We desire our teens to be healthy, well-balanced and in a good place. Reaching and then maintaining this state of mind isn't a flip of the switch transition. It takes time, support and guidance. Ingredients that are lacking for many of our young people.
Love is a battle field….
Loving our kids through their teens wasn't intended to be easy. Equipping them for the battle that lies ahead for them is our responsibility and, quite frankly, we need to step up to the plate. Teens today are subject to more stressors and negative messages than we can wrap our fully formed brains around. The source of many of these messages? Social media.
We have a generation of young people receiving incessant forms of stimuli that their brains and bodies were never designed to digest. If managed incorrectly it can become a cancerous form of peer pressure. It has the platform to evoke human disconnection and foster loneliness. Are mobile phones and social media the bane of our existence? Only if we allow them to be.
If we desire present and future generation of healthy teenagers, we need a battle plan. Asking a genie to use one of our wishes to raise a healthy, well-balanced teen is absurd, but so is not having a battle plan when sending them into the inevitable battle field they’re contending against. Our kids are sent home with supplies that are needed for their school year or items necessary for camp or a sports team. If there are requirements for these particular seasons of life, the necessity for a strategy is kicked up many more notches as they go throughout their pre-teens and teen years.
Having a game plan isn't a damper on our kids, rather it's a form of empowerment. What are a few of the basic necessities in our game plan?
Breaking it down to build them up...
- Encourage their HIGH in life: Yes. I said it. Too many of us associate the term, 'high,' with substances. Let's shut that down and rebuild it in a healthy way. As human beings we were designed to have interests, to move and be active. We have too many young being that lack interests, mental stimuli or passions. When bored the inevitable comfort and go to is the phone or computer. Let's pave the foundation for our kids learning how to enjoy things they enjoy. It's providing the basic fundamentals that teach them ways to get excited about being alive and knowing what it's like to have fun. That may be connecting with the local theater, martial arts, skate boarding, a pottery class, school sports team or a million other possible interests. We have way too many young people today who don't know what it is to enjoy themselves without a phone attached to their hand.
- Social media time limits: This is achieved much easier when it's established from a young age, but making an effort at any age possesses benefits. Having time limits when social media is and isn’t used holds significance. What does this look like? Apple Screen Time or Google Family Link are two easy ways to set specific on and off times for their use. With kid's receiving texts and notifications at all hours of the night it's not only impacting their quality of sleep it's fostering a level of anxiety that's unhinged. An easy way to curb that? Implement times for use. At night, having our kids turn in their phones, iPads or tablets can make this implementation all the easier and they can have them back before heading off to school.
Give back, give back , give back
Can I shout this from the roof tops? I'll say it again...give back! We are innately selfish as human beings and if allowed to, we can assume that the world revolves around us.
- Give back: Do we desire a less self -focused young person? Give back. Are we desiring a person of strong character and rising above the petty nature of social media? Give back. When we instill the importance of giving back to our young people from a young age it is life altering. Regardless of what age they are, it is never (ever) too late. An important key here is identifying an area they're interested in and attempting to connect it with an organization, cause, etc. Whether that's volunteering at a soup kitchen, collecting warm socks in the neighborhood for the homeless, working at a women's shelter, volunteering at a run to raise awareness on suicide/ alzheimers/ cancer, etc. Find an interest and go with it. Maybe it's teaching younger kids how to skate board or being a big brother or sister. There are a myriad of options, it's seeking them out.
Getting the process rolling may take time. Be patient. Know that there may be bumps in the road, but that's ok. Giving back is a mindset achieved by making this a lifestyle, not seasonal. That's an important component to remember.
You're not weird if...
- Mental health: How we approach and dialogue as adults will influence how our kids view themselves and the legitimacy of counseling and treatment. As adults we can send messages with our body language or off hand comments that are absorbed by listening ears when we don’t even realize it. Unintentional comments can communicate that terms such as depression, anxiety or trauma are not applicable to their own family circle. Statements like these can have our young people questioning the validity of their emotions or their sense of self -worth. It can reek havoc on their emotions.
Giving our young people the green light that their emotions are real and discussing them is normal can assist in bridging the communication gap between parent and child or grandparent, niece, etc.
Reinforcing with them that everything they see on social media isn’t always reality is another important discussion. When our kids are hurting and they’re inundated with a false sense or reality of selfies, poses and pics that are mostly staged there’s a feeling that they’re not good enough. Or there’s comparison of all the physical, emotional and social statuses that they do not possess and others do. This is where placing limits on screen time and discussing what is real and what is not holds significance.
Raising our young people to be healthy, balanced adults is one of the most trying responsibilities we’ll ever face. But when we have a battle plan and strive for what is in their best interest the stakes are more in their (and our) favor. The battle is real, but the knowledge that they’re healthier and stronger is worth it.
Erin Lawler Patterson
International Speaker, Counsellor, Podcaster and Author
Erin Lawler Patterson Aka “The Goodness Chick”, Erin is an international speaker, counsellor, podcaster and author. Erin addresses issues such as addiction, prevention,...