The teenage years…usually a time we all remember, and whether we remember it fondly or horrifically, it is always a tumultuous time. This is usually the first time in life that we begin to feel responsibility AND freedom…yin & yang. This is the time that we are practicing how to self-monitor…to use our free-will wisely.
Much of how we learned in order to become the adults we are today comes from trial and error during this phase of life. Now, that’s already a lot, but it all gets complicated by the fact that as teens we all quietly (or not so quietly) deal with the undercurrents of raging hormonal changes during this extraordinary phase of life. The teenage years are truly a magical and challenging time, but the question is, how can we as parents support our children through this ever-important phase of discovery? Can we do more than just hang on tight with two hands?
The answer comes within the courageous act of having faith in your teen…unshaken faith. If we look closely at what begins to happen during the teenage years, we see that social opinion begins to take center stage, while internal judgement begins to work overtime. With so many new responsibilities and opportunities for young adults at this time, how can we expect them to succeed consistently while they’re so busy self sabotaging themselves?
Somehow we forget to teach our kids the most valuable truth…a truth that can armor them through adolescence and beyond. This is the fact that we each have an innate and natural wisdom that we can rely on at all times. It goes everywhere with us and we have as much of it as anyone else. Darlene L. Stewart says it quite simply, “Wisdom is our first intelligence, unconditioned, universal and objective. It isn’t logical by IQ standards. It operates from a higher logic” (1993, p. 36).
Knowing this is key…the key to our very resiliency. If we know that we have this wisdom inside of us, then we can find security within ourselves at any time. An extension of this understanding comes through an understanding of thought. If we are in a state of lots of personal thinking, and if the personal thinking is counterproductive to our well being, our wisdom becomes muffled. We begin to feel insecure, confused, hopeless. These feelings pull us further and further away from productivity, creativity, self-esteem, etc.
This is where you come in as a parent…right at the time when your teen has started to believe the truthiness of their thinking. Right when the catastrophizing begins to take over their perspective of reality. This is when your faith steps in as the perfect distraction…the much needed reset button to the faulty usage of your teens thinking.
Because you know that wisdom is automagically there when compulsive thinking is dropped, you can help point your teen towards alleviation. The faith you have in their ability and in their internal resilience will be something they can feel…something contagious. Perhaps next time you see your teen spinning their wheels…getting lost in their thinking, you’ll find a way to distract them from themselves so that they can reset. This is so different from talking it out with them, micro-managing, judging, etc.
Stewart (1993, p. 36) makes the comparison that optimal performance is like running, in that it is easier to run fast when you are relaxed. This is true for our teens and their ability to thrive. They can do their best and manage their life when they can relax. Your faith in them is like a good pair of running shoes, leaving them well equipped for the race. At times when they have lost faith in themselves you can remind them. This opens them up for just a second…just long enough for their wisdom to surface. Now they’re back on flow, and you..well you, got an opportunity to believe in them and promote security. You got to show them the way back to themselves.
Your teen’s wisdom is already buoyant, but you as a parent have the beautiful job of reminding them of all that they are at times when they forget. Faith is no small gift, but it should be offered as much as possible!