It was back to school for me this week following the Christmas break. Getting straight into the challenge of coaching teenagers, I was quickly faced with the issues of their world and the impact they have on their day to day life. So many young people today say that they have no choice or control over what they do!
“Parents, teachers and adults take control and make all the decisions” is a regular complaint that I hear. Explaining in a positive way that throughout life we are answerable to someone whether that is a parent, boss or organisation and that boundaries and guidelines have to be followed, can be a challenge to say the least.
If I discuss rules and boundaries and identify why they are important, this often changes a young person’s perspective. Another important step is helping them to understand their spheres of influence – that they cannot change another person’s behaviour but they can control what they do in response (and how), and that this creates choice for them.
When young people feel that they have choices and control, they are happier, more contented and able to cope with the general ups and downs of life. Without any choice, control or involvement then young people look to other things to try to obtain what they feel is missing from their lives. Eating disorders, self-harm and bullying are all things that young people can turn to because they believe it will give them the control they are missing. Often, these issues are a cry for help – asking for someone to listen to them and for to have the opportunity to communicate how they are feeling.
Communication, keeping an open mind and not being judgmental is vital if we are to understand and steer young people through the teenage minefield into happy, confident and understanding adults. Recognising and acknowledging change or progress builds confidence, an openness to try different things and encourages personal development. Above all, helping our teenagers to make choices and respecting their need for control creates an environment where they can grow and succeed.