How do you ensure that teenagers grow up to be happy and positive young people?
Given that their brains are developing until they are in their mid-20s, we know that there are mood swings, irritable moments, impulsive actions with no or little thought, explosive outbursts, sometimes an inability to focus or follow through on a task, overcome the temptations to use drugs, alcohol and engage in other antisocial behaviours and so on.
Well-known author and educator, Sir Kenneth Robinson, makes this point:
“How we think about the world around us can be deeply affected by the feelings within us, and how we feel may be critically shaped by our knowledge, perceptions and personal experiences. Our lives are formed by the constant interactions between these two worlds, each affecting how we see and act in the other.”
Neuroscientist, Dr Francis Jensen, reminds us that the teenage brain is ‘a puzzle waiting completion’, so what can we do to better understand and encourage today’s Teenagers to become the best they can be?
My research over the past 20 years continually reminds me that our young people want to FEEL:
- cared for (loved unconditionally);
- that their lives have meaning and purpose.
Consider these 7 Ways you can better understand and encourage today’s teenagers:
- Most of today’s teenagers learn best by doing things, reflecting on the experience and learning lessons from the activity which they can then apply to their daily lives and often they enjoy sharing their thinking and experiences in groups. We can help them make sense of what appears at times to be much confusion.
- Teenagers value and appreciate recognition for their EFFORTS eg, a special meal, a positive text message, a congratulatory card, something special in their lunch box (maybe a written message :-)), a surprise of some sort costing little, preferably no money.
- Teenagers enjoy hearing true stories which they can relate to and which might motivate them, inspire them and reassure them. Family members, teachers, coaches and volunteer adult mentors sharing their life experiences could be significant in a teenager’s life journey.
- Teenagers value learning from older people they respect who are genuine and who walk the talk and in whose company they feel safe and secure, so important for their developmental journey through adolescence.
- Teenagers enjoy diversity, change and novelty and, due to the plasticity of the brain which changes by experience, having a wise guide alongside them could be a significant factor when they are facing important choices.
- Teenagers value consensus and collaboration, two key words in their world. They want to feel connected to people, hence their fixation with social media.
- Teenagers value clear and concise communication. Despite the fact that they will suggest otherwise, deep down consistency and negotiated boundaries will help them feel safe and secure, as well as feel that someone is caring for them enough to have these discussions.
As Sir Kenneth Robinson reminds us:
“… education is about enriching the minds and hearts of young people.”
Whether we are parents, teachers, coaches or mentors in the lives of young people, they are watching us, listening to us and deeply appreciating every genuine expression of care travelling their way, as they learn the meaning of making choices and living through the consequences of those choices.
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.