We have high expectations of our teens. They have high expectations of themselves. By the time they’re ready to leave high school they’ve already been put through the wringer emotionally, psychologically and physically as they navigate the precipices and pitfalls of academia alongside the changes in their body and brain chemistry that come with the onset of adulthood. They’ve already heard the wrong words all too often. They’ve had their fill of “Again”, “Could be better”, “Try harder”, “Not good enough”, “Like that, but more!”. With all the ambition and discipline in the world, even the most rugged constitution can crumble under the pressure of expectation. Sometimes the words our teens need to hear are not those of tough love or enthusiastic encouragement but “It’s okay”...
It’s okay to take some time to rest and recuperate
Discipline is important, as is time management. But sometimes the most important aspect of time management is making time to rest, recuperate and put their big brains on ice. It’s a scientifically proven truth that our brains need periods of rest and relaxation to function effectively. Encourage them to be kind to themselves and allow themselves down time.
It’s okay to admit that you need help
There are innumerable trials and temptations for college and high school aged kids. While the prohibitive “Just say no!” approach to alcohol consumption and drug use may be tempting for parents, it’s rarely effective. It’s best to give them the pertinent information about the dangers of these vices and let them make their own decision. But when they make bad choices, we need to encourage them to seek help rather than turning our backs on them. Whether it’s seeking teen club drug abuse treatment or simply switching to decaf, young minds need guidance in determining what’s best for them and getting help when they need it. If we don’t provide it for them, who will?
It’s okay to feel angry, frustrated and that you want to throw in the towel
When a challenge seems bigger than us and utterly insurmountable, our first instinct is to not even try. It’s to give up in frustration. To become angry at the world and ourselves and to want more than everything to just throw in the towel. These feelings can lead to a cycle of self-recrimination. Teens need to realize that these feelings are perfectly human and natural and only by coming to terms with them can we overcome them.
It’s okay to Fail
Many teens that I work with that struggle in school have a fear of failure. When they work hard and still struggle, they feel inadequate and “stupid”. So instead of trying hard without success, and risk feeling embarrassment of failure, they choose not to work hard and fail. But it’s okay to fail if you tried hard. If you worked hard and gave it your all, then it is okay to fail, if you still learned!
It’s okay if you don’t know what comes next
It feels as though there’s tremendous pressure on today’s young people to have their whole lives mapped out by the age of 18. Needless to say this can set our kids up for a fall. They need to learn that it’s okay if they change their minds about the career they thought they’d always wanted by the age of 25. That it’s absolutely fine if they’re unsure of where they expect their lives and their careers to go. Life is, after all, a journey and not a destination.