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Adolescent Health & Mental Health



Teen Advice? What's that?


Those of us who either are or were once teenagers recall the teen years as a time of transition, a time of social, school and family changes. Adolescence is both an exciting and challenging time in our lives, a time which may also be challenging for parents and teachers, who sometimes forget what it's like to be a teen. Very few of us simply grow into our new adult bodies and roles without "going through changes" of one sort or another. Experience and research both demonstrate that teens, however, do not typically go looking for "advice", especially from grown-ups.

This is a time to try out new roles, new clothes, and new behaviors, and the most important feedback teens are influenced by, is that of peers.
"He thinks you're cute."
"I shoot better than Michael Jordan!"
"You're ugly"
"You're stupid"
"You're cool"

...All these words coming from a peer can make a world of difference in how we see ourself, our "self-image", or "self-concept".

Over the teen years, our idea of who our self is-- smart or slow, popular or lonely, loved or unwanted, healthy or fragile-- all contribute to our efforts to develop "self-esteem", "self confidence", and all the other positive attributes which lead to a successful life as an adult.

Teens tend to "do their thing" (if they know what that thing is) and to seek "advice" from peers, either directly or indirectly. Direct advice might come from a "best friend" or a social group, which sometimes leads to "peer pressure". Sometimes we learn from role models, both positive and negative. Indirectly, we learn what is "cool" from watching others in school, in the neighborhood, and in our families-- in addition to everything we see on the movie and television screen. Just what is a teenager expected to do?

I have learned from my years of working with teens every day, that while it is true that all of us are more alike each other than different, there is an incredible range of experience among today's teens. Intact families are the exception rather than the rule. Although the future looks good for many, others have no other dreams except a new bicycle or a new pair of sneakers. Much to their credit, teens today are aware of how hard it is for many to deal with everyday life, much less the pressures of school, or "being popular". But somehow we all manage to get through it, and in the process we make best friends for life, and learn to trust and to love and sometimes if we keep working at it, our dreams do come true!





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