Recently I was interviewed by a 16-year-old girl for a teen blog on the topic of self-esteem. Below is part of that interview.
How can a girl be a good friend to her peers who seem to have personal struggles?
Having a close friend, a “best friend” or a group of friends that you can talk to openly is incredibly important for every girl. Sometimes there are things you just want to talk to a friend about. If a peer is dealing with a struggle and she comes to you/confides in you, that’s very important. It means that she feels safe with you and trust you as a friend. First and foremost, just being there to listen is always appreciated. Don’t think that you have to have all the answers. Just talking about something that maybe you have struggled with as well helps her feel not so alone in her situation. However, if your friend is struggling with something that could be damaging to herself, you can be supportive and listen, but you may need some input or guidance from an adult. That is a lot of responsibility for you to take on and you may need to talk to someone who has more experience in that area. A few suggestions would be: You can go with her and talk to your school counselor or you could go with her and talk to a family member. Bottom line, letting her know that you’re there for her whether you have all the answers or not is probably the most important thing.
How does a girl’s self-esteem in high school affect what happens to her later on?
The high school years are a critical time in a teen’s life. This is the time that developmental psychologists call “identity vs. role confusion.” Which just means, you are trying to figure out what you like , independent of your friends and family, and you are trying to decide who you want to become. So much is going on with a girl at this age mentally, physically and emotionally. Being comfortable with who you are is key. Having a positive relationship with your parents and having a group of girlfriends who you can trust is also important. If issues or challenges aren’t worked out during this phase in your life, chances are a girl will continue to deal with the same issues and struggles into college. Don’t keep things inside. Tell others how you feel. The #1 mistake I see from teens is not telling their parents when they are dealing with a big issue. Trust me, if you are dealing with something that you see as a struggle, your parents want to know about it and want to help you.
Choosing a college can be the first real big decisions you and your child make together. Managing expectations, finding the right schools and honing in on the proper academic program are no easy tasks—especially when you’re negotiating the deal with an eighteen year old child. Please keep in mind that you and your child are allies in the search and not on competing teams. Work together, find out what they are looking for in a college and share with them what is important to you during their college experience. There can be a healthy balance for all involved. I would encourage the college dialog to at least begin after your child’s sophomore year. This way they will grow accustomed to hearing the word “college” and believe it or not this will cause them to start thinking about it as well. Set a time-line for your family. Remember that college applications are mostly due by April of their senior year (the prior December if you are interested in early decision.) So, work backwards from this timeline and you’ll be able to keep everyone on track.
Some issues to think about during the process: When should your child approach their guidance counselor for some preliminary information about colleges? Who will research other schools not mentioned by the HS counselor? When will you set aside time to sit down together and discuss the college options. In addition, applications need to be ordered, which takes time and college visits need to be organized. Please remember that writing well-developed essays takes time; generally more time than students typically a lot for. This is where the bulk on the application time will be spent. Not all colleges ask the same essay questions, so the earlier you receive those applications the better. One suggestion that I have is after you have chosen your top 3 schools, go ahead and request their application from the previous year. This way you will have a feel for what their essay questions generally look like and you can get a jump-start on the process before their new application comes available. You never know – they may just use the same questions. Lastly, recommenders need to be approached. Trust me, no one likes being approached in the 11th hour and asked to write a recommendation. If you want a well thought out and thoughtful letter or recommendation, talk to your recommenders early in the process. They will appreciate your respect for their time.
Setting up a structured time-line for you and your child will help everyone involved understand the process more thoroughly as well as reduce burnout. Your child needs to manage their time and energy to have well-developed and competitive applications completed by deadline. Most importantly, listen to your child and their wants when it comes to choosing a college. Remember, it is going to be the next four years of “their” life. This may be one of those times when the old at edge “mother knows best” may not apply. Work with your child, this can be a great experience for both of you.