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Why Its So Hard for Teens to Break Old Habits: Understanding the Struggle and Finding Solutions


It seems like every other week, we hear about some new study on why it’s so hard for teens to break old habits. The evidence doesn’t support these theories—or at least not consistently—but they do exist. Many of the reasons we struggle to break unhealthy behaviors are the same ones that drive us to pick them in the first place. So what if you could find ways to help your teen break these habits faster, without resorting to harsh methods like medication or therapy? What if there were other solutions available that didn’t involve throwing away years of research and clinical studies on why it’s so hard for teens to break old habits?

What Habits Do Teens Struggle to Break?

Teens may struggle to break a wide range of habits, both big and small. One common habit that many teens find difficult to break is excessive phone usage.

With the rise of social media and endless scrolling, it’s easy for teens to become addicted to their devices. Breaking this habit requires discipline and self-awareness, as well as finding alternative activities to fill the void.

Another habit that many teens struggle to break is procrastination. With the pressures of school and extracurricular activities, it can be tempting for teens to put off their responsibilities until the last minute. Breaking this habit requires time management skills and creating a structured schedule to keep them on track.

Additionally, unhealthy eating habits are prevalent among teenagers. Whether it’s consuming excessive amounts of junk food or skipping meals altogether, these habits can have long-term consequences on their health. Breaking these habits requires education on nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet, as well as creating a supportive environment at home.

What Habits Are Most Difficult for Teens to Break?

While every teen is unique and may struggle with different habits, some common ones tend to be particularly challenging to break.

One such habit is smoking. Peer pressure, stress, and the addictive nature of nicotine make it incredibly difficult for teens to quit smoking once they start. Breaking this habit often requires professional help, such as counseling or support groups, along with a strong support system from family and friends.

Another difficult habit for teens to break is substance abuse. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or both, substance abuse can have severe consequences on a teen’s physical and mental health. Breaking this habit often requires a comprehensive approach, including therapy, rehabilitation programs, and ongoing support.

Lastly, self-harm and other forms of self-destructive behavior can be incredibly challenging for teens to break. These habits are often rooted in deep emotional pain and can become a coping mechanism. Breaking this habit requires professional intervention, such as therapy or counseling, to address the underlying issues and provide healthier coping mechanisms.

Help Your Teen Make a Habit of Something

Instead of focusing solely on breaking old habits, it can be helpful to encourage your teen to develop new, positive habits. By replacing negative behaviors with positive ones, they can gradually shift their focus and reduce the pull of old habits. Here are some ways you can help your teen make a habit of something:

1. Encourage hobbies and interests:

Help your teen discover activities they enjoy and encourage them to pursue those interests. Whether it’s painting, playing a musical instrument, or joining a sports team, engaging in hobbies can distract them from old habits and provide a healthier outlet for their energy.

2. Foster a supportive environment:

Create a supportive and nurturing environment at home where your teen feels safe and encouraged to pursue positive habits. This includes setting clear boundaries, providing emotional support, and being a positive role model for them to emulate.

3. Set achievable goals:

Help your teen set realistic and achievable goals related to the habit they want to develop. Break down the larger goal into smaller, manageable steps, and celebrate their progress along the way. This will help them stay motivated and committed to their new habit.

Telling Your Teen the Habit You Want to See Him or Her Quit

When addressing a habit you want your teen to quit, it’s essential to approach the conversation with empathy and understanding. Here are some tips on how to effectively communicate your concerns:

1. Choose the right time and place:

Find a calm and comfortable setting where both you and your teen can have an open and honest conversation without distractions or interruptions.

2. Use “I” statements:

Frame your concerns using “I” statements to avoid sounding accusatory or confrontational.

For example, instead of saying, “You need to stop doing this,” say, “I’m concerned about this habit and how it might be impacting you.”

3. Listen actively:

Give your teen the space to express their thoughts and feelings about the habit. Listen attentively and validate their emotions, even if you don’t agree with their perspective.

4. Offer support and resources:

Let your teen know that you’re there to support them in breaking the habit. Offer resources such as books, articles, or professional help, if needed. Encourage them to seek assistance and assure them that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.


Understanding the struggle of teens in breaking old habits is crucial for parents and caregivers. By recognizing the challenges they face and providing them with the right support, we can help our teenagers navigate through these difficult transitions.

Whether it’s replacing negative habits with positive ones or seeking professional help when needed, there are solutions available that can empower our teens to break old habits and embrace healthier behaviors. Remember, change takes time and patience, but with the right approach, we can help our teens overcome these challenges and thrive.


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