High school is a time of growth and opportunity for teens. Students begin to explore who they are and who they want to become. It can be an exciting time; it can also be a time of significant challenge for teens. Tension is a natural part of the teen learning process.
While trying to develop a sense of self, teens can feel misunderstood by their parents, teachers, and other adults who care a great deal about them. Expectations of others complicate their process. Adolescents need adults in their lives to provide encouragement, support, and guidance to help unlock their true potential.
Teens and Self-Esteem
During adolescence, young people are developing the abilities and skills that will shape their adult lives.
- They are learning what they are good at and, what they may struggle with.
- They are trying to balance their own expectations with those of their peers, teachers, and parents.
- While they practice being an adult and messing up along the way, teens may also feel like all eyes are on them.
All of these changes create the perfect storm to rock even the most self-assured teen. Trying to manage all of this change explains why sometimes your teen may say, “I just need to be alone!” or “You don’t understand!” Their minds are racing with thoughts of expectations, decisions, and the desire to find their passion.
It can be easy for those of us who went through this process, made it out on the other side, and emerged as adults to dismiss some adolescent emotions as no big deal. Instead of minimizing, we might want to normalize and encourage to help build self-esteem. A young person who knows that the adults they admire most believe in their ability to make good choices and succeed is more likely to do just that.
One of the hardest tasks a parent has is to balance letting go with maintaining necessary boundaries. However, exploration is an essential tool for mastering the tasks required of adolescence. Teens will want to experiment with different activities and different personas. They may decide they are an artist one day and a politician the next. Allowing teens to safely explore all of their possible selves enables them to gather information about what fits.
Teens often thrive in experiential learning environments where they are allowed to engage in exploration (with appropriate boundaries, of course) and where they find encouragement and not judgment. They need to find spaces where they don’t feel the need to fit the mold, but instead, can break it and make it their own. Their self-esteem depends on it!
The Power of Possibility
Providing settings and opportunities for unique and different experiences and perspectives is another vital part of encouraging exploration through experiential learning. Young people who are exposed to situations both similar and dissimilar to their own will expand their perspective. For example, volunteering in the community and working with others to solve problems can help build the self-esteem needed to consider all the possibilities that are available.
Support, encouragement, and opportunity are key components to moving through adolescence. Young people who are encouraged to believe in themselves and explore are more likely to be curious and find passion and possibility that will guide them into adulthood. Parents, teachers, and other adults must be the team to cheer them on.