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Last week marked back to school for my teenage children. Despite their resistance up until they walked through the doors of their respective schools, I know they were secretly excited to be embarking on another school year. I always enjoyed going to school and the first day of school was the best – wearing a new outfit, all new school supplies and seeing my friends all at once.
My world of 20 some years ago is not the world it is today. Life is now more challenging for teenagers with our digital world and illicit substances that did not used to exist. Working with teens in clinical practice, and having teenagers of my own, I recognize two of the most protective factors for teens are resilience and intuition. How can we foster this to carry them through life?
Resilience, or the ability to bounce back, has become an important term in our society. In fact, it is now incorporated into the school curriculum in a variety of ways. Without question, we will all face challenges in life, and developing coping mechanisms from a young age is essential. I look at my own children and am so thankful that they are each more resilient than I was as a teenager. I, like many other teenagers, was preoccupied with how other people viewed me and would obsess over any negative comment that came my way. Knowing that you will never please everyone, and that you have to ‘love being yourself’ during this challenging time in life, is a wonderful lesson for adolescents to learn as they move into adulthood.
Intuition (or ‘common sense’)
Intuition is an invaluable tool to help us maneuver the difficulties and choices we face in life. I consider intuition to be along the continuum of common sense where having a ‘feeling’ about a situation will guide you toward ‘common sense’. Intuition is that little voice in your head saying this is the right path, whether you choose it or not might be where ‘common sense’ fits in.
Teenagers are constantly faced with potentially damaging choices and do not have experience to draw from compared to adults. Sharpening their sense of intuition can prove to be invaluable. I have always considered myself to be somewhat intuitive, throw in a dose of anxiety, and I was probably never going to veer far from the straight and narrow. Fortunately, or unfortunately if you don’t see the protective quality of some baseline anxiety, I see these traits in my own children.
Ways to foster resilience & intuition:
1) Communication: This is key to many facets of parenting, and life in general. Communicating with teenagers will enhance their resilience and improve their sense of intuition. Take this example for instance, your female teenager (or could be an adolescent patient) was on a date with a boy for the first time. He became somewhat persistent about kissing and fondling so your daughter ended the date abruptly. She feels miserable and tells you what happened when she gets home.
You listen and validate her decision to stop the unwanted gestures and applaud that she acted upon her feeling that it felt wrong. Although she was distraught about the situation, she is more confident about her decision-making and can use these skills moving forward.
Another aspect of open communication is to share your own experiences as a teenager as a way to help normalize the ups and downs of growing up.
2) Respect: We could truly change the world if we just showed more respect toward one another. As a parent, of course I expect respect, but in turn, I want my children to expect respect too. As I have stated before, my husband’s parenting mantra is as follows, “We are living life with our children, not just raising them.”
It is a partnership – between adolescent children and parent; adolescent patient and physician; adolescent student and teacher. Realizing that they have a voice and knowing that they are respected will increase their own self worth, and in turn, lead them to be more resilient and intuitive individuals.
In closing, you might enjoy this short video by Michael Riera – Helping teens to develop and utilize intuition.