When working with teens, always be authentic.
[Authenitic— of undisputed origin; genuine.
Whenever I’m asked about my work with teens, I remind people that the key to success with this age group is being authentic. I always say: “Teens can stiff out an inauthentic adult in seconds.” ….but what does being “authentic” really mean?
- Do not be judgmental. Meaning…. just listen to them. Don’t be shocked or surprised by what they say. Sometimes, they will tell you things for the shock value alone to see how you will respond. The key is…..DON’T!
- You don’t always need to lend advice. Just listen to them. As easy as it can be to lend them guidance at this age, hold back sometimes.
- Don’t ask soooo many questions. This will easily annoy or frustrate them.
- Don’t cut them off or redirect the conversation. Let them take the conversation where they want.
- Maintain eye contect and show other visual signs of confirmation (such as, head nodding, smiling, etc.)
- Last, but not least, be present and engaged. Regardless if they are talking about a minor issue from school or a serious struggle with a friend, it’s important to them. And if it’s important to them, then it should be important to you as well.
First there was #thighgap…now we have the #bellybuttonchallenge to look forward to.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the “belly button challenge” all over social media. Apparently, it began in China, but has exploded online. So…what is the belly button challenge you ask?
Reach behind your back and around your waist and see if your hand can cover/touch your belly button. For the sake of this blog post, go ahead and try. Can’t do it? Well, then you are considered “too heavy” according to Chinese social media. But really, it could also mean that your arms are really muscular-right? When you come down to it… it’s actually a test of shoulder flexibility, and not fitness. (I learned that the shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body.) The belly button challenge has become a way for teens, mostly girls – to seek approval online with their body while shaming others. It also says a lot about China’s obsession (really everyone’s obsession) with being thin. Teens are snapping #selfies of them-self while doing the challenge and posting them online.
A successful belly button challenge attempt is met with praise, “likes” and affirmations that YOU are thin enough. If deemed thin enough, then you are accepted by the online “belly button” police.
And if you can’t do the challenge, there is a double standard. For a boy posting a photo of himself failing the challenge, he still receives “likes.” Many of those photos will show the boy desperately struggling to reach his belly button while making funny faces, contorting his body and laughing. However, for girls posting their failed attempts online for all the world to see, isn’t met with praise or “likes.” She is telling the world that she is unhealthy…. unworthy, and shameful. This can do a number on anyones body image and self-esteem.
So if you are a teen, don’t fall for this challenge or take it too seriously. Remember, it has nothing to do with health. It’s just another silly social media game to laugh about… and nothing more.
(Guest article for Fusion Academy)
R – Resilience
A – Attitude/Adaptability
I – Independence
S – Self-respect
E – Empowerment
After counseling and interviewing hundreds of young girls, I have an understanding for what they face in the world and how they feel inside. Trying to maneuver the landscape of your everyday life as a teenage girl is tough. Without tools, strategies, or resources it’s nearly impossible. I see RAISE as your toolkit. RAISE is an acronym for five components to building healthy self-esteem: resilience, attitude, independence, self-respect, and empowerment.
It’s probably no surprise that teens rate the disapproval of their friends and classmates as the most difficult to experience. Most will avoid it at any cost. This is where peer pressure can come into play if they don’t have a strong sense of self or healthy self-esteem. Resilience, or self-perseverance, is a great defense against peer pressure and bullying. We are all resilient in our own way, it’s just a matter of taking those “resilient” behaviors and translating them to other situations and environments. Resilience doesn’t have to come naturally. Instead, we can learn skills to help us persevere and practice them along the way.
Maintaining a positive attitude can enhance self-esteem. Simply accepting that we all have good days and bad days is a start. In addition, adapting to different situations is key. Developmentally, the teen years are extremely complex. Dynamics among friendships start to shift and extreme self-awareness takes hold. Not to mention there’s a good chance their hormones are going crazy! All of these conditions create a concoction just waiting for disaster. Teens may deal with these changes in many different ways. They may become moody, crying over big and small issues, they may begin to challenge parents, or they may feel sad or depressed for seemingly no reason. These can all be very scary experiences and cause extreme confusion.
Adolescents need to remember that they aren’t alone; sometimes just knowing that can make all the difference in the world. Teen girls talk about a lot of things with their friends, but based on my research, feeling sad or lonely for no real reason isn’t usually one of them. So, who or what can they turn to?
Dr Carol will be hosting a Community Education Night at Fusion San Mateo on May 27. See more at: Fusion Academy