A Healthy Relationship with Themselves
The inner world of teenagers is challenging, but it’s especially so when things are not going to plan. Intense feelings of self-doubt and self-worth emerge in the teenage years, with conflicting emotions, questionable behaviours, and at times, a lack of understanding. The relationship a teen has with themselves needs nurturing.
“Where do I belong? Who likes me? What is the future for me?”…These are real questions that challenge the mental health of our teens, ‘day by day’. With the influence and reach of social media, these same questions continue to challenge our teens ‘night by night’. As adults, we gain comfort from the moments in our lives when we ‘switch off’ from the outside world. But this ‘off switch’ doesn’t exist in a teenager’s world. ‘Checking in’, updating a status and searching for ‘likes’ is embedded in their generation, keeping young people accountable at all times. “Why do this?” you ask. The answer is: “Because everyone else does!”
Social media invasion on lives is rampant. It is not healthy, nor uplifting, to constantly monitor your life and the life of others online. We need to encourage our teens to live in the present moment and simply enjoy the experience of ‘real life.’ Embracing what life has to offer will build their capacity to enjoy the happy moments, ride out the difficult times, and get to know themselves as a ‘real person’.
Every day we should encourage our teens to undertake activities that address all six aspects of their wellbeing. Working on these aspects will fill their Personal Toolbox with tricks to take control of their own journey. Let’s call these aspects of wellbeing the ‘Super Six’:
1) Knowledge – It begins with understanding your inner world. What does mental health feel like, look like, and act like? Increase their knowledge of this world and how it works.
2) Physical – Encompasses sleeping, eating and exercising. Do it all, and do it well! Investigate what healthy looks like and work on it together.
3) Social – Make time to hang with ‘real people’ in ‘real life’. Plan activities that you enjoy, with people that make you happy. Do this at least once a week. This is what’s called flicking the “off switch.”
4) Professional – Link with professionals in the good and the bad times. Who can help with your inner world? How do you access this support? It is inevitable you will need extra support at some stage, so it’s important to know where to go and how to get it.
5) Emotional – Make sure you can express your emotions safely, and build relationships with people that allow you to do this. Explore mindfulness, a practice that teaches you to recognise and understand your thoughts and feelings ‘in the moment’ without judgement, building inner strength and resolve.
6) Human Spirit – We all have that place and that ‘thing’ that resonates with us. Given a choice, this is where you would go and what you would do to find peace. Sometimes it takes a while for a teen to find their passion, but when they do, their confidence will soar. Life has plenty of challenging moments so nurturing our passions and stashing them in our Personal Toolbox is vital.
Above all, understand that each teenager is on a different train, with a different destination and most definitely with a different (and independent!) driver. Their trains will sometimes meander down the wrong track, come to a halt at times, and occasionally even go off the rails. But with careful maintenance in the Super Six aspects of wellbeing, you can help keep the train on course. Enjoy the journey!
By Kate Meadows
Kate offers Workplace Mental Health Training Courses for businesses. Check out details on her website.