Many people set New Year’s resolutions in January. The process requires them to consider aspects of their lives or themselves they’d like to change. While self-reflection can be a healthy process, it might add stress for teens, who already experience a growing number of external pressures.
Kristin Westberg is director of curriculum and education at First Tee, and she acknowledges that adolescence can be a tough time for kids and parents. “The reality is that teenage years are filled with change: physical changes and hormonal shifts, changing relationships with family and friends, as well as social challenges at school,” she said.
Perhaps given the filtered content that’s so common on social media – where teens spend an average of more than three hours per day – there’s also evidence to show many teens try to minimize the challenges they’re facing. Seventy percent of teens say they can’t stop worrying when something goes wrong, with 67% of teens saying they try to prevent others from finding out about the problem.
“Combine this with new responsibilities and expectations that come with growing older as well as peer pressure, all of this can affect a teenager’s confidence,” Westberg said. But there are ways parents can help.
Adolescence can be an uncertain time
Westberg said teens are typically trying to resolve three big questions:
- Who Am I?
- How do I feel about myself?
- Will I be ok in my future?
Those questions can be a lot for anyone to tackle, but especially for high schoolers, who may also be coping with increasing levels of anxiety, academic pressure and stress. That’s why it’s important for parents to focus on the process instead of the outcome and make room for failure as a first attempt in learning, Westberg said.
While every parent wants their teen to succeed, sometimes the journey is equally or more important to their overall development. “Learning to demonstrate responsibility, honesty and resilience will help your teen apply those behaviors in the future, and they’ll be more likely to try new things and less likely to shy away from challenges,” Westberg said.
Parents can also bolster their teens’ self-esteem by providing reassurance, even if everything doesn’t go right. “Be a safe space for your teen to process their thoughts and discuss challenges,” Westberg said. “Remind them of what they have achieved and what they are capable of. Sometimes they just need to know that you believe in them, no matter the outcome.”
Don’t give up on getting through to your teen
Sometimes it may feel like your teen is shutting you out or doesn’t value your opinion, but it’s important to remember that parents are crucial when it comes to providing support at a time when their teen might be experiencing lots of changes, Westberg said.
“It’s easy to want to solve all of your teen’s problems or tell them what they should do,” she said. “Afterall, parents were teens themselves once and have learned a lot along the way. It can be frustrating to feel shut out, but real connection with your teen starts with listening.”
It might come as a surprise, but research shows that most teens think highly of their parents and want to spend time with them, so keep trying to connect.