Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Talk About It ~ 5 Things Teens Want You To Understand

Like many of you out there, I am raising teens. My sweet little babies I who wouldn't go anywhere without me have grown into these fiercely independent young adults. I think it's fantastic, but there are times when they struggle. Now, it's normal to struggle from time-to-time whether it's with a decision, difficulty in a specific class, or in relationships with others. But when the struggles are too big, or our teens fall into something they feel they can't get out of, that's when we as parents, guardians or mentors have to pay a little closer attention to the overall picture.

In those moments, these kids don't want to hear what's right and wrong. In the grand scheme of things, they have this knowledge firmly under their belts. All they need is for someone to sit down and actually listen to them. Society tends to look down on this group of people when they get into undesirable situations or make poor choices, labeling them as 'bad kids' or 'a waste of time' trying to help. I completely disagree. If they don't feel that there is anyone out there, even just one person who believes in them, how are they supposed to aspire to be anything more than the 'bad kid' they think everyone else sees them as?

I've gone out there and opened my ears and heart to this group. This is just a short list of things they really wish people knew and understood:

1. You were a teen then, I'm a teen now. It's so easy for us to reminisce about our younger days and say, 'Things haven't changed that much since I was your age'. Some of us were bookworms and kept the focus on good grades and staying true to our goals. Others swayed in another direction, for whatever reason, and made choices that may not have been healthy at the time. Remembering that although the base of situations, experiences and other influences in past and present are very similar, what kids face today is a newer path and very different from decades past. Stay in where they are now and try understanding their views from that perspective.

2. I put enough pressure on myself, thanks. Don't add to it. This is a tougher one because we parents never want to see our kids veer from the path we'd prefer them to be on. Teens today have a lot more pressure placed on their shoulders than I remember having thrown at me. Sure, I remember what it was like being pulled by teachers to make good grades, pulled another by my grandparents to 'do what's right', yanked yet another by my friends then have to deal with what I've put up on there myself on top of all of that. It's no wonder that many young people throw their hands up and yell, "I can't do this anymore! It's too much!" When they reach this point, it's usually when they turn to crutches to cope, which ultimately leads to feelings of failure. Respect what they can handle and see what they need to balance what they need to.

3. You may not always agree with my choices, but give me the freedom to make them. Okay, look. If you see your young one making a choice or decision that could potentially harm them in any way (we're talking substance abuse, a damaging relationship, etc.), then voice your view in the most diplomatic way possible. Remember, however, that choices, even poor ones at the time they're made, are how young people choose where and what they want to be. Guide them when they ask for it, don't order them because of your own views.

4. My friends mean alot to me. The greatest influences for young people are parents (or those raising them), those teaching them and their friends. They have different relationships with each of these groups and share a different side of themselves with each. No, adults will not always agree with the friends teens choose to surround themselves with. And if/when a young person acts out or goes a different route than we'd hoped they would, the first finger of blame is on their friends. We have to trust their judgment and understand that, maybe, that friend we think is a 'bad influence' has something good in them that we can't see. The friends they surround themselves with is a reflection of what's going on in their lives, what their goals are at that point in time and how they view themselves in all of that. True friends will be there throughout everything. Get to know their friends. Give them a chance to see them as your kids do.

5. I hear what you tell me, even if I don't act like I do. This is a very important point to remember. There are turbulent times between all young people and their parents at some point. But what you say and how you say it makes a huge difference in how they absorb what you're trying to say. Make sure that the words you give them are encouraging, supportive, loving and non-judgmental, even when they're acting or lashing out. It's your reactions to them and how you respond to them that they'll remember and take with them, good or bad, so always ensure it's the good that you offer.

If I had to add to this list at all, it's reassuring caregivers that all kids will seem 'lost' for a little while, and they all push boundaries, experiment and test the waters in different ways. Just give them some freedom they need to figure themselves out while keeping a close, protective eye from a safe distance and know when to intervene.

Hold on to the knowledge that when they go to a low you can't bear to see them drop to, they do know how to climb back up.

And they also know they'll find you once they get there.

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