Dear Teens of All Ages,
I work with you while you are teens and try to make high school, middle school and all of the accompanying stressors easier to deal with. I work with you on issues that are going on in the moment, because that is precisely what is relevant and important to you. Today, I'd like to offer you a different perspective about the teen years, and that is from the perspective of the future. You see, I went to my high school reunion this weekend, and I have a lot of ideas on coping with adolescence based on my observations. Stay with me while I take you into the future.
While you are in high school, please pay attention to how you treat others. They will remember this for a long long time. You have the opportunity as a teen to be kind and helpful and to make an impact on a peer's life. This will not be lost on your peers. Many years later, they may not remember exactly what you said or did, but I can guarantee that they will remember how you made them feel.
Try as hard as you can to focus on making good friends and friendships and try to steer clear of focusing on being popular. Years later, nobody cares about this, and I can tell you for sure that popularity in high school is not a good predictor of a good life years later. In fact, popularity may actually be a risk factor and a disadvantage. The "populars" often reach their peak in high school, and life is downhill from there. Perhaps those kids feel like they don't have to put additional effort into developing social and emotional skills, because they are already popular. This is a shame and a big mistake. Throughout life we need to develop more nuanced and sophisticated relationship skills.
3. Look around in class. Learn the names of the kids sitting to the right and to the left of you. Step out of your comfort zone and talk to someone new each day. Make an effort to talk to the quiet kid, the shy kid and even the aloof kid. The below-the-radar kid in high school may be a wonderful person and may even turn out to be a superstar later on in life.
4. Resist the urge to exclude others. Even several years later, people still feel the sting of rejection. And, when they see you, these feelings will return. Always think about how you would feel in a similar situation. Ask yourself how exclusion and rejection would impact you and then rethink your desire to exclude. In my day, exclusion meant not being invited to a party. Now, purposely Photoshopping someone out of a photo or intentionally not tagging them in a photo are additional modes of excluding others.
5. Try to stay away from the use of labels. A nerd in high school may be completely charming in later life. A popular kid may be a bully who can't get along with bosses and friends. I am asking that you get to know your peers without labeling them. By labeling, you miss the nuances of personality and that can be very limiting.
I guess my overall message is to be open-minded and aware of the impact that you have on others. Life goes on way after the teen years. Good luck.