Although, I do not usually work with teenagers I know lots of them and I was a teen myself a long, long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far away. I have had lots of time to think about how I would support my teenage self to take the sting away from those challenging social and emotional moments. How would I support my young adult self to not take drama so seriously? How could I show her that those moments that I thought were the end were actually the beginning.
*What you are about to read are my opinions. They have been accumulated over years of my own personal research to help myself and my students. However, if you are facing extreme challenges with your teen or tween please, seek professional help to support you both on this journey.
Why I Do What I Do
My purpose is to show others that when it comes to our own lives the answers we seek come from inside. I do this through drama, mindfulness and movement workshops because when I check in with myself and I ask ‘Is this what I should be doing?’ I hear a YES! I have spent many years getting to the point where I trust my own internal guidance system.
When we teach children at a young age how to connect with themselves and their own internal guidance system they will go into life feeling empowered to make life affirming decisions.
Here is the thing about decision making. We get to a certain point where the choices we make weigh heavily upon us. The perfect example of this is in the case of the high school student. In the years before leaving high school every pre-adult experiences moments of confusion, uncertainty and overwhelm when they think about the choices they have to make.
The one thing I know for certain is whatever choices I made at that age didn’t damage my life for good. And now I regularly have ‘WHAT am I doing with my life?’ moments but instead of life crashing down around me they are simple inquires and course correcting moments of reflection.
The issue, as I see it, is we keep putting information on top of information and we haven’t laid the ground work. The very nature of education has been focused on academics yet basic psychology 101 tells us that our beliefs about the world are determined between the ages of 0-7.
There are many ways we can assist young people in setting up their foundation. Teaching kids to know themselves through quiet contemplation and reflection gives them a leg up.
We are human and to help young people deal with the human condition, that exists within themselves and in the behaviours of those around them, there are a few areas where I think awareness and attention could really go a long way. Here are some things to consider and try;
- Emotional intelligence– Learning how to name the emotions they are feeling and obtaining strategies to assist in processing them will help teens to powerfully move through life’s stressors. Denying, hiding or stuffing down emotions only leads to more problems later on. Here are more recommendations on how to support your teen in developing their social and emotional intelligence.
- Sensations- Emotions and feelings can be felt as sensations in your body. Think back to knots in your stomach, butter flies of excitement, stiff neck and shoulders are usually connected to stress, the list goes on. If you tune into your body and observe the different sensation you can then put your hand on that part of the body and ask what is this sensation all about. You may get a flash of a memory. Now it may seem strange but perhaps that memory was painful or lead to tricky emotions that can help you better understand your present situation. Breathe into that space in your body where you feel this memory, feeling or emotion. Continue to breathe into that space until the picture dissipates. Image it is like a cloud and watch it as it floats away. Here is another great article to help assist your teen to you know the feelings behind the sensation.
- Voices in my head- No, I am not crazy and neither is your teen. Over thinking things is a part of the human condition. However, accepting that we have different voices in our head and learning the difference between them can be life changing. There are voices that are largely critical, mean or scared. These voices will leave you feeling depleted, fearful, angry or anxious. Then there is another voice. Sometimes described as the small quiet voice because often it gets drowned out by our hyper critical, angry or protective group of voices. The small quiet voice has advice that leaves you feeling uplifted, calm and cared for. Learning which voice to listen to and when has changed the course of my life.
- Cultivate a Growth Mindset– Our *beliefs about the past can cloud our ability to create a powerful present, one where we can be optimistic, present and powerful. Perceiving failure as a good first step which challenges us rather than as an end result is just one of the by-products of cultivating a ‘growth’ rather than ‘fixed mindset’. For more on this topic follow this link.
- Meditation and mindfulness- Learning to be present and to focus on your breath, mantra or affirmation has been scientifically proven to have a range of benefits both mentally and physiologically. Here are some meditations and mindfulness activities brought to you by the site Meditations for Teens.
- Journaling- Buy your teen a journal. Journaling helps to get you in touch with your feelings. It helps to uncover beliefs or programming that may have you on an unhealthy hamster wheel. A journal doesn’t have to be in words it can be in pictures. And it doesn’t need to make sense. No one is going to grade you or judge you on this work. The purpose is, rather than letting the sadness or tricky emotions fester inside, to give your teen a space to get these difficult beliefs and stories out. It can also be a place to record things they are grateful for; happy, exciting or humorous moments. There are no rules. It is just a practise that can be a great way to voice what is really going on in your life.
- Do what you love and the rest will follow- I remember having a conversation with my friend’s teen about what she should study. My friend and I said in our most enthusiastic way. “You can do whatever you want to do.” This was not helpful. She fell in a heap of exasperation and frustration. I think the advice needs to be repeated and supported with examples of what that looks like. Think of what you loved to do as a child. Remember how that felt? Encouraging young people to choose to do something that peaks their interest and invest their time with the same quality of enthusiasm they had as a child, is one way to support them. Doing what you love doesn’t need to be a full-time job. I am Canadian. I have lots of friends who spend time in winter skiing because they love it not because they are going to be world champions. The thing is when you take part in activities that feed your soul you bring that energy into other areas of your life. Also, following your joy is not a matter of life or death, success or failure. The voices in your head will try and turn it into that. Take it day by day. You may get a flash of an idea. Follow that idea and trust that the next idea will follow. Stepping into the unknown is incredibly uncomfortable for some. Which leads to my next step…
- Trust that you always know-It is overwhelming how much advice and information is out there. However, we all have an internal guidance system (think of it as your own personal GPS) but somewhere along the way we have lost touch with it. You can follow the small quiet voice. I am not saying to reject the other voices in your head as they are there for a reason. Accept that they are trying, in some ways, to keep you safe. Thank them for sharing and then hone in on that small quiet voice. The steps this voice encourages you to take may be small but I promise it only takes daily steps to be on a path worth traveling.
A final thought….
*Beliefs about the past– Helping your teen to heal their beliefs about the past will help them to walk into their future facing forward, rather than looking back. If you have lived from ages 0-7 chances are you have some beliefs that probably don’t serve you. There are lots of ways to change them but if you want to change them at the subconscious level there are healing modalities out there that will assist you. One my favourites is Emotional Freedom Technique.
I hope this list is helpful. Again, I encourage anyone who is having difficult times with their teens to reach out for the support of a professional. Life was not meant to be faced alone and reaching out for help may be the necessary first step to healing.
Wishing you and your teen happy times and sunny skies.
P.S. For best results with teens make sure any of these activities you want to pass on you have tried yourself. Like bees can smell fear, Teens can sense inauthenticity before you even open your mouth.