Growing up is challenging for many young teenagers, especially as they go through the transformative years of adolescence. As adults, parents, teachers, and professionals working with teens, we often forget our own experiences during this time in life. We forget what it is like to not ‘fit in your own skin’, to worry about everyone else’s opinion of you, to deal with peer pressure, all the while just wanting to fit in.
Adolescence is a period of more change than constants in regards to the impacts of uncontrollable hormonal changes on one’s skin, weight, and moods, in addition to other new transformations, such as new body hair, developing breasts, different body odour, etc. With all this change, it is no wonder teens sometimes come across as being difficult or moody, or isolate themselves and spend more time in their bedrooms with the door closed. Reminding ourselves of our own experiences of change during the teenage years helps us to stop and think, to reflect and therefore develop more empathy and understanding.
Looking back at this mind map we developed for our book, Expat Teens Talk, reminds Dr. Pittman and myself of the importance of seeing things as they really are. This mind map looks at many areas of change, pressure, expectations, transition, growth, development, and more. This is a great visual representation of the complexities of growing up… and how this is even more complex for the Expat Teen who, in addition to all of the personal growth and development changes, is often confronted by life changes as a result of moving once again.
Take a moment to think about your own teenage years and what you struggled with. Have a good look at the mind map below. Now, go and give your teenager a great big hug and remind him/ her that you, too, were a teenager and do understand. Talk to your teen, find out what is going on in their life and how they feel about it. Be there for them, as they need you now more than ever.
For more information on how to support your Expat Teen, pick up a copy of Expat Teens Talk, a wonderful, interactive support tool for parents, teenagers, and professionals working with Expat Teens.
Expat Teens Talk: Peers, Parents and Professionals offer support, advice and solutions in response to Expat Life Challenges as shared by Expat Teens
Dr. Lisa Pitman and Diana Smit