Over the years, I have worked with a lot of teens and tweens. When I grew up in those same years, my family moved multiple times in middle school, and not just house to house, but state to state. We moved from Tennessee to Wisconsin to Ohio and then to Michigan, where I would graduate from high school. In a span of about 4 years I would make the moves, and go through one of the most difficult times in my life.
As I got older and reflected on those years, I better understood what makes those years so difficult. There are so many things that happen from about 6th grade well into high school. Friendships change from how they are in elementary school. Bodies are changing and hormones are flowing, making most things more complicated. It becomes hard to see the beauty of the forest, because you feel lost. School changes from having one teacher to having to juggle multiple teachers and keep track of assignments, not to mention having to get from one class to another without being late. And if that isn’t enough, many teens are trying to better understand who they are and what they have to offer to the world.
The problem is simple. Being a teenager is overwhelming. Teens aren’t supposed to know all the answers yet, but sometimes they feel like they should know. Teens are growing and learning and changing, and unfortunately the answers won’t come for a while. But the pressures and feelings can get overwhelming and many teens suffer from adjustment issues that include anxiety and depression symptoms. Self-esteem can become an issue and drama, in this day and age, can keep teens from reaching their full potential, both in school and in life.
In talking with teens, I often talk about this information and reassure them that they don’t have to have the answers now. When it comes to my own daughters, I chase them down when it feels like they are pulling away, and talk with them. I listen mostly and that seems to help. It’s normal for teens to questions their abilities, feel insecure, and struggle with self-esteem, but they also need to know that it won’t be like that forever.
In talking with teens in therapy, and even in talking with my own kids, we talk about how things are supposed to work. They are supposed to learn all they can, while being supported by their parents. The test their wings, fall flat on their face a few times, learn from their mistakes so when they fly from the nest later (and my kids know if they don’t fly, I’m kicking them out) they can soar. Many people are still defining themselves well into their twenties, and that’s okay. The key is to understand that it will be okay. All teens have talents and learning how to use those talents is a part of growing up. If teens were supposed to know everything by high school, things would be very different.
So if you are a teen reading this article, follow the rules, but test yourself and your talents. Take this time to learn more about yourself and all the wonderful things you have to offer, even if you don’t think you have any at this moment. I assure you that you do have many qualities that will help you be successful in life. I haven’t met a teenager who didn’t. Sometimes they just don’t know yet what it is, but it’s there. Have fun, do well in school, stay out of trouble, make friends, and enjoy. I will all be okay.