We’ve all been through a wide range of emotions during the past year or more, some of which can swing without any obvious reason from one extreme to another. So, let’s spare a thought for our teenagers who know all about such feelings. It’s a challenging time in their lives as they cope with school work, learn about who they are, cope with peer pressure and navigate the changes brought about by puberty. They have a rapidly growing and developing brain and this causes a temporary period of chaos as the constant re-wiring prepares them to enter the adult world. This can result in exaggerated emotional responses and a reduced ability to plan, organise and consider long term consequences. Not surprising to see many young people have struggled both during and in the aftermath of the pandemic.
How can we help our teenagers, and indeed ourselves, to manage their feelings and get back to normal? We may expect teenagers to need less support than younger children during this stage of their lives, but It’s really about their having different needs. They may need parental support to organise and prioritise tasks as they prepare for the new academic year and help to construct their routines. Often, they have not yet developed the ability to predict the consequences of leaving things to pile up. They may lack the confidence when faced with tackling homework and may appear resistant and hostile to even making a start. Parents who recognise this will find that sitting alongside their teenagers to get them started, offering words of encouragement and showing an interest, can work wonders.
Many teenagers are online more than ever at the moment and parents are understandably concerned. It’s clear that we can’t allow unlimited screen time, but it’s worth remembering that all of us use differing ways to escape from “real life” at times. Teenagers are acutely aware of the need to feel accepted by their peer group and are afraid of missing out. Connecting online is a way of keeping relationships going, so perhaps we should think twice before we dismiss this activity as mere gaming and a waste of time. Making the effort to be interested in their world helps teenagers feel that they matter to us and will hopefully encourage them to occasionally join their families for some off-line activities, so get ready to praise them if they do!