“Teens have bright futures ahead of them.” You’ve probably heard this said often, and I would bet you heard it only from adults.
Unfortunately, many teens don’t share this perspective; they act as if their future is pretty dismal, especially when they’re struggling in school. For years teens have walked into my office stating, “I hate school,” “I’m not a good student,” and “I’m stupid.” Their self-esteem has plummeted, and their grades just seem to show them proof that they’re right.
They haven’t yet learned the perspective that grades are just one sign of where they are today and shouldn’t be mistaken for where they can be tomorrow. In scientific fact, teens are just developing that part of the brain that controls planning, organization, decision-making and perspective, a process that won’t be complete until well into their 20’s.
Every teen is brilliant
Here is what I do know (and love) about teens, as I’ve seen it time and again: When given the tools and support they need, a teen can turn any situation around. Any situation. Why? Because every teen is brilliant! Even when they don’t hold that belief for themselves, I hold it for them. I know teens have a divine purpose and when they tap into their essence, they will soar.
And I know (and coach) many parents who are doing the same thing for their adolescent children, meeting them exactly where they are and cheerleading them every step of the way through their teen years.
Sadly, not enough teens have an adult who believes in them and to whom they are willing to talk and listen openly. Without another perspective on how to interpret their challenges, their negative self-talk not only can crush their spirit throughout the school years but also stay with them into adulthood.
I want to talk about ways in which we can support our teens to feel empowered and become unstoppable in achieving their dreams
Are any of our journeys easy?
I know the journey of moving through self-doubt, confusion, and victimhood because I was just like those teens sitting in my office, feeling stupid and not-enough.
As the youngest child in the family, I compared myself a lot to my brother, who is five years older. Of course, I never realized at the time that he had five more years of growth and experience on me, so comparisons in my younger years would always have me coming up short. Since I was constantly comparing myself to my brother—and he seemed to be a lot better at everything—I imprinted the message “I am not good enough” into my subconscious and conscious mind.
Accordingly, I have empathy for teens who are struggling in school, comparing themselves to others, and feeling like they’ll never be good enough.
My message to them? Your struggles don’t have anything to do with your intelligence, and certainly the implication that you are not enough or “stupid” is FALSE! I work with teens to explore comparisons in their life, tell their critical voice to stop, and refocus on gratitude for all the wonder-FULL in them!
What parents can do
1. Never underestimate the impact of what your teen is going through as they tell you about it. We adults can do a disservice to our teens by making assumptions about what they’re feeling and believing about themselves and the world — or worse, what they SHOULD be believing. While our intentions may be good, the outcome for them could be harmful.
We will never know what their world and life apart from us are really like, what it feels like for them to be hurt by a friend, or bullied, or disrespected by a teacher. Listen actively and patiently, and refrain from judgment.
2. Explore your role in keeping comparisons alive in your family and in your teen’s peer circle. I commonly see parents who feel a sense of shame that one of their children isn’t a “rockstar” like the other child or children. They don’t mean to tear down their self-esteem, but teens are highly sensitive to comparisons and judgments as their self-identity is in the formative stage. And you may think they’re not listening to anything you say, but, believe me, they are!
3. Tap into your own brilliance. As I said, every teen is brilliant. That also means every adult is brilliant since we were all teens once, right? Yet many adults are still carrying those childhood messages of inadequacy, not smart enough, will never amount to anything, etc.
You may feel too busy to even think about yourself and your infinite brilliance. But I submit that it’s worth the time. I encourage you to take some time to reacquaint yourself with your infinite brilliance, to increase your self-awareness in whatever ways work best for you. There are several meditation practices that can help you tap into and trust your wisdom. One brief, eight-minute meditation can be found on YouTube, “Contacting Our Inner Wisdom” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP4YD2hx53c. The old judgmental messages begin to fall away, and you start to notice positive differences in how you feel about yourself and in turn how you relate to others — and your teen will notice too!