“Stop Adding Pressure to Young People’s Mental Health.”
A letter to fellow parents…
Anxiety, depression, fear of disappointing you, are all real in our teenagers’ minds. Pay attention. Yes, take time to truly listen to what your teen wants for their life, not what you wish for them.
As another school year comes to an end, it is that time again when our teenagers have the toughest decisions to make about their future. Some are lucky enough to know where they are heading. However, most have doubts, fears, anxieties, and every other emotion they can have as the reality of the significant life change sets in.
“Oh, you are finishing high school, so what are you planning to do? Or more bluntly which University have you chosen?”
We all secretly wish our child would grow up to be wealthy, never have to worry about money, right? Isn’t that the reason why we want to them to go to the best University and get a career?
Sadly, the world we live in seems to favour only the child that is super intelligent and has got it figured out. These were inherent predispositions from our own upbringing when life was different, and only specialists used the internet.
Why is it that more and more young people are struggling with mental health issues?
Why do we have record numbers of suicide from young people?
Why are they under so much pressure to please everyone else?
Why are we not telling them we did not know what we wanted to do with our lives either when we were their age, and we turned out just beautifully?
The world has changed, not everyone needs to be forced into University. Yes, it is one route but not the only route.
Every year I have many young people who find it easy to talk with me and find out about my work, and how it is that I choose to run my own business than to work in an institution, which by the way I have done to try and conform to other people’s ideas. I have risen to very high positions, but I have been miserable and unfulfilled when I am there.
I am unconventional, and I tend to follow my path, I find it hard to work in a big organisation, I have a solid work ethic so running my business gives me the autonomy I need to do what I want and if things don’t work, I point the finger at me and move on. On the other hand, I have friends and family who have been in the same job for over 20 years, and they are happy as it works for them.
The problem with our society is, some see me as unstable for my choices, some even say it to my face. The truth is I earn more, and I travel more. The work is hard, but it brings gives me lots of rewards and exposure to different cultures around the world, I have exposed my children to many countries too. We only have one life.
My life started off as a teenage mum everyone that mattered around me said I had ruined my life, well maybe they were right, but for me, I took on the challenge, it was just another route I had to take as my life was different. I went on to work in a bank which I ‘hated’, I worked in small organisations, large organisations. I have run businesses some have failed others have given me so much pleasure and fulfilment when I am running my businesses, I am in my space, and I love it. I also went on to achieve a master’s degree in Leadership and Management at the age of 36. So, I still got there. Teenagers have many years ahead of them to make their decisions and make a few mistakes along the way. Don’t force them, even in the subtlest way. They love you, and they want to make you happy.
I see these differences in my four daughters. As I didn’t go the conventional way, I understand, and I am acutely aware not impose my stereotypes and insecurities on them.
As parents, we need to wake up to the fact that we need to honour our children and support their vision, but also acknowledge their suspense moments and assure them that it is okay not to know what you want tomorrow.
When we get into a car to drive to a destination, all we see is a short distance ahead each time, but eventually, we get to our destination.
The young people who are leaving high school will get to their destination, allow them to enjoy today, do not force them to go into courses that work for your dream. Give them a chance to work out their path.
Here are a few things you can do with your teens:
- Ask them what they want to do with their lives and listen intently without interruption.
- If they say they don’t know, don’t push or impose your expert suggestions
- Do something fun with them; teenagers are people too. They lock themselves in their room because they feel no one understands them.
- Unless they say, they want to become an assassin, support them. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they could know what they want to do, they just afraid that you will not approve. Genuinely support them.
- Jane next door got A stars, so what? Tell your kid you appreciate the fact that they stayed in school this long. Congratulate them after the exam and tell them that you are happy with them whatever the results and that they will figure out the future in time.
Happy days, you are your child’s best friend!