Does anyone remember what it was like to be a teenager? Did you become excited to transition from middle school to high school or were you mortified and overwhelmed by the new social expectations, the clicks, the groups, the choices you had to make and the pressures to succeed? I remember – like it was only yesterday.
After leading a group of teenagers just today I realized things have changed so much, but things have changed very little in terms of what our young people have to deal with: pressure, bullying and social stressors at school. In some ways natural development tests our young ones during this time of hormonal flux and forces them to feel things they never felt before – in front of everyone. Acne, weight gain, awkward growth spurts, family conflict, academic challenges, dating, sports, band, video gaming, social media, foreign language are just some of the challenges teens face. Teens are also pruning neural pathways they no longer use and are readily reinforcing the ones they use over and over again. Now is the time to help the adolescent in your life find balance: help him or her weigh their decisions, get in touch with their honest values and stand up for what they believe in. It will serve them in the long-term! The neural pathways that remain and flourish will do so with your precious guidance.
Do you regret not practicing piano so that you forgot how to play by the time you were in your twenties? Or perhaps you gave up something important to you in order to stay in the ‘cool’ crowd. Did a small part of you die with that decision? Teens are under a lot of pressure to make these kinds of decisions every day. They need time to reflect on what is meaningful to them and they need a sounding board to bounce these ideas off. I learned just today that sometimes what is most important to an adolescent is also his or her biggest source of stress. If this is what they face every day then they need all the help they can get from all the people that love them to help them cope with the stress of having future goals and high expectations. The other thing I learned just today – working with teens – is that self-forgiveness goes a long way. Each and every one of us could judge ourselves less; accept ourselves more for who we are and take bigger joy in some of our smaller successes.
I know it is hard and life ‘is hard.’ But it is also a choice to live, and to live the way we choose takes courage. Teach courage. Dare to fail in the eyes of others if it resembles success according to your personal values. Try not to let the need for monetary success stand in the way of the needs of your children. Take time out. Reach out to a teen in your life today. Teach them something new. Offer him or her support. Forgive that they didn’t do something right or perfect. Give a child or adolescent the refuge of your HEART and just listen – without having something else pending on your time. Everything else will work itself out. You will be glad you did! And when all else fails. Give him or her a hug. You will be doubly glad you did!!