By Cmor Ladejobi: Founder, NuWOW a hands on experiential learning educational organisation.
While working with high school students, one statement i hear most often is “I don’t know if i can ever be good enough to impact change in the world”? Or “what if i don’t know what to do with my life after graduating the university,”. Teens face increased academic expectations, and pressure intensified by social media.
I would listen to students tell me about the pressure they felt to have specific grades, follow a particular profession, to get a university certificate, become a graduate and get a good job. This pressure takes a wrong turn as these teens are willing to do just about anything to get what they want.
Now if they fall short of all these expectations, they feel like a disappointment to their parents, family and the society. What worries me the most about these kids is that study has shown that high expectations and academic failure leads to high level of depression amongst teenagers, which could result in suicidal thoughts, violence, withdrawal and self demeaning traits.
Students can get depressed from academic failure when they keep fluctuating between high and low grades at school, when they feel pressured to attain a certain academic standard, when they are being belittled and compared to other students, when they feel like a disappointment, when their social media presence isn’t growing or getting much needed attention, when they feel not good enough, not smart enough, when parents compare their own achievements to what they expect of their kids etc
What can we do as parent? Rather than push these young people to the wall of high expectations, depression and lack of fulfillment, as caring adults, we need to support and guide our teens as they attempt to answer life’s difficult questions and transition to adulthood where decision on their future path will be taken. We must as parents take a step backwards and ask ourselves, “what do we really want of these children in life”?
To go to school, have good grades and follow the bandwagon of unfulfilled graduates who can’t find their place in the society and in life. Or you want a well rounded, fully empowered youth who isn’t judged by grades or certification but by the skills he or she has acquired, who has discovered his or her potentials and who knows just how to use his experience and knowledge to impact greatness in the world.
One of our priority should be helping these teens discover, prepare and achieve their life purpose. A life purpose can be thought of as the motivating aim of life, the reason to wake up in the morning. It can be linked to career, responsibilities, friends or family, spirituality and religious beliefs, or all of the above.
We can help our teens begin their path to find purpose by building up key qualities in them. A research i discovered shows teens with high levels of gratitude, compassion, and tenacity tend to develop purpose. These important qualities can help teens find and maintain long-term, life-fulfilling goals.
We need to guide our teens towards finding enduring, life-fulfilling goals. As parents, you can help provide support, help sort through choices, and model a life rooted in meaning and purpose.
Here are 6 ways to start this journey… ….
1. Show Your Teens How Much They Matter.
From the moment you had your child, you met their needs and celebrated their successes. You guided their path and let them know how proud you were. As teens get older, we tend to forget they still need the same accolades and we ignore or overlook their little successes — we think they are just meeting our expectations.
We spend less time praising them and more time making a list of expectation we want them to meet or criticizing them. Our teens need to understand how much others care for them and how they can affect our world for the better. With the confidence that comes from knowing they matter, teens can begin to imagine their purpose in life and work towards it.
2. Help Them Understand Imperfection.
Everyone cannot be successful in all areas. Each person has his own unique qualities and attributes.
We can help our teens find the areas in which they are skilled and can excel. We should challenge our teens to pay attention to areas they are good at and enjoy doing. Discover what drives them to keep learning. If a teen loves singing (or sketching animated characters, or writing, or cooking), and is challenged to improve, encourage that passion! The talent and interest could turn into next steps in education or career and lead to a life of purpose that is right for them.