All too quickly, adults forget what it was like when we were teens. So we have lots of teens who keep issues to themselves and end up making mistakes that could have been avoided if only we chose to remember what it was like when we were teens and provided the support they need. So let me share a quick story with you.
Once upon a time, there lived a teenager who was full of life. No matter how brightly a room was lighted, it felt like she brought a brighter ray of sunshine with her whenever she stepped in.
She gave hope, listened to those who hurt, offered comfort and loved each person like they were all that mattered. Every girl wanted to be her and every parent wanted her for a child.
Until one day, she was announced dead! Tears flowed, people wondered, how could such a young beautiful girl so full of life be dead? It was unfair. People wanted to say much at her funeral, but they were unsure how to connect the dot between such sweet girl and the fact that she killed herself.
Shocker, she killed herself! STOP! REWIND!
Let us go back to the beginning of this story. Once upon a time, there was a girl so full of life. She always was the life of the party, but she was hurting. She felt alone, misunderstood and afraid of appearing weak if she opened up about what she was experiencing.
Sleeplessness, overeating, crying incessantly for no reason were all the things she felt. She tried to talk to her parents, and Dad said “go talk to your mum, this is ladies business”. So she went to mum, and mum said “it is normal puberty feelings”, give it time they would go away, the feelings remained.
“Maybe I am overthinking this” she thought, so she tried to continue being the life of the party, and the ‘good girl’ she was. Soon enough, homework started to feel like a burden, school was a drag, everything became irritating, the crying increased and she never wanted to get out of bed. “Stop being a lazy brat”, mum would yell. “Listen to your mother”, Dad echoed.
Conflict and tension started to build, she thought her parents were not being understanding, “they just don’t get me”, she thought. Her parents are starting to have serious concerns, “why is this girl being so lazy all of a sudden, what are we doing wrong” they wondered. So the cycle began, and the not so helpful conversations.
“Maybe you are not praying enough”, says the Christian friend. “Maybe you need to workout more”, says the gym-addict. “I think it is because you are too fat”, or “maybe you are just not strong enough”. All of these voices, they echoed very much what the one other voice that mattered the most had been saying to her- ‘the voice in her head’.
Each time she heard about all the things she was not doing enough, that voice said “I told you so”, see “you will never be good enough”, “you will never be pretty enough”, “you can never do anything right”, and “maybe you should just end your life”.
On the inside, she was torn apart each day, on the outside, whenever asked- “how are you”, with the brightest smile you had ever seen, she replied “I’m fine, thank you’. Her smile was so bright it blinded you from seeing the sadness in her eyes, until she finally listened to the voice in her head.
And just like that, she who was once the life of the party, had no life left in her. STOP! FAST FORWARD! She is actually alive. These were the thoughts and battles she dealt with, but she never really listened to the voice in her head. She came close so many times, but, ‘soldiered’ through it, until she met someone she could talk to.
When she did, her issues did not disappear all at once, but she felt better, because she spoke up. The need to be perfect, the pressure to be something to everyone, all lifted.
What did start as feelings of puberty had grown into depression, suicidal thoughts and a near-suicide attempt. Add to that the social pressure of perfection and the ‘achievement’ culture we have created, there is no telling that these things impact teens a lot.
As adults, some of us felt these things when we were teens. And we wished someone was there to walk us through it, to listen to us, and let us know that it will all be okay in the end. Many of us suffered in silence- heck we still do suffer in silence, because the culture told us to feel this was was weak, demonic and meant that we had to be ostracized. Are we really going to let our teens of today go through the same?
What to Do If You Are The Girl?
- Realize that there are lots of people who have been in this space. Open up to someone you trust, who can listen with compassion and no judgement.
- Remember that YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
- Prayers, mediation, exercise, good diet, workout etc. are actually great and releases the right hormones to help mitigate those feelings, practice as much as you can on them.
- Stop putting pressure on yourself. You have time to grow, so just grow. No plant ever frets about whether or not they are budding right or if their flowers look good enough. They just grow.
- Talking about it can be hard, but not talking about it only makes it worse
What to Do as A Parent of the Girl
- Listen to your child. When they come to you , pay attention. I know we are busy, but this is your child, what could be more important? Be the person they trust the most, and want to talk to about their feelings, fears, dreams and aspirations. Make yourself attractive to your kid
- Help them know they are not alone. Share some of your teen-years epic failure stories. To draw the lesson, share the consequences of your actions, what you could have gone back to do better. Trust me, they will think about it. Let them have to ‘laugh’ at you about it. You would have taught them valuable life lessons, and also told them, they are not alone and you get it! This is how to make yourself attractive to them.
- Model life balance for them. Let them see you take a break and rest/relax with dirty dishes in the sink. Let the see you pray, meditate, read a book, work. Share some of your unwinding secrets with them (provided they are good stuff, oh God, it better be good stuff). Dance with them, exercise with them, cook healthy meals together. Family activities creates bond, lowers defense walls, and sets the right tone for authentic expressions.
- Do not put pressure on them. Nudge them towards being better, but not in a negative way. Avoid comparisons with siblings and others. Before you yell at them for not doing the right thing, ask yourself “have I actually taught them what is the right thing to do here?” Set reasonable goals with them and build support system to help them achieve those goals.
- Let them know its okay to share how they feel. Sometimes, just letting them vent and sitting there to listen is the best you can do. Pray with them afterwards, and continue to pray for them. Please be actively involved in your child’s life.
- Finally, Parents, study your child, and use this mental health spectrum to get an idea of where your kids are mentally. It shows behavioral acts that matches where people are on the spectrum. If you observe disturbing consistency outside the green zone in your child, take the necessary step (including professional help) to correct it and bring them to optimal mental health.
Last year into this year has been particularly hard for lots of teenagers. It is hard enough being a teenager: hormones all over the place, feelings you have no idea what to do with, worried about asking questions or making mistakes, trying to maintain good grades, do house chores, meet everyone’s ecpectations and then now, COVID-19.
In Canada, the inconsistency with school, the back and forth with closures and the pandemic in general has affected social interactions among teens. In addition, thier pysical acitivies ahve also been impacted. And like everyone else, they still worry about not getting infected with COVID-19.
We can all agree that they can use a little more patience, understanding and compassion. Much more so, they can use a loving, listening ear. Will you be that person for them? Or have you forgotten what it was like to want to be heard and understood, when we were teens?
Its #BellLetsTalk day. This is yet another opportunity to peel off stigma form the topic of mental health. This impacts us more than we care to admit, so why don’t we start having honest conversations about it? I for one, perhaps because I work closely with teenagers have decided to make a case for teens today.
So how will YOU make the conversation easier? Being open is a good place to start!
Thank you for reading and sharing.