - where things belong may be different for you and your kids. For example, I would include community service under family because I only do things that include my kids, which has always been a great excuse not to do committee work, but my kids go to a school that requires community service, so they would include it under school.

Family
  • Meals (shared at the table)
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning the house
  • Laundry
  • Driving/Biking/Commuting
  • Arranging activities
  • Making appointments
  • Shopping (Groceries, family-related)
  • Walking the dog (could be exercise)
  • Car-related stuff
  • Supervising homework
  • Finances (Paying the bills, banking, taxes)
  • Recreation (Movies, skating, etc...)
  • Community service
  • Religious activities
  • TV/movies

Work/School
  • Homework
  • Projects
  • Professional or required reading

Love
  • Dates (alone time for meals, coffee, time to talk)
  • Finding a partner

Friends (which for parents probably goes in with time for self)
  • Activities (Movies, games, bowling,, etc...)
  • Phone
  • IM
  • Email

Time for Self
  • Lessons and practice (music, sports, art, cooking, etc...)
  • Gardening
  • Reading
  • Art
  • Hygiene (nails, bathing, hair)
  • Social time with friends
  • Exercise
  • Internet
  • Shopping (for self)
  • Massage
  • Therapy (Counseling)
  • Community service (volunteering at school, etc...)

  • 1
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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