Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Navigating the tenuous world of modern teens
It is heartbreaking to continue hearing about children harming other children.
Teenagers share a deep desire to be seen, understood, and motivated. Unfortunately, many teenagers feel unappreciated and fearful of not having a life worth living. This uncertainty about their role and purpose brings out numbing, rebellious and dangerous behaviors.
It’s easy to blame teens, school shooters, and/or guns, but there is another perspective. On some level, what is happening with teenagers who become school shooters is an extreme expression of what is happening inside many teenagers today.
Remember back to your teenage years, specifically the energy, passion, ideas, creativity, and courage you wanted to express and it will help connect more to today’s teens. The desire to be involved in something real, to jump into life, and to question why things are like they are is the same today as ever. The ability to make this leap in life is more limited by the conditions in the world.
Today’s teenagers see the world through fresh eyes. If they’re allowed, they’ll challenge the status quo by asking hard questions, trying things out, and calling adults on their mistakes. That passion is valuable and needed, and when it doesn’t get vented through a satisfying outlet, it gets replaced by anger, depression, anxiety, confusion, and/or a loss of hope about the future.
The narrow focus on academic achievement allows some teenagers to go on to college and make money. This limited model of success seems to be the only one that gets promoted in our society. It is important, but its not the path for every teen. For those who struggle in school, finding motivation, feeling confident, wanting to work hard is challenging because they do not know why it matters for them.
When teenagers don’t fit in the current model, they can become frustrated and feel like outsiders. Trying to correct them with special tutors, classes, homework and medication can make their already insecure self get pushed further into the ‘I should be different than I am’ box. For many kids who don’t have a brain that learns in the “standard” ways, the downward spiral of feeling alone, under-appreciated, and not having a life worth living, can happen fast. This confusion can lead to anger, depression, anxiety, confusion, loss of hope, and in some cases violence.
The world needs the unique abilities of all teens to come to maturity. Helping those struggling with “normal” requires mentoring from adults, work experience to give them confidence, classroom validation, teams that allow for different skill levels, clubs that encourage individual expression and especially non-bullying peers.
In older traditions, teens learned skills from adults, not only teaching them a livelihood, but helping them prepare for a transition into the adult world. Since this tradition is rarely practiced today, other educational skill building tools need to be established to help teens who are not excelling in school to make their way.
Too many aren’t finding adequate survival skills to move from this stage of life to adulthood. They don’t know what to expect or what is expected of them, and haven’t found a connection to the deeper part of their self.
In a healthy society, there are clear stages and steps between childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and elderhood. A Rite of Passage ceremony provides an honest acknowledgement that one stage of life is ending and another is beginning.
Whether it’s a big, huge deal (like a wedding or bat/bar mitzvah), or a simple as lighting a candle and sitting quietly with reverence, what is important is creating an intentional and honest event to provide a clear shift in stages.
A different perspective on the Reynolds school shooting will be presented by Morgan Rich and Tom Fuller, Wednesday, August 6, from 7 – 9 pm at Waverly Church on 3300 SE Woodward St..
During the event, a discussion of the impact of Rites of Passage, how they generate support for an individual, and how to incorporate them into busy urban lives. How to provide healing and education for adults to help them be in the position of being effective mentors and guides for youth will also be explored.
Morgan Rich, MA, PCC helps teens and parents as a life coach and author of Launch Your Life. 503.234.4843