Vibe Check: 4 Ways to Help Teens Avoid a Menty B this Summer

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who just Googled, “What does menty b mean?” 

Most of us are a generation or two removed from Gen Z (born 1997-2012) and even further from Generation Alpha, aka the digital natives. Googling the definition of unfamiliar slang you hear from a client or see in social media is a sure sign that you’re not getting any younger (join the club!). 

A ‘menty b’ is a Gen Z term for a stressful situation. It’s a low-key way of referring to something really serious, like – you guessed it – a mental breakdown. 

This summer, let’s help our youth find balance in their lives with safe, healthy ways to recharge and reset from a busy school year. As youth health professionals, we all know how important it is to spend time with the people we care about and take care of our bodies. Adequate sleep, staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, and regular exercise are all key components of physical and emotional wellbeing. 

But in this article, we’ll take these pillars of health a step further by framing them in the vernacular of the youth we serve every day. 

Share these 4 tips as you work with families and youth this summer to develop stronger connections with each other and build healthier, safer habits that reduce risk and promote wellness.

1. Touch grass 

(Encourage youth to set down the device and spend time outdoors)

The phrase ‘touch grass’ refers to the need to power down technology and step outside. It is commonly used with individuals who are chronically online and may even be used as an insult when someone (on the Internet) is out of touch with reality.

Soaking up Vitamin D isn’t only good for a reality check when our digital worlds have become our whole worlds. Research points to the benefits of time spent outdoors on our physical and psychological health, too. Spending time outside in green spaces improves sleep quality, boosts serotonin levels, decreases anxiety and stress, and reduces cortisol levels, muscle tension, and heart rates. 

To promote physiological and emotional wellness, encourage youth to spend time doing the activities they love outside. From swimming to hiking to skateboarding or simply just hanging out at the park – whatever ways they enjoy ‘touching grass’ are great ways to boost mental health. 

Some families choose to create a summer bucket list of activities, goals, and trips to help hold themselves accountable to spending more time outside. To be more active and adventurous as a family, start by getting specific with goals. Encourage parents to talk with their tween, adolescent, or college student to come up with a shared list of activities or trips. Maybe they would like to go tubing on a day trip, build raised garden beds and tend to summer vegetables, or spend a weekend exploring a new town.

2. If they’re acting salty, do a vibe check 

(Ask youth how they are feeling and pay attention to their actions)

Acting salty means you’re annoyed, angry, or otherwise upset. Sometimes there’s a fine line between sarcasm, acting salty, and being passive aggressive. If you notice youth acting salty, you might want to do a vibe check. 

You know the phrase ‘good vibes only’ – it’s a mantra about having a culture of positivity instead of toxicity. Doing a ‘vibe check’ is really just another way to see how they’re really doing. You don’t have to be a mind reader or have letters after your name to ask good questions. When you really want to engage youth, start by connecting with them about something that you know they are interested in (such as a TikTok video, sports game, upcoming vacation – anything). Ask open ended questions that invite dialogue and allow them to direct the conversation where they’d like it to go. For example, ask “What has the first month of summer been like for you?” instead of “Have you been enjoying summer so far?” 

Engaging resistant youth is possible. It starts with meeting them where they’re at to establish a connection and talking on their terms.  

3. Bussin’ meals and family time 

(Plan intentional family meal time so that it’s “really good”)

If something is ‘bussin’, it is really good. It’s extremely great. It’s super excellent. 

Bussin’ is most commonly used to refer to food, so you might hear a youth say, “This pizza is bussin’!” or “My grandma makes bussin’ apple pie.” But, the word can also be used to describe (anything) that’s wonderful. 

While it’s not a parent’s job to fill their children’s lives with mountain-top experiences or serve as an entertainment guide, kids (and teens) love feeling loved. Having high-quality intentional time with people who love them will do wonders for mental health. Practically, that may look like cooking a meal together. Plan the recipe, note the ingredients, do the shopping, prep whatever needs to be chopped or marinated or soaked, and then get to it! A shared meal is more than just a bussin’ dish to gobble up. 

The mental health benefits are astounding, says Anne Fishel, Executive Director of the Family Dinner Project. In an interview with Harvard’s Jill Anderson, Fishel shares that “regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression, and anxiety, and substance abuse, and eating disorders, and tobacco use, and early teenage pregnancy, and higher rates of resilience and higher self esteem.” 

4. It’s giving … 

(Understand what is important to teens) 

The phrase “it’s giving” is a little more challenging to define. We’ll try, but if you need more help, ask your teen. When Gen Z or Gen Alpha say, “it’s giving,” they’re typically using the phrase in a positive light and teeing up the type of vibes that a particular thing or person is emitting. So, you might hear: 

  • It’s giving 90s pop culture = “Her appearance looks like the fashion trends from the 90s” 
  • It’s giving kindergarten = “This feels like a kindergarten classroom” 
  • It’s giving Christmas = “It feels like Christmas around here!” 

Alternatively, a youth may use the phrase, “it’s giving” to simply state what they like or what feels good. For example, if a teen loves the smoothie they just ordered, they might say, “It’s giving!” (But remember, if it’s really, really good, they might also say, “This smoothie is bussin’!”) 

What gives with all this “it’s giving”? 

The point is to pay attention to the things that are important to youth. Whether it’s 90s fashion, celebrating holidays, drinking smoothies – notice the turns of phrases and ways they spend their time. 

Feeling seen, heard, and understood is at the heart of wellness. When parents and professionals take the time to build trustworthy connections with youth, we are doing our part to support their mental health. 

Now, cheers to a bussin’ summer! 

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