When girls and boys enter adolescence, they begin to compare themselves with others as their bodies start to change. If they don’t stack up well in their minds, self-doubt emerges for the first time. Usually, they find a way through this and grow confident in adulthood. Sometimes though, a traumatic event sets them back, and they begin to believe they have no hope.
A Teen Voice survey asked teenagers where they got their sense of purpose from. They revealed the following drivers in young adulthood:
- A passion for something that motivates them forward
- Proof that their opinions matter and are listened to
- People who encourage them to actualize themselves
In childhood, parents provide encouragement and support and their opinions are respected. However, in adolescence, teens drift away from families and this input can be unproductive. An emotional crunch may find them naked and defenseless causing them to lose belief in themselves. Their parents may have no idea what caused their child’s depression, and equally importantly how to respond.
At other times the process may be gradual. Consistent failure to perform well in class, sibling rivalry, bullying, obsession with appearance, an over-bearing teacher all have a similar effect. The teen’s self-concept erodes until they begin to believe that they are useless. A thoughtless remark by a frustrated parent may be the worst of all.
Take strength that you have the power to reverse this and imbue your child with fresh hope. Your job is to replace the negatives with positives that help build them up. There’s little point in saying “this is how I’m going to cheer you up”. Teens- like the rest of us - seldom respond to unasked for advice. You have to work on the family system. By this I mean the home environment, and how you interact.
- Learn to listen and to understand. Your child is a young adult now and needs positive regard as much as you. Make sure that you are consistently genuine. Teens are experts at catching parents out. If their inner self has turned out differently from what you wanted, have the grace to accept this too.
- Seize the moments when you break through into trust again. Use them to explore your son or daughter’s hopes and passions, and encourage them to follow them. Here, your life experience comes in handy and may even be respected. You can make suggestions. This is not the same as nagging!
- The best gift you can give is an awareness that true worth lies in what we do for others and that our job is to make the world a better place no matter how slight the deed may be. Encourage your teenager to start putting back by doing something for the community. You will be amazed how quickly they develop when sharing time with positive people.
- This will empower your teen to stand up and fight back against the things that once put them down. Their new life skills will carry them through adulthood. So yes, there is hope for teens, and for parents too. You just need to keep those three things in mind the Teen Voice survey mentioned and learn to live them out.