My first born is thirteen on Sunday and I’m not ashamed to admit, I’m freaking out.
Being a teen is hard, harder I think, than it used to be. There’s not only the raging hormones, academic pressures, and misunderstanding parents, but now there is social media. As an adult looking at today’s teens I see that there is so much to overcome, so many pitfalls to avoid and also so much potential. Teens today have many options and really, maybe for the first time, can be anything they want to be.
Thinking back to when I was a teen, the things I wish I had known, I decided to make a list. I don’t know that my son will ever read this, but these are the things I want my almost teen to know. The things that I think will make the coming, formative years easier.
- I know as a teen I probably wouldn’t have listened much to this kind of advice, but listening is important. It’s easy to think you have it figured out or that this suff just isn’t important, but taking time to at least consider the wisdom of those older, can be very valuable. Ultimately, you’ll make your own choices and you should, but first, just take some time to listen.
- Don’t buy into the media’s or society’s ideas and pressures towards love and romance. The teenage years are too young for serious relationships. You will have crushes, that’s amazing and right, but don’t get tied down. Spend time with lots of different people your attracted to. Find out what you really like in a partner and how you want to be treated. Just don’t think you’re in love, true love takes time and maturity that you aren’t ready for yet and shouldn’t be worried about. Instead, focus on having fun, go out and meet lots of people, go on lots of dates. Don’t commit to anyone, not yet, you still have too much growing and experiencing to do. Keep your focus on figuring out who you are.
- You only have one shot at this time in your life. Have fun, but try to limit the regrets. Try things, even if they seem dorky. Like chess club or yearbook, or the RPG group that meets after school. Try new sports, new books, new classes, new languages. Don’t be afraid to dance, to act, to sing. Right now is your chance to find your passions, to make friends and do weird things. It’s also your time to fail. Failing now is easier than failing as an adult and failure now makes things easier later. Lessons learned now are valuable.
- Work hard and bring your best. You don’t want to look back and wish you had been a better student, athlete, friend, ect. But at the same time, don’t worry about being a late bloomer. We can’t all be child prodigies, but we all are capable of incredible things. Some of us just take longer to accomplish them. Better to peak in your 40’s than at 16. As long as you make it a habit of working and trying hard, you’ll be fantastic.
- Learn to love yourself, then learn to love others. You only get one you and I know at this age that you can be a little awkward and uncertain, but this is fine and great even. The sooner you can accept who you are, faults, strengths, and all, the better off you’ll be. Spend time with yourself. Take yourself on dates. That might sound weird, but sometimes you need alone time to help you know and love yourself. Some of your peers will seem to have their shit together more than you, but in reality, you’re all in the same boat. So learn to love others too. Learn to be empathetic; life is just better when we are all kind to one another. Everyone has a story, everyone has challenges they are facing. You can’t be everyone’s friend, but you can be kind.
- I know you’re going to do stupid shit. It’s part of being a teen, just try to keep it to a minimum. And don’t do anything that will go on your permanent record.
- Know that you are loved. There are people in your life who think you are amazing and that you will do amazing things. They are there to help and guide. If you feel low, if you feel lost, reach out. Never be afraid to reach out.
- Unplug. Just every so often and read a book. Read lots of books, they are the most incredible help mates. Or take a walk, a hike, green spaces refresh the mind.
I’m sure I forgot a few things and God willing I’ll be around for a long time watching you grow and trying to give you advice. I’m confident in your abilities and your character. You’ve got this. Welcome to your teens.