We all need a decent amount of self-confidence and self-esteem in order to really enjoy life. If we try, we can really work towards understanding teenagers better, and keeping in touch with the way things work in “their world.” I’m not here to scare-monger, and we are all probably quite aware that there is a rise in teenage mental health issues, and also perhaps aware that the current world we live in, is contributing towards these problems. Social media seems to have a huge impact on self-esteem as it drives us to rely on other people’s opinions as a measure of self-worth.
“Parents can you help?”
I am a parent myself, and I’m looking for ways to guide my children through this era of their lives. I know there are ways of educating and safe-guarding our children in the digital world, and that’s another very important discussion to have. I am hoping to facilitate a trend in young people to think about the bigger picture. To take part in life, beyond the “selfie”, and I believe that music is an example of an activity that we can all get involved in.
Maintaining interests and hobbies, and keeping involved in group activities with like-minded people can help to prevent teenage mental-health problems and put friendship problems and relationship problems into some perspective. Social media is placing unbelievable stresses on our young people, as they constantly compare images, post updates and feel obliged to respond to messages without delay. Activities which allow a little space to breathe, to quit being judged for a bit and just enjoy the experience for what it is, need to be encouraged. But not only that, as with team sports, music allows us to “be a part” of something.
I’m sure some people will prefer their own company. Maybe happy with writing, playing and even producing from their own bedroom. But eventually they might feel brave enough to share their talent and find other individuals to connect with. After all, music is made to be heard. Again, as parents perhaps we can help to gently encourage our children and help them assert themselves in order for things to progress as they would like it to.
If you want to understand teenagers better, it’s more of a case of trying to fit-in with their lives, rather than expecting them to fit around yours! I wonder if sometimes as parents, we are still recovering from the all-encompassing early years of having our babies, and caring from our children while they were tiny, that we almost get used to revelling in a little more freedom as adults again. It might take a concerted effort to stop what we are doing ourselves, and really give our kids some quality time with us again. They might be more than capable of doing things for themselves, but it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like your help every now and again! It means learning what really interests them and what they enjoy, spending time with them, but remembering to take a back-seat when appropriate. The fact that you are reading this probably means that you are an interested, well-meaning parent! We can all improve awareness of what is actually going on now, rather than relating it to our own life experiences and expectations.
Keep focused on now
We might have issues of our own that are deep-rooted, and actually affect our behaviour today on a daily basis! Seemingly small arguments between you and your child, can actually have a tremendous impact on the way they continue through their own lives. It’s a frightening reality for us to accept as parents as it puts added pressure on us to accept responsibility, rather than dismissing our own behaviour or harsh words as being down to tiredness, or a ‘bad day’ or any number of excuses. After all, your teenager might be looking more and more adult like, and behaving less like a child in many ways, but they are still developing and essentially still dependent on you. Arguing and fighting back, testing the boundaries and so on, are all part of the process for most of us to find our own place in the world. And as the adults in this, we need to be the bigger person. By that, I mean exerting patience, controlling our own tempers as much as possible, thinking about the situation from our child’s point of view and taking time to resolve conflicts. Simply expecting teenagers to conform to your rules is not going to do much for your relationship!
Blocking out unwelcome events (to us, not necessarily unwelcome to them!), and issues simply doesn’t work and most likely leads us and possibly our children, towards a break-down in communication. This might even contribute towards a future of mental health problems, such as depression. All of us I’m sure have subject matters that make us a little uncomfortable. Talking about sex for example, is not always easy, but again we need to get over it and get on with it! Talking about it I mean!! It is a typically awkward area for parents, as we would really rather not think about our children becoming sexually active! But the fact is, that teenagers need our support and advice about this probably more than ever! We need to be strong enough to be strong for our kids, and not effectively force them to struggle through issues like this alone.
Aside from this idea of communicating with our kids more, there is a case for continuing to do things with our kids. As I said earlier, knowing where to step back is important, but for example, taking an interest in their hobbies, facilitating progress within them perhaps in the form of helping them to purchase equipment, providing a sounding board for them to show you what they’ve been working on, or giving some loving support and gentle suggestions when asked for advice. Simply telling them what you used to do, or what you would have done will not always go down very well! It might be of some interest, but most likely, not so much! Our kids don’t realise at this age that they will one day quite likely be a parent and go through life experiences and possibly feel these exact fears and worries as a parent with their own children! They feel like they are different and to give them all credit, they are different! Everybody has a unique set of DNA and set of gifts and talents unique to them, and we are really in a position to allow that to flourish in its own right.
Parents of musical kids..
Parents of teenagers who are continuing to pursue musical interests should be proud! There can be many benefits that set you are apart from other “non-musical” people. (Having said that, I do believe that all of us have some elements of musical talent hidden away, but don’t have the confidence to try!)
Anything that can potentially set us apart from the crowd can be off-putting for some teens. It is a time when they are experiencing huge physiological and physical changes, and with the well documented turbulent moods and hormones, it can take courage to do something that makes them stand out. They may feel open to criticism from their peers, teachers and even from you, as their parents. It is helpful for us to be mindful of this, and gently encourage them to keep doing things that they are good at. Not pushing or pulling them in either way.
Music is a lovely way for you to stay connected with your kids. It helps if you make an effort by taking an interest in what they are listening to, what they are saying within the music and in a practical sense, helping with the to-and-fro from practices, equipment, lessons and so on. Whilst teenage children are learning how to be independent from you, they ultimately still want to have your approval and support. They want to feel like you “get them” and the only way to understand them is to continue to spend time with them, and if possible their friends as well. Music is something that often bonds people together in a time frame. I’m sure we can all remember specific events, people and places simply by hearing a song that takes us back! The same will happen for your kids, and wouldn’t it be quite nice to have a few memories with them? Or at least, have an idea of what will become musical icons when they look back over their own teenage years? Why not try it?!
Ideas to help you and your teenagers (via music)
- Ask what they like listening to, and if there’s anything they recommend.
- Ask what they are playing, and if there’s anything they would like to change or improve on. Use this to generate conversations about what other avenues there might be, or options you could maybe help them with.
- Ask what their friends like about music, and if they agree or disagree about any of it.
- Find out whether they enjoy their music lessons. Is there anything they could do more to make it more fun?
- Find out about available groups and bands, orchestras and choirs that could be of interest. Find out about anyone who might provide a good connection for your child, should they be interested in joining.
- Go to music events together. You needn’t spend the whole time together, nor love the exact same music. But it is great when families take part in outings together and share experiences.
- Provide financial help where appropriate; if you can help get the ball rolling in a new area you could be opening up a wealth of experience and ultimately a method of relaxation/ stress relief for your teenager. If we only focus on grades at school, there is not an awful lot to look back on!