Encouraging Teens to Embrace Their Core Values
Growing up experiences mean different things to different people. Parents wish their children will be happy, joyful and healthy always while teachers wish their students will succeed in studies and all other undertakings. How about children? Children wish for things which are largely influenced by their lifestyle, environment and ideas projected by society and peers.
Most teens (and tweens) now live under pressure, especially with regards to their physical appearance. The strings of picture perfect models making headlines in publications of all sorts have caused a lot of misconceptions on the idea of perfection – size zero girls, boys with washboard abs, flawless faces of perfect symmetry, etc. These are just a few examples which have already sent many youngsters to go (or considering to go) under the knife for nips and tucks. And it doesn’t help that girls are introduced to dolls with outrageously-proportionate bodies since young.
For some teens, physical appearance takes centre stage most of the time. Apart from managing their academic performances, they are often concerned about other people’s opinion about them and hence they take a lot of effort in putting the best foot forward. Yes, it is indeed an admirable trait for children to want to be better… yet the driving reasons, aims and processes need adults’ supervision.
Acceptance without Judgement
Adults, especially parents, mentors and educators have direct influence on teens and are in the position to mould them. Although teens are more likely to associate with peers, it is the mentors who play the biggest role in their lives. Teens confide in their mentors and look up to them for advice and guidance. Being ‘accepted’ as their confidant shows that there are elements of respect involved. And this respect should not be breached.
One of the tell-tale signs of a breach of respect is if/when adults start to compare their teens with others and judge their behaviours or achievements (or rather the lack of it). This is highly damaging to bonding, even between adults. How to prevent this? If ever you have the urge to compare your child with others, take three deep and calm breaths to allow time to put your thoughts together for positive communication to take place.
Activities to do together: Note at least three positive things about your child/student for the day. It could be something as simple as tidying his own room, being a good team player, etc. Have your child do the same and study the answers together. With this, you can see what the child perceives as his/her good qualities.
Understanding with Compassion
Teens may appear rash and radical at times. This is when adults need to understand that the brain goes through a massive “remodelling” during teenage years. It assimilates and interprets learning and controls the body’s movements and activities, hence its growth should not be overlooked. Being able to understand and be aware of the mind and thoughts of teens involve patience and compassion, and would often yield amazing discoveries about their ideologies.
How can adults help? Take time to listen to their ideas and thoughts, especially their views about themselves and the society. Do your best to understand the rationale behind their perspectives and brainstorm for better solutions if needed. You might just be surprised by the results!
Activities to do together: Pick a topic of mutual interest and list out your understanding about the subject. Have your child do the same. Discuss your answers so both of you can have better understanding of each other.
Advocate Self-Love and Self-Worth
Other than expressing love to others, we need to extend it to ourselves as well. Now, this is not to be mistaken with narcissism, vanity or egotism. It is within the context of minimising self-destructive thoughts or actions and being confident and comfortable in our own skin. There will be a period when teens will experience bodily changes during puberty such as facial hair growth, the change of voice, acne breakouts, etc. Though they are inevitable and are signs of hormonal development, which are in every aspect healthy and normal, teens may feel the most self-conscious during this period.
How can adults help? Be ready to offer guidance when teens come to you for advice, yet allow time and space for them to come to terms with the changes they are experiencing and not breathe down their necks.
Activities to do together: Family members can list out what they mean to each other. This way they can have an insight into what matters most for each person in the family and your teen can see what he/she means to other people.
Note: All the suggested activities are to be done without judgement when answers are revealed. Take it as an opportunity for the family members to understand each other and utilise it to strengthen the bond within the family.
Most importantly, adults will need to lead by example! Minimise (and eventually stop) comparing yourself with others either about material or immaterial things (eg: who and who has a bigger car, house, etc). Children often pick up these subtle behaviours for good or for worse. The way to live is to be happy, confident and contented with even the smallest things in life. Express your appreciation for each other and maintain positive communication!
Deep breathing exercises to provide vitality to the body and to calm surging emotions.
Meditation and visualisation practices for a healthy and confident self.
Lion Roaring Pose
Bow and Arrow Pose
This article was featured in YogaMail Oct-Dec 2015 issue.