Teens often feel insecure and anxious about growing up. While this might not be surprising to you, but most teens act as if this was not true. Everyone understands the typical developmental angst that accompanies the teen world. This pandemic is causing everyone, regardless of their age, to feel uncertainty and angst as well.
Teen’s innate drive for independence causes them to behave as if they are superhuman. They talk about what they will do when they are old enough to be on their own, and although they can’t wait to be an adult, the truth is that they are frightened. Feelings of insecurity will crack their thin shell of confidence. Parents see these cracks in their safe expressions of sarcasm and anger. Anger is a useful cover for the insecurities in their hearts.
The challenge for parents is to increase teenagers’ feelings of real confidence to succeed in life. This confidence comes from experience, and experience is filled with failures. Failure and disappointment are part of the learning cycle of life.
Parents can model this reality and cope with it to provide their teen with an example of mature adulthood. Parents don’t need to “fake” toughness to their teens. Be willing to confess times when you were unsuccessful and what it taught you. It may not have been that long ago!
When teens fail, reframe it as a normal part of life that teaches us how not to behave again in the future. This is the definition of “wisdom.” If your teens make a mistake and they will… Don’t make a personal issue of it? Stay focused on solutions. You have just discovered one solution that won’t work in the future. Work on finding solutions together and be a strong cheerleader for your teen as they learn.
Teens may have the “hardware” of adulthood, but they lack the “software” of experience that we all have to download through experience. All of their experience has been of being a child and problem solving as a child. The adult world is new, and even if they don’t admit it, scary. Don’t be surprised if their actions and reactions are childish.
Parents’ challenge is to keep from overreacting to behaviors and, instead, teach them the skills necessary for life. Despite their isolation and one-word responses, try to spend time with them, have open conversations about life, don’t judge or criticize their ideas, explore their hopes and dreams, and model emotions and thoughts transparently. Most importantly, be patient with teens. Remember what it was like for you as a teen. No, remember! The mind has a built-in defense that causes us to remember the good and ignore the bad. Please dig deep and meditate on what it felt like to be a teen. This will give you more empathy for them, and empathy will provide you with the patience to teach them.
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