Teenager, In­ter­rupted

What your grow­ing child needs from you, right now.

The Covington News - - EDUCATION - KAIT­LYNN MOCK­ETT COLUM­NIST Kait­lynn Mock­ett is a first-year art in­struc­tor at Al­covy High School. She grad­u­ated from UGA in 2014. She can be reached at mock­ett.kait­lynn@new­ton.k12.ga.us

My kids (or your kids) and I have been talk­ing a lot lately about grow­ing up, life ex­pe­ri­ences, and how we change, some­times on a daily ba­sis. I am work­ing through sev­eral tran­si­tions of my own, and it’s hard, some­times, to be the best per­son for them when I know I am still work­ing on be­ing the best per­son for me. Here are some ways to iden­tify with, sup­port, and love your teenager:

1Sup­port and en­cour­age your child’s de­sire to take on more re­spon­si­bil­ity. An ad­mirable work ethic has be­come so rare; if your stu­dent has it, en­cour­age it.

2Be present. Be in­ter­ested, ask them mean­ing­ful ques­tions, and fig­ure out what they en­joy. Be­ing a teenager is ac­tu­ally re­ally hard (it was for me, and the things my kids go through are far more in­sane), and noth­ing is worse than be­ing told “you just wait un­til you’re a real grown up,” or “stop whin­ing, you’ve got it so easy.” Yes, of course they do, com­pared to be­ing a true adult, with bills to pay and a job to go to ev­ery day and so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tions to an­swer to. But they aren’t there yet. Which leads to my next point:

3Be em­pa­thetic. Ex­pe­ri­ences are rel­a­tive. Your daugh­ter’s drama with her ridicu­lous “best friend” is silly, yes, but to her, it’s the end of the world. They are go­ing through huge changes, and the world is, too. I strug­gle to keep up with them, and I’ve only got six or seven years on my se­niors. Try to re­late. Be a good lis­tener. Don’t judge.

4Re­mind them of what it is to be pro­fes­sional. The truth is, first im­pres­sions are ev­ery­thing. En­cour­age your stu­dent or child to dress well, be con­fi­dent, and speak clearly and as­sertively. They are seen for Help them with real world stuff. Sadly, the com­mon sense ne­ces­si­ties such as a re­sume, writ­ing a check, and cre­at­ing a bud­get have be­come a lost art. I know three of my stu­dents own a check­book, even fewer that can change the oil on their car. Pre­pare them.

6Be aware of ma­jor dead­lines, time frames, and pro­cras­ti­na­tion in their lives. Job of­fers don’t sit for very long; col­lege ap­pli­ca­tions don’t open back up be­cause you for­got the dead­line; schol­ar­ships and grants of­ten work on a first come, first serve ba­sis. Of­fer gen­tle re­minders to your stu­dent, or re­search th­ese things with them. Left to their own de­vices, some­thing as sim­ple as hunt­ing down a fresh­man ap­pli­ca­tion on a col­lege web­site can be to­tally over­whelm­ing; it was for me.

7more than what they wear. They should know what they want, but they should not ex­pect to be given it. En­ti­tle­ment has be­come a very unattrac­tive and un­for­tu­nately prom­i­nent trait among our youth.

5En­cour­age your child to have their own life. Teenagers, par­tic­u­larly this gen­er­a­tion, are wilder and freer than they have maybe ever been. They are con­stantly stim­u­lated and in­flu­enced by the thou­sands of vir­tual in­ter­ac­tions they have on a daily ba­sis. Ask them about their hob­bies, en­cour­age them to join sports or clubs, wish for them to feel in­de­pen­dent and self-aware. In­se­cure stu­dents end up be­com­ing mal­leable, gullible and eas­ily in­flu­enced stu­dents. Re­mind your child of what a gift they are, how much you love them, and all the beau­ti­ful tal­ents or ideas they have. The world is theirs and they should feel wor­thy of tak­ing it and run­ning.

8Re­in­force self-re­spect. The things that come out of some of my stu­dents’ mouths shock me, and oc­ca­sion­ally break my heart. Pri­vacy is a lost idea, ex­tinct in the face of so­cial me­dia and vir­tual in­ter­ac­tions. Teach your chil­dren to love them­selves, be­cause trust me, their friends, their peers, their role mod­els may not.

9As an ed­u­ca­tor, this is prob­a­bly an aw­ful thing to come out of my mouth, but as an artist, a cre­ator and a cit­i­zen of our world, it is im­per­a­tive nonethe­less: teach your child to ques­tion ev­ery­thing. Be­ing a crit­i­cal thinker is more than be­ing an­a­lyt­i­cal. Our youth need to be able to think and process for them­selves, par­tic­u­larly in a world that is telling them and talk­ing at them more and more. Do not let your stu­dent be a yes man: en­cour­age them to re­search, to in­quire, to cre­ate. Their thoughts are just as valid and im­por­tant as any­one else’s.

10Love them. This would seem like a given, but you may be sur­prised. Your child will go through a mil­lion phases, a mil­lion lives, from the day they are born un­til the day they die. They will be stupid, reck­less, care­less, fool­ish, wrapped up in things that mat­ter so lit­tle. Love them any­way. They will dis­ap­point you, they will break your heart, they will lie and de­ceive and ma­nip­u­late. Love them any­way. They are fig­ur­ing this life out, too, and I am firm be­liever that we learn more from our neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences than our pos­i­tive ones. In the same breath, lov­ing them and en­abling them are two dif­fer­ent things. Be firm, be strong, be their par­ent. They need your struc­ture, your wis­dom and your words, not your friend­ship. It will take them much longer to fig­ure it out (thank you, Momma).

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