Teens - keeping them interested in life
BROADENING HORIZONS –
During the teenage years your child may become very blinkered in their outlook to life. This is the age when young people often give up interests, hobbies, and sports that they participated in from a young age. The pull to "do things with their friends" to the exclusion of all else can become very strong. For many teens this is a temporary phase. However potentially this has negative consequences for their present and future well-being. How many times have you heard an adult friend say they wish they, "hadn't given up X, Y, or Z hobby/interest when they were younger," as it’s so hard going back? Or that they would’ve been so much further up the career ladder if they’d worked harder at school.
It's important to recognise that teenagers have a very great need to feel they're part of their immediate peer group. They have a constant desire to be up on everything that's going on. This can be very frustrating to parents as they watch their once all tap-dancing, tennis-playing, and drama-clubbing child disappear. Only to be replaced by a grunting adolescent that appears to have no interests but what their friends are doing.
Research demonstrates this strong need to be part of a cohesive peer group is found in the vast majority of teenagers. However it also shows that those with the most general confidence, and measured encouragement, are also the ones who can find balance and continue with outside interests, academic work, and continue to have aspirations. You can help encourage this balance!
When balance isn’t found there may be a number of negative consequences. Research shows that schoolwork can suffer from the many distractions that friends and socialising offer if there's no structure at home to encourage balance. If they become disheartened with their schoolwork then it may decline, leading to a self-fulfilling cycle where they have less interest in their future and have fewer aspirations. Then they’re even less likely to participate in outside interests when the opportunity arises. Never think you can’t make a difference, though.
A few general tips to prevent this potentially downward spiral include:
- Encourage any talents or skills you notice in your teen. It may be completely unrelated to their earlier childhood interests but that’s a positive! They may feel happier developing a completely new talent or skill then continuing with one they had as a youngster, that they now perceive as childish.
- When encouraging such talents or skills, casually throw into conversations about these where they might fit into a future career. For example, your child might show some artistic skills which leads you to comment on how such skills may come in useful as a web designer. Such conversations can be inspiring to your team when they realise that a fund skill or talent may actually be useful to their future too.
- Sometimes your teen won't realise they have a particular talent or they’ll feel too insecure/embarrassed to blow their own horn. Ensure you blow it for them when in private. Teens hate having attention drawn to their ‘talents’ when friends/relations are around. It seems completely uncool.
- Enjoy the positive times when they’re getting on with schoolwork or a hobby! Many parents ignore good behaviour or attempts at something new and only pay attention to the negative things their teens do. Make a fuss over them when they've set to a project, shown interest in something or are being just plain positive about life. Simply make that fuss in a private!
- Remember that what you may not see as an interesting hobby for them to take up, may be something to do with their future career. For example, they may want to learn how to mix decks. Encourage this. They may end up as a studio engineer, music producer or musician! Many such activities with street cred can now be found in local after-school programmes.