10 LESSONS YOUR TEENS SHOULD LEARN TO BE A SUCCESSFUL AND IMPACTFUL ADULT
Growing up in an ever-changing life-changing day and information overload runs rampant, it is easy to lose sight of what is important and how to be mentally strong.
Teens have so much more pressure on them now than we ever did growing up. Society has raised the bar on norms, and this has caused increased anxiety, overindulgence on social media, addiction to video games, and texting has replaced real connected conversation.
There are more teens on medication for anxiety now than there have ever been. Teen suicide is at an all-time high, and cyberbullying has quickly become a new form of bullying. The addiction to social media and gaming has caused teens to become more withdrawn and less social. Yes, gaming has its social aspects, but it cannot replace face-to-face interaction.
A year-long pandemic forced our teens into homeschooling, where they lost the ability to interact in person with friends, and they missed out on so many opportunities like graduations, proms, clubs, and sports. The long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may damage a teen’s self-worth and ability to reconnect with people they once had a powerful bond.
I know this sounds doom and gloom but teaching your teens these ten lessons will help them come out of this pandemic empowered with a strong sense of self-worth and confidence to affect others.
Read on to get 10 Lessons Your Teen Should Learn to Be a Successful and Impactful Adult.
LESSON 1 – Self Awareness
Personal growth and development require impactful change. Change cannot happen until we are aware of the changes we need to make in our lives. Teens are busy between school, clubs, sports, and other activities. They are constantly receiving messages from family, friends, educators, or social media updates. Sometimes these messages are conflicting, and they pick up learned behaviors based on these mixed messages.
This busy schedule, information overload, and the constant navigation of messages do not allow for self-reflection. Self-reflection is one of the most important and powerful things a teen can do. A sort of check-in to see what is working for them and what is not. Self-awareness is this ability to check in what areas of their lives they are having success in and recognizing the areas that present a struggle.
Once they become self-aware, they can understand themselves on a much deeper level and improve on specific areas for greater success in life. Self-awareness will help them celebrate what works to affect themselves and others positively.
LESSON 2 – The Power of Words
I am sure you have heard it before, “What we say or believe is what will manifest.” I know it sounds cliché, but it is spot-on accurate. If you don’t think so, pay close attention to your internal dialogue and the impact it has on you and your personal success.
What about the people around you? Do you know someone who is always complaining and blaming others for their misfortune or speaks poorly about others either behind their back or to their face?
YOUR WORDS DO MATTER! The words you say to yourself and the words you say to others have tremendous power and impact. They can build you up or break you down.
When you tell yourself that you are bad at something, you create a belief that you are bad and what you create will come to pass. Clearly, saying I am the best baseball player on the planet does not mean that you manifest that, however, if you say I am terrible at baseball, you won’t start on your journey to be the best! Our internal dialogue is very important and can shape who we become and who we attract into our lives. A healthy internal dialogue is the key to a healthy mental state.
Your external dialogue is what you say out loud to others or what you post on social media. Just like your internal dialogue, your external dialogue will affect who and what you attract into your life. If you are a negative person who complains and shares your troubles all the time, you will attract others who share their troubles, but others will shy away because they do not want to be brought down by your negative outlook. Do you really want to be the person people avoid and do you want to be part of a group that only complains and brings negative energy to the relationship?
Treating others with kindness and being accepting of others’ differences is also part of your external dialogue. Are you the bully who treats others with disrespect, do you constantly gossip about others, or make posts on social media that are hurtful? What you put out in the world is what you will attract back, every single time! Be thoughtful and intentional in what you say to others. It will serve you much better in life.
LESSON 3 – SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE NEGATIVE IMPACT IT CAN HAVE ON YOUR WELLBEING
Growing up in the ’70s and ‘80s, social media was not a thing. When my kids ask me what it was like, I tell them that’s easy, give me your phone, computer, and iPad. That is what it was like. We actually had to talk to each other on the phone or in person. We played outside and created our own games. We even played role-playing games, but with a pen and paper—no technology required.
Teens today struggle to make eye contact, alerts and texts constantly distract them, and they spend hours staring at a small screen. Technology interrupts them while they are working and creates the FOMO dynamic (FEAR OF MISSING OUT). Though they feel like they are connected, they are in their rooms staring at a device disconnected from their immediate surroundings.
The biggest issue with social media for teens is it has become a platform to bully others virtually who they may never bully in person. Bullies hide behind social media and this has led to significant increases in teen suicide and depression.
Not that social media doesn’t have its benefits, but like anything, when not used in moderation it can have long-term, damaging effects. Talk to your teens about their usage, create “No Tech Hours” in your home. Use that time to connect with your teen or urge your teen to get outside, exercise, or read a book. Also, remember that they will follow the behavior you model.
Teach them to be kind to others and help them understand that what they post or say is out there for the world to see forever. Ask them to question the impact of what they post or say before they do it. If they are not 100% sure it will have a positive impact, then teach them to not post or say it.
Have them turn off alerts and put their phone in another room when they are studying or doing homework. They may resist at first, but this is just a new habit for them to learn. Once they learn it, watch their productivity and output skyrocket.
LESSON 4 – ACCEPTANCE
This is one of the most valuable and powerful lessons you can teach your kids. Life happens, it does not happen TO US. Many times it is easy for teens to complain about the things they cannot control. That last-minute quiz, the terrible teacher, not getting invited to that party, not making the team—the list goes on and on.
Understanding the power in acceptance and how our reactions to our current reality define us and not the actual situation can be life changing for most adults. It is a game-changer for your teens.
Imagine a nasty snowstorm outside. You can choose to complain about the snow, the shoveling, the cold, etc. How about just recognizing it is snowing and seeing the beauty in it, the exercise shoveling brings, or the ability to help an elderly neighbor?
We do not have to like what we are accepting all the time, but resisting it and always complaining about it just creates a negative mindset and does not serve you in any positive way. Resistance brings stress and anxiety, acceptance brings calm, clear thought, and lowers stress and anxiety levels.
There is a lot for your teens to feel stressed and anxious about. Teaching them to understand that they can control how they respond to what is happening around them rather than try to change it is probably one of the most powerful lessons of all. Once they understand this concept, they can accept and handle anything that comes with less stress and anxiety. They can make intentional decisions to navigate the situation in a way that serves them powerfully.
LESSON 5 – EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
How many times have your high school teens or college student struggled with tests, getting all their homework done, staying organized, and practicing good study habits?
All teens struggle in one of these areas or another and it is not their fault. Teaching Executive Functioning Skills is not at the forefront of education in our country. It can feel like kids with special needs have a bit more executive functioning skills education, but not much.
There are countless tips and tools to help your teen properly organize and prepare themselves for success, but they will not learn them in school. It is up to us, the parents, to give them the toolbox for success.
Here are some quick tips to help:
Use a planner or calendar. If they schedule their study time, homework and projects, they will see how much time they need and what time they have to do other things. If they can see it, they will achieve it. If they just have the plan in their head, it is overwhelming and they will struggle to get started.
Buy an analog clock. Using an analog clock allows you to see time move. When your teen knows they need to spend time on something for 30 minutes, seeing the hands move and the time get closer to when they will finish keeps them motivated.
Allow them to create the sacred space they need to study. Some kids like to sit at a desk, some like to lie on their bed and some may sit in the kitchen. It really does not matter. What matters most is that they have a space that is respected, and as parents we allow them that space because it is what works for them. Forcing them to study in an environment that they don’t enjoy will make it hard for them to concentrate and stay focused.
Use the Pomodoro Method or something similar. Let them work for 25 minutes or for a designated amount of time and then allow for a 5 minute break. This keeps them focused and also builds in the refresher they need to keep going.
If they listen to music, let them! For some, music helps increase focus. Not everyone can study with music but if your child needs it to focus, let them. If you take it away, they will not get in the zone and their work will take longer and be more difficult for them to focus on.
Our teens all learn differently. Speak to your teens and make a homework and study plan together. They will appreciate you respecting their strategies and you will watch their efficiency grow and their grades improve.
LESSON 6 – CHANGE
Nobody likes change, especially teens. Our teens are quite comfortable where they are and stepping outside their comfort zone is not on the top of their to-do list.
There are 3 reasons people dislike change and your teens are no different:
- Fear of the Unknown
- Fear of Failure
- The Opinion of Others
Fear of the Unknown
Think about the 1st time you went on a roller coaster. You were scared, your stomach was in knots, and you felt this anxiety and excitement at the same time. Then you go on and when you come off it, you want to just keep going on again and again. That is all fear is—a false sense we get to protect us from what we don’t know. Once we step through our fear, we look back and realize there was really nothing to be afraid of. We know what we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. The only way to learn is to try!
Fear of Failure
Is your teen a high achiever? Are they constantly working on school work? Determination and drive are fantastic traits, but at what point are they debilitating? Are your teens so driven and determined that nothing will keep them from failing? What is the mental and physical toll of this mindset and if they never fail, how will they succeed on their own. It is important to teach our teens that failure is good. Failure can be an opportunity for a lesson to help make us think and behave better.
What about socially? Do they engage others or avoid engagement for fear of rejection? Rejection is real and happens all the time as adults. They need to accept rejection and use it as a learning experience to gain acceptance next time.
Fear of failure limits our ability to change every time!
The Opinion of Others
This is big for teens. Peer pressure or self image keep teens from being authentic. They hide behind a persona they feel will allow them to fit in, but if they are not being authentic, does this really serve them?
They may have an idea they want to share but a fear of how that idea is viewed keeps them from sharing it and the world never gets to hear about it. The most successful people in the world are the ones that were viewed as wacky at first. I mean when Elon Musk said, “I am going to send people to the moon on my own without NASA,” everyone thought it was impossible and that he was crazy. I guess his crazy was good crazy!
Teach your teens not to hold back on what they have to say or be their true selves to just to fit in. Let them know their tribe is out there, sometimes they just have to let them know they exist.
LESSON 7 – REACTIONS AND ASSUMPTIONS
It is so important to teach our teens to not make assumptions and ask the right questions before acting or making certain decisions. I want to share two true stories that took place in one of my workshops that will help land the importance of asking questions and making assumptions.
Jenny and Jane are two high school girls I had in one of my workshops. They shared a story that took place earlier in the school year.
Jenny and Jane had been friends for a while, not besties, but pretty good friends. They kept making plans to meet for lunch during an off period. Every time they made a plan, Jenny would keep cancelling at the last minute and make an excuse to get out of it. Finally, Jane got so frustrated and annoyed that she told Jenny she did not want to be friends anymore and dropped her like a hot potato.
It turns out that Jenny was struggling with an eating disorder and no one knew. She ended up in a group home to deal with the backlash from her disorder and the spiral that resulted from Jane choosing to stop talking to her.
Imagine if Jane just asked her if everything is ok and questioned her actions. Jenny would have been able to open up about her situation and the space created for support would have been life changing in that moment. Instead, Jane made it about her, not asking questions, and just assumed it was something else.
They did the workshop together to learn some of these lessons, and are best friends now, but wow, what a powerful story and lesson for everyone.
We were discussing assumptions and reactions and someone asked about relationships and how do you ask a girl out when you feel intimidated, because maybe you don’t feel you are not good enough.
I wanted to see how many of the participants were in a relationship. When I asked, everyone but two kids raised their hands. One was a very attractive 17-year-old girl who was very quiet. The other was a boy about the same age. When I asked him why he thought he didn’t have a girlfriend, he said, “I am kind of dorky and nerdy.” HIS EXACT WORDS!
We spoke about labeling yourself after, but that is not the part of the story I want to share. I then asked the girl if she ever had a boyfriend and she said no. The boy then blurted out, “How do you not have a boyfriend, you are like the prettiest girl I know.” She cried and shared that no one talks to her. She told us that boys are intimidated by her and no girl wants to be friends with her. Digging deeper, it was clear. Other girls were jealous of her and so her beauty actually isolated her from having healthy relationships.
I asked her if this boy had asked her out, would she have said yes? She emphatically said, “Yes, absolutely!” He was shocked and said he could never get a girl like that. I pointed out that she just said she would have gone out with you if you asked, so why would you make that assumption that you are not good enough. He asked her out after class. They dated for five months and are still friends to this day.
Assumptions never serve us. We don’t know what we don’t know! Questions bring us clarity and allow for understanding. Share these stories with your teens and help them understand the power of asking questions and leaving assumptions at the door.
LESSON 8 – TEACHING YOUR TEENS HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU
One of the hardest parts of parenting is raising our teens to understand our perspective on things. When we question or suggest something, they get defensive and consider us nags. They get upset when they do not get what they want and take it out on us as parents. Does any of this sound familiar to you?
Well, here are some great pointers to help you communicate better with your teen and teach them to better communicate with you:
Talk to them, not at them. They are trying to find their independence and when you talk at them, they will feel you are trying to take that away. When you talk to them and ask them questions, they will answer, and it will ease into a much more productive conversation.
Teach them young the difference between a WANT and a NEED. Many times they may want something and they just don’t understand how what they want is not a necessity. We need to educate them on the difference and how a need and a want differ, they will learn to think before they impulse ask.
When your teens don’t do what you ask or blow off chores, don’t yell at them and punish them. Think about it, if you told your spouse every time they fold laundry that they are not doing it the way you want, they will just stop doing the laundry. Ask them why they did not do it? “Was something keeping you from getting it done that I can help you with so you can get it done next time?” Asking questions opens dialogue and educates you on what is going on in their world.
Be vulnerable with your teens. If you are anxious, how you speak to them or treat them may affect what they do and how they behave. Let them know you struggle with anxiety and that you do not mean to come across as a nag, but you are more concerned that everything is alright with them and that a messy house or unfinished chores make you uncomfortable. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to help you not feel that way. I am not saying you need to share your whole medical history, but just letting them know you are human and have flaws can make them feel more connected, and they will want to help you and support you just like you support them.
LESSON 9 – PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Personal responsibility is arguably one of the hardest lessons to teach our children. It is very easy for them to blame others for things not going their way. Many times it is the teacher’s fault, our fault as parents or that other kid. It is never them and getting them to say, “I’m sorry!” is never an easy task.
This ties directly to them not understanding how to tap into their vulnerability or understanding the power of vulnerability. Sadly, society and norms send the message that vulnerability is a weakness, but truly, being vulnerable is when we are at our most powerful.
It is vital to teach these skills at home. As parents, it is important to model this behavior. Saying, “I am sorry,” ourselves is a start. Whether it is your spouse or overreacting to your child, taking responsibility for your actions and showing them that saying “I am sorry,” takes little effort and is painless. It will signal to them to follow along, and that it is safe to say without negative consequences.
Probably the most powerful way to teach personal responsibility is by asking questions. When your child comes home and complains about a failed grade, a terrible teacher, or a fight with a friend, listen to them. Validate their feelings and then ask them, “Do you think there is anything you could have done to change the outcome.” Most often they will say no, but push them. Offer a fresh perspective. Maybe say, “If you had done this, is it possible that you may have had a different result?” They may not love it at first, and they may say no and ignore you, but I can 100% guarantee you, they heard you and they will remember the conversation.
Teaching our kids not to be victims is a powerful lesson. Showing them what a victor looks like through our own actions is a powerful way to land this message. When they play the victim, gently show them how this mindset can be interpreted by others and have a conversation with their input to see how they could act or say things differently to better serve them. Be a part of the lesson, don’t just tell them to stop whining and making excuses. They may truly not yet see the error of their ways or their role in the situation.
Teaching Personal Responsibility takes effort. Take the time to show your teens how tapping into their vulnerability and taking responsibility for themselves places them in control of their outcomes and shows maturity, leadership, and empowers them to be the best version of themselves.
LESSON 10 – DIVERSITY AND ACCEPTANCE
It is our differences that truly make us the same. We all need air to breathe, love to live, and we bleed the same color. Yet ignorance and prejudice still rule the day. Racism, homophobia, and religious discrimination still happen in 2021.
Your teens need to be the change-makers and heal the world now. They need to have acceptance and empathy in their hearts and raise their children the same way so these biases and prejudices from previous generations become a thing of the past and everyone is recognized as HUMAN, not by a color, a religion or a sexual identity.
What conversations do you have at home to instill these values?
It is important to speak about these controversial issues with your teens. Sadly, we see instances of hate in the news on a weekly basis. Talk to your teens about this, ask them their thoughts, and have a powerful conversation aboutwhat you can do as a family to effect change.
We get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that these issues become background noise, and this is a large part of the problem. The people who are victims of hate are not in the background, it is in their face and painful. It is easy to take for granted what we have and how we may avoid being targets of this, but as human beings it is our duty to help our fellow man so they are not subject to the hate we may not see in a prevalent way.
Volunteer for some type of social action, watch a movie related to diversity or acceptance, maybe even have a family book club and read a book to discuss together. There is power in numbers and the more educated our teens are, the more teens are out there making an impact that can truly change the world.
I hope these ten small lessons bring you value and if you want to learn more about how I can support your teen and ensure these lessons become part of their daily routine, please check out my Teen Leadership and Empowerment Journey [here].
I will spend ten weeks exploring these concepts either in a group setting or individually, making sure they are impactful so they can affect others.