I have the honour of working with youth every day. I’ve heard it ALL. I’m well aware that I have the “easy” job. I go in and I get out. As much as my full heart is in it, I’m able to step back and disconnect when I need to. I don’t always know the full story, and there’s no way I can fully understand the weight of being a parent because I’m not one. I have the utmost respect for all who make the selfless decision to become parents because you are warriors. I am in awe.
I’m sharing because I feel like I have a backstage pass into the complicated minds of tweens and teens and it’s my duty to shed a little light. Please take this for what it is — all love, no judgment. A sharing of information to do better, together.
Below are a few of the most powerful things I’ve learned straight from the mouths of your babes.
1. They just want to be seen and heard
“I come home and no one even asks me how I am. No one wants to hear about my day.”
“I don’t talk to my parents about it because they have their own stuff going on. I don’t want to add to it.”
“I feel so alone.”
“Everyone in my family is so busy, no one has time for me.”
I would bet money on the fact that I’ll hear one of these statements in every one of my groups. The basis of all of it: kids just want to be seen and heard -someone to listen, someone to notice, and someone to take interest. Being a teen in today’s world is overwhelmingly different than anything we’ve ever experienced. The pressure is almost inconceivable. They cannot escape. They can’t just come home and relax. They can’t “turn off”. And really, neither can we. We’re home but we’re not fully there. We’re BUSY.
The difference is that your kids are not fully developed with the ability to do it all. They’re overwhelmed. They’re tired. They’re feeling alone. Remind them that they’re not. Connect with them. SEE them. Honestly, I think the miscommunication comes in the fact that teens don’t always make it easy. They’re moody (hormones, yay!) and they don’t seem to want to talk or engage. But trust me, they do. Make that small effort to connect and see if you notice any shift. And keep in mind that it does not need to be extravagant! The more natural this comes the less awkward you’ll both feel. Ask about their day, check-in about how they’re feeling, notice when they walk in the room. Let me know how it goes!
2. Perception is reality
Okay, so have you ever experienced a moment of pure, intense, incontrollable emotion? I’m pretty sure we forget that it’s basically 80% of what our teen years felt like. When they feel, they FEEL. When they believe something to be true, it’s true. They’re always right, right? Well here’s the thing, perception is reality. If in that moment they believe that their world is over because the person they like saw them do something embarrassing or they got a bad grade or someone looked at them wrong or YOU said something annoying, it’s their reality. Tweens and teens don’t have the same ability to think as logically as adults do. Their brains aren’t fully developed. So reason with it. Give it space. TALK about it. The crisis will pass. ONE day they may look back just like we do and realize how silly it all seemed but in this moment, it’s everything.
3. They will change and that’s okay
Probably one of the most common things I hear from youth, especially girls, is that they are changing and growing up and their parents don’t want to let them. This one is HARD! Independence is scary. Letting go is tough. The little humans you’re raising aren’t so little anymore. You’re holding on and they’re pulling away. It’s oh so normal. Just remember that YOU are key in their ability to become resilient people filled with self-love and inner-kindness. Your kids need to know that no matter who they are you love them all the same. They may not be exactly who you thought they would be, or do exactly what you’d hoped they’d do, but that’s okay. They will change – trust that you’ve raised them to be good humans and trust that that is enough!
4. They will make mistakes. Let them.
Speaking of resilience, the ability to make mistakes and overcome is a make or break skill when your little people turn into big people. It’s important that they KNOW they’re not alone, but it’s equally as important that they have chances to learn, grow and move forward. Mistakes build character. Trust builds confidence. They’ve got this and so do you.
My hope is that I can act as a bridge when connection is lost. I’m SO honoured to hold space for youth. There’s no judgment here. I hope you know that YOU are enough. I hope you know that I understand the difference when you’re sitting on the sidelines. My hope is to offer calm in the midst of chaos, to shine light where there is darkness and to empower as many as I can to come from a place of inner kindness.
Questions or comments? PLEASE share. We’re all learning from each other.
About Stephanie Mulhall
Stephanie Mulhall is a Certified Youth + Parent Coach & founder of With Kindness Coaching. She has worked closely with youth for over five years and has a passion for working with individuals to discover their greatest strengths and deepest dreams through the practice of Inner Kindness. Follow Stephanie on Facebook or Instagram at @withkindnesscoaching.