Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Emotional Survival Guide for Teens: Part I

This post is written for teens. If you are a teen, this is for you. If you know a teenager, pass it along.
In part 1, I will explore the hardest things about being a teen and ways to make it easier on yourself. I will talk about why life is such an emotional challenge at times, and what you can do to make it less stressful.
It is really difficult being a teenager in the year 2012. Your parents didn’t give you the magical Teenager Survival Manual that explains exactly how to go about growing up and becoming an adult. Many teens find moving from child to adult one of the most hardest things to do. Sometimes, it seems as if you are always encountering problems and resistance from parents, friends, relatives, and teachers.
The ideas shared in this two part series are not new and they are not just my ideas. They are common strategies that can be applied in different ways. I share them here as a way to try to help the struggling teenager and help give the parents more information in their support of their children. So, I offer you, the teenager (or parent), the first nine of thirteen strategies that can help you survive your teen years. With the strategies we’ll be talking about, you may even enjoy your teen years.
  1.  Understand what emotional changes to expect. It always helps to know what you’re getting into. When you know what to expect, the changes of adolescence don’t come as such a surprise. It’s like seeing the trailer before you see the movie, or reading the table of contents before you start a book. It gives you a sense of what’s to come, so you feel prepared.
  2.  Get to know yourself better. The teen years can be very confusing. You often may feel like you’re not the same person you were when you got up this morning. How do you keep track of your changing self? One way is to keep a journal, a private notebook where you write about your feelings.
  3.  Look for positive influences. The teen years can be less stressful if you have a role model. This means someone whom you would consider a mentor, a good example, or someone to pattern yourself after. Role models are important because they set an example for you to follow. If you admire someone and model yourself after him or her, it can give you some direction and some goals. Think about the people who are positive influences in your life. They might be family members, teachers, leaders, or famous people you will never meet but whom you admire just the same.
  4.  Practice thinking for yourself. It is a sign of strong self-esteem. It means that you know you matter, and that you value your ability to think. Thinking for yourself means that you ask questions, rather than just accepting what people tell you.
  5.  Learn to be assertive. Assertive behavior is another sign of self-esteem. It usually means that a person values him- or herself. Assertiveness is standing up for yourself and protecting your own interests.
  6.  Learn to present yourself with confidence. Here is one way to develop confidence. First, make a list of at least five things you do well. Then make a list of at least five things you don’t do very well. Choose something to do from the first list every day. This will make you feel good about yourself. Then, when you’re feeling good, do something from the second list. You will see that the way you feel about yourself at the moment can greatly affect how you perform.
  7.  Learn to express your opinions. Here are some tips:
a.         Know what you want to say. Organize your facts and arguments.
b.         Choose the best moment. Having good timing can make a huge difference in the impact your statement    
c.         Look friendly. People will be more receptive to you if you smile.
d.         Develop your listening skills.
e.         Watch your voice. Speak clearly and not too loudly.
f.          Disagree in a pleasant and polite way. Being rude or unfriendly turns people off and lessens your impact.
g.         Know the difference between facts and opinions. Facts will help you win your argument.
h.         Acknowledge the other point of view. People may not agree with you. You have more power when you
              acknowledge that others have a right to a different point of view.
  8.  Find out what you believe in. One of the tasks of adolescence is to find out what you believe in, what you value in life. This process involves questioning the ideas of people around you, especially your parents. It is understandable that you will reject some of the values and beliefs of your parents, but there are constructive ways of disagreeing.
  9.  Learn to disagree productively. There are plenty of nonproductive ways to disagree with parents and other authority figures, such as temper tantrums, violent behavior, rebellious behavior, and disobeying laws. You will have more success if you learn the more productive ways to disagree, such as developing your negotiation skills or by forming or joining an action group.

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