What does that mean- trim the fat? I’m not talking about diet. I’m talking about our pension to overschedule our teens. We seem to think everything is important. We’re all worried about building their resume so they can look good to colleges. We love our kids and we want to give them the opportunity to build a good future.
What if we spend so much time making sure the chance to succeed exists that we forget to teach our teenagers what to actually do with the opportunity? What if they get to the college of their (or maybe your) dreams but then they aren’t mature enough to make the most of their education?
Teens need to learn some very essential skills growing up. They need to learn how to function in a working environment (usually accomplished through school and first jobs). We are really good at focusing on that. However, there is a lot more to being a successful adult than just knowing how to get a good job. Your adolescent has to also learn how to take care of himself physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally. It’s important to have a child who knows how to make good food and exercise choices. It’s important to teach your child how to cope with challenging emotional situations. It’s important for your teen to have a relationship with their faith. It’s also important for your child to know how to build and maintain friendships.
If you find your teenager is feeling overwhelmed all the time, it’s time to get back to basics. Chances are there is too much emphasis on developing one area of their person. Perhaps they are playing a high level of sports that requires 20+ hours per week of their time. Unless your child is going pro (and they most likely aren’t), that’s excessive. That’s too much emphasis on one thing. Or, maybe your teenager is overwhelmed because they have 5 AP classes. That’s also too much emphasis on one area. Balance in life coupled with knowing how to achieve goals is ideal.
I know one young man who placed all his emphasis on developing the ability to work. He took multiple AP classes and went to USC. That’s quite an accomplishment. However, when he got there he had never really worked on how to take care of himself in the other areas of life. He didn’t know how to relate to people without succumbing to peer pressure because he’d never really worked on relational development. He partied in college but didn’t know how to handle it; he failed out. He ended up at community college and living at home. He spent the next two years catching up on maturing in the other areas of life. He then transferred to LMU, graduated and got a good job. He ended up fine, but he had a massive struggle because he worked too hard on one area of life throughout his adolescence.
So, if you find your teen is consistently overwhelmed, take a look at the balance in their life. See whether they might be working too much at one thing and neglecting another. Help them establish goals to be a whole person instead of just one dimensional. Once this is accomplished, check in with them again. Hopefully that helps, but if they continue to be overwhelmed all the time, then it’s time to contact a counselor because they probably would benefit from therapy.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT