Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I do… I get flashbacks especially when I’m coaching self-conscious teenagers. I should add, that I’ve been trained how to leave ‘my stuff’ at the door, and not allow it to affect the work I do. But sometimes after coaching someone, I allow myself to think about how hard it was to be a teenager, how critical I was of myself, how little confidence I had, how my entire world was my group of friends and how embarrassed I could feel if someone said the wrong thing to me.
It’s not our outer world that’s hard, to an outsider we might look like we’re fine and we have it all together. The turmoil is more often, on the inside, when we look in the mirror, compare ourselves, wish we were different, taller, more beautiful, thinner, whatever the case may be. And it doesn’t matter what others tell you, your inner critic can be loud and persistent.
I sometimes try to explain to teenagers that it is a time in your life when your friends and their opinions mean so much, if things go wrong with a relationship or friend, it feels like the end of your world. One teenager asked me ‘Does it ever get any better?’ ‘It doesn’t last forever’ I tell them, ‘you can grow stronger and rely less and less on other peoples opinions’. You can change your thinking, reprogramme your mind, your own opinion of yourself is the most important one of all, and I help them figure out what that is.
To help our children see my last blog on teaching our kids self-love.
But it’s much harder to teach teenagers self-love – it takes longer to accept yourself and love yourself, and those inner critics are growing stronger and stronger if action is not taken.
I remember not telling my Parents a lot of things that were going on, when I was a teenager. Why would I? In my teenage brain, they wouldn’t understand anyway, they were too busy… I was the 2nd child out of 5. My youngest brother was born when I was almost 13, there were always younger children in the house that needed more attention and time than me. I wasn’t resentful about it, it’s just the way it was.
So when I went to the movies to see ‘Dances with Wolves’.. (I think it was the first time to go alone with my friends into the City to watch a movie – huge excitement!) I didn’t tell my Parents that an older man sitting beside me tried to touch me ‘down below’. I was way too embarrassed, I didn’t even tell my friends! I was around 14.
I felt shame that I’d let it happen. In a split second, I realized that his fingers had been touching me lightly near the zipper of my jeans, for a few seconds… I had barely felt it. But when I did, I just hit his hand away, and shifted away from him in my seat, moving as close to my friends as I could, and shaking with fear. I tried to watch the rest of the movie. (Unfortunately, one of the longest movies I’d ever seen!) I was terrified he would try something else. But thankfully he didn’t. I think back with shame; that I didn’t tell someone, raise the alarm on this pervert. He was there with another young man…. I dread to think what else he got up to!
I decided to write about this now, because there are a lot of ‘Me Too’ Harvey Weinstein stories out there at the moment, (in truth the only one I actually read was the Lupita Nyong’o story – click here to read it) about sexual assault. I’m not trying to compare, I know it wasn’t a really dreadful thing to happen to me, it could’ve been a lot worse, but in my mind it was dirty, grimy and I felt guilty about it, so I just buried it. The point of sharing this now is – if adults find it hard to tell their stories how much harder is it for teenagers!
Communication is key
I think it’s really important to make our children aware that there is absolutely nothing they can’t tell us. Even if they’re ashamed, we won’t judge them. Our reaction to them telling us things is everything. If we lose it, or get angry, they won’t come to us again. If we stay calm, help and reassure them, they will come back with the next thing. We are their ‘safe place’, no matter what else is going on at home, there will always be the typical teenager tantrums and fighting etc. However, there is always time for a heart to heart.
Top Tips for Parents of Teenagers
- SHARE: Share your own experiences as a teenager. How you felt, what you struggled with, let them know that you really do know it’s a hard time.
- ACCEPT: Talk to them about accepting themselves and who they are. Loving themselves and not being hard on themselves.
- COMMUNICATION: Some parents I know, bring their teenager for lunch every now and then to have a chat. They say that treating them to their favourite food or going to their favorite restaurant is worth every cent and really can help them to open up 🙂 Communication is key! Remember your reaction will dictate if they open up next time.
- SOCIAL MEDIA: Social media can add to today’s pressures – try to laugh with them about everyone pretending to be perfect – posting their best photo etc. Try to get them to see past the ‘public image’ and understand that no one is perfect…
- DECISIONS: Making the best decisions can be hard. When we teach teens to ‘be true to yourself’ ‘do what you think is right’, it is not listening to the inner critic in your head, nor the friends telling you what to do, its listening to your intuition, gut feeling or as I sometimes call it, your deep down inside voice.
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If your child or teenager is in need of help and you’d like to try life-coaching please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +353833425364
Thanks for reading