Teenagers and high anxiety – what is going on?

Teenagers and high anxiety – what is going on?

While I was walking along the beach this morning, I was mindful of the different shapes and sizes of footprints of others who had gone ahead of me. I reflected on the fact that the choices we make will heavily impact our footprints on the sands of time. I recalled walking around the school a while ago and stumbling into a conversation between two final year students. “I only had four hours sleep,” said an animated Jess, “and this is my fourth cup of coffee!” “Make sure you have nine hours sleep a night throughout the next week,” I interjected. “Your brain needs time to consolidate your learning and to discard what you don’t need to remember.” “You won’t be able to remember anything if you don’t get your sleep,” level-headed Rory added. “I have so much to learn!” Jess, looking startled at my suggestion, said. “How have you done through the Semester?” I asked. “Have you been working consistently?” Jess nodded. “Then you will be fine,” I reassured her,” but you need your sleep!” Jess was clearly on a caffeine high at the time, a bubbly personality, yet unable to hide the anxiety. I wondered if she was being placed under pressure to perform by her parents or by her peers. “At least you have a good sense of humor,” I smiled. “Sense of humor?” Jess looked puzzled and smiled. “That is not going to help me pass my exam.” As I listened to comments like those, I began to appreciate more and more how important it is for parents, students and teachers to work together to ensure...
How to show teenagers that quitting is a choice

How to show teenagers that quitting is a choice

How many times did you quit as a teenager? What were the reasons for that choice? I have spent time in recent weeks thinking of times when I might have quit on something, especially as a teenager, and regretted it. I was an active sportsman and I distinctly remember quitting on trying to achieve a top place in a 1500 meter race during our School Athletics Day. I did not want to train and represent the School in another big Athletics meet. I was playing two other sports at the time and did not feel I could manage another. Funny, though, how I remember this so vividly over 40 years later. When I am out jogging in the morning, I replay those moments. Even though I could justify my decision, there is definitely a regret that I did not push myself to the limit in that race. I quit on school work from time to time. This was often because I either found the work boring or could not see the relevance of studying a particular subject and, therefore, was unmotivated to learn. Then I became a teacher and could share many stories with young people, from my personal experiences, how NOT to behave. What has all this to do with the spirit of mentoring? Well, I guess I was making choices at a young age, some of which were poor and others did not matter too much. With my academic studies I sometimes have regrets that I never actually pushed myself, so I have no idea how competent I really am. In my first year at University, I...
Life lessons when you stumble and fall

Life lessons when you stumble and fall

How did you deal with a wobbly situation when you were a teenager? Jack (18) was a talented sportsman, revered by the younger students. He was a student leader and led with a rod of iron. He battled to understand the need to reason, talk through issues and negotiate when applying disciplinary procedures. Jack led more by fear than anything else. He did, however, work incredibly hard at his sport and deserved all the success he achieved in that area. Sadly, Jack failed to follow advice and encouragement offered on many occasions. He lost his temper once too often – during the last week of his school career – and destroyed school furniture. His leadership status was withdrawn. Jack battled to accept this. I actually wondered if I would ever see or hear from Jack again. Some 20 years later, I managed to link up with Jack, sending him a message via social media, and wondered if I would hear from him. Within 24 hours Jack had replied, saying how good it was to hear from me. We exchanged a few emails and I did say that I was surprised he wanted to communicate with me. After all, I had been the person responsible for withdrawing the leadership responsibilities of someone the students looked up to as a hero. Jack responded to my comments about this in an interesting way. He acknowledged that the incident had happened some years ago, yet he was by that time (when we were communicating) older and wiser. He was happily married and the proud father of a couple of kids. A day or...
How you can share messages of HOPE with teenagers

How you can share messages of HOPE with teenagers

Do you remember when you felt overwhelmed as a teenager?  Walled in? Unable to see your way into the future? Frustrated? Angry? Confused? A little lost? Maybe one of those days you just wanted to walk out of the home? Maybe you did walk out! That’s what Wendy (not her real name) did when she was about 15 or 16. This is her true story.I met Wendy, then in her early 20s, when I was running a mentoring program some years ago. Anyone interested in being considered as a volunteer adult mentor, having completed a fairly basic application form, met with me. This was an opportunity for me to see whether or not the person was suitable for moving alongside a confused, vulnerable adolescent for about nine months or longer as a volunteer mentor. It also gave the potential mentor, who would have completed a 21-hour mentor training program by the time we met, to hear more about the program and decide whether or not they really wanted to make this important commitment and investment in the life of a young person. Wendy took me to a large shopping centre and we sat down for a chat. However, after a few minutes Wendy, looking uncomfortable, asked if we could rather go back to her home to talk. While she was sharing some of her story a little later, it became clear to me why she wanted to speak privately. When Wendy was in her early teens her mother died suddenly. Wendy had no father with whom she could form any relationship, as he had departed her life a number...
15 proven signs of mentally strong teenagers you can nurture

15 proven signs of mentally strong teenagers you can nurture

How much support did you have around you when you were a teenager? What did that scaffolding look like, feel like and sound like? While working in my home office recently, I looked out to see a painter – probably in his 30s – sitting on the scaffolding opposite our apartment taking a selfie! A quick adjustment of the T-shirt, fingers repositioning the hair, seated upright – mobile phone at the ready, a smile and click! Great selfie which was quickly sent to a friend, a loved one?Four storeys up. Beautiful sea view with that perfect autumn day framed by a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. The scaffolding was secure, strong, supportive, enabling this special moment in a painter’s day to occur. He felt safe. That got me thinking about the signs of a mentally strong teenager and the scaffolding that supports him/her so that he/she would always feel safe and secure. I have spent many months collating years and years of adolescent research and, more recently, linking this research to the latest adolescent neuroscience research. This research has reiterated how important it is for youth to have significant adults as their non-judgmental Cheerleaders to walk alongside them during a critically important season of their lives while their brains are developing. As these meaningful relationships are developed and the significant adult takes on an encouraging and nurturing role, here are 15 proven signs of mentally strong teenagers to look out for. Youth: Know the importance of feeling lovable, capable and competent and the power of positive peer pressure. Know how to positively manage their time and remain active and involved,...
6 reasons why mentoring is for you too!

6 reasons why mentoring is for you too!

Have you ever thanked the people who have mentored you? It’s a question I ask when I do mentor training, as there are so many people who have mentored others and they often have no idea how powerful their impact was on someone’s life. What is a mentor? This, too, is an important question to ask, so let’s consider some definitions.“A mentor is defined as a ‘trusted counselor or guide’. Thus mentoring is a relationship by which a person with greater experience and wisdom guides another person to develop both personally and professionally.” (Oregon Mentors) “Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee.” (MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership) “Mentoring is a purposeful conversation that offers a safe, supportive place to tell one’s story, achieve greater clarity, solve a problem and get feedback from a more experienced, wiser colleague, friend or family member.” (Sharing Wisdom; Robert Wicks (Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Victoria, British Columbia) “Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protégé reach her or his God-given potential.” (Bobb Biehl) “Mentoring is not a matter of skills and behavior; it’s a matter of the heart. The heart of mentoring is to help people to reach their fullest potential in life … It’s a journey that requires great patience, persistence, and perseverance. It also is  a relationship that often endures for a long time – even many years – because when the mentor and the mentored engage in a life-to-life exchange, they learn and benefit from...