TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - This week's "Teen Talk" is focused on advice for parents about building emotionally strong teenagers.
WTXL contributor and family therapist Jane Marks:
As teenagers and adults we are going to continue to face adversities in our lives. Shaping skills that help build mental toughness is also part of our charge as parents. Developing skills with regard to dealing with extreme stress and adversity is yet another tool that we as parents must advise our teens about.
1. Help your teen to learn something from every major life experience regardless of whether they win a competition or lose a friend. How do they handle themselves? Encourage mental flexibility by getting them to view the situation from various perspectives.
2. Have a continual conversation with our youngsters, knowing what's going on in their lives and keeping this conversation open. Teach your children to communicate honestly with people around them. Do not mix your role as a parent with that of being a friend.
3. Teens need to be aware of the invisible risks. These include increased social media use, lack of sleep and alcohol and substance abuse. These are three areas that we constantly need to monitor in our youngster's lives.
Here's where it gets tricky, because we want to teach certain concepts in our teen's lives, these are some things to consider"
- Teens need to learn to assume responsibility for their choices. Strong people assume responsibility for whatever choices they make. Even if they make mistakes you don't see responsible people pointing their finger blaming everyone else for poor grades, poor choices or poor friendships.
- Learn not to take things personally. Help your teen separate their self-worth from their response to situations. For example, do not show disgust or embarrassment if you have not done well or performed well in school. People who are resilient do not believe that everyone is out to get them.
- Instead, teach your youngster to look at a problem from the standpoint that when a person says something really untoward to you, it's a reflection on that person's character and not you. So do not take these issues personally.
- Develop different reactions to very stressful events. We can never really predict the future so it's important that we don't foretell the future or anticipate that terrible things are going to happen, so do not focus on what may happen in the future.
- Be careful about holding onto the past. Many times when teens have losses they continue to focus on "if only I had done this", only wonderful things happened in the past. Remember, you may miss opportunities that are right in front of you.
- Create healthy constructive channels to express and work through emotions such as anger, disappointment and frustration. It is important that teens be given permission to feel disappointment but not to indulge in self-pity or behave destructively or immaturely.
- One of the things that I do personally is that, for me, and this has to do with mental toughness, is that I teach that the biggest competition in your life should be yourself and not others. You can have role models but a focus for you is are you doing your very best in proving your reading, writing, driving, exercise? Are you competing with yourself to be the best YOU can be?
- Review specifically the whole issue of texting. Texting may be taking a tremendous toll on your child's physical as well as their emotional life. So much of it goes on at night when parents are asleep or in restaurants, when crossing the streets, in classrooms. Because of unlimited texting by so many plans texting applies not only to friends but also to parents. We do have cases where mothers are texting their children 15 to 25 times a day. Even this is problematic from a health standpoint. There should be regular check in times.
- For parents of athletes, stress is an important component to be aware of. Be cognizant of "burn out" which can result from over training or over encouraging. Be cognizant of looking at positive sports goals. Be positive of helping to include sports related stress reducers which might include meditation, relaxing, yoga, bio feedback, particularly with athletes who are very dedicated to their sport and have been at it for years at a time.
- Social support for your teens is also a critical health factor. The US Center for Disease Control Prevention reports that social support from family and friends has been consistently related to healthier teenagers. So it's also important to examine the social support network of your teens.
Keeping your teens healthy is part of the process of parenting whole and healthy teens. As parents and stewards hopefully this will make a difference in continuing the groundwork for building healthy teens.