Teen Talk, January 31, 2013 – Teens and Hopelessness
Question: My husband and I are very hands on parents as are my friends and yet I watch our teenagers come home every day with a sense of hopelessness about their futures. They talk jobs and how many of their friends have finished college and still are working in underpaid jobs. I feel like as parents it is important that we instill hope in this generation. With your years of experience what do you teach parents about the concept of hope?
Answer: This parent is right on. It is the mission of parents to distill a sense of hope, a sense that life can be different or better. No matter what sad or unfortunate experiences life hands out to you that teen’s indeed have the internal strength, fortitude, and skills not only to survive but to thrive and succeed.
1. Have regular discussions about events we have seen in social media or on televisions that allow the teen to consider situations where hope has played a key role in the teen’s life.
2. Praise your teen every day and call attention to great choices that you feel indicate a symbol of hope.
3. Find resources and organizations for most catastrophic and chronic medical conditions. For example, dealing with a grandparent who is losing their functioning, or cancer, or suicide, there are resources out there.
4. Hope often begins through teen’s journaling. They gain strength through writing, sometimes writing about familiar or sometimes writing about what they would do in what appears to be a situation with no solutions.
5. Encourage and embrace your community in some fashion. You’re always going to find examples of situations that are quite remarkable in terms of human spirit. So any kind of involvement in the lives of people will bring this to light.
6. Encourage healthy situations where teenagers experience a sense of belonging so that they are surrounded by other people who are hopeful and problem solvers.
7. Participate in an experience that is transformational. Whether or not it is participating in gaining new health skills or weight loss or learning to speak in front of a group, all of these are transformational experiences.
8. Create situations where your teen can experiences repeated successes. When teen experiences repeated successes in his world, in the majority of cases he will feel extraordinarily hopeful about his future.
9. Listen more than you speak. Often times we spend so much time teaching that it’s hard to tell what those areas are. Pay attention to key interests and encourage your teen.
10. Build a hope chest for you teen either literally or figuratively. Build a bank of opportunities or experiences that they can reach for or look forward to. You can both contribute to that. This can include males and females.
11. Talk about the normalcy of their feelings in traumatic situations. For example experiencing a sudden death or heart attack can ignite fear, dysphoria, anger, and loss. This is a normal process and sometimes serves a valuable purpose. This is one of the best incidences where you can share your own history and experiences where you felt there was no hope and yet somehow you soldiered through it.
12. Teach brain development. The teenage brain is a growing brain where path ways are being shaped into new channels that allow them to better understand events that relate to consequences later on.
13. Create goals and help plan the steps that they need to reach them.
14. If a child is feeling hopeless, keep an eye out for common risk factors that included, Attention Deficit Disorder, past history of trauma, history of alcoholism. If these are taken care of typically a teen will feel more hopeful.
15. You cannot control all of the things that happen around you. You can chose how you deal with it but you can deal with it from a perspective of hope.
Information provided by Jane Marks & Associates