Navigating Teenage Years with Empathy and Support: A Call to Action for Caring Adults

October 11, 2023

When we hear the word ‘Teenager,’ various preconceived notions and stereotypes may pop into our heads. It is not uncommon for teenagers to get a bad reputation, often associated with rebellion and moodiness. As a mom of a teenager, I must confess I also held some misconceptions. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to remember that during the teenage years, these young individuals are essentially little humans undergoing significant changes and striving to learn how to navigate the path to adulthood.

Parenting during the Teenage Years

Think back to when you had a toddler learning how to walk. You would encourage and cheer them on, allowing them to stumble and fall, knowing that it is all part of the learning process. You would not punish or yell at them every time they tumbled, nor would you simply carry them everywhere to prevent falls. Similarly, teenagers need our patience, encouragement, and love as they stumble, make mistakes, and navigate life challenges.

Addressing the Silent Struggles

Today, we are witnessing a concerning rise in mental health issues among teenagers. Many suffer in silence because they do not feel heard, seen, or understood. Tragically, some may even resort to self-destructive behaviors, with suicide and substance abuse being the leading causes of teenage deaths.

Empathy Across Generations

I invite you to pause for a moment and reflect on your own teenage years. What was that
period of your life like? What kind of support or guidance would you have wished for from your
parents, caregivers, or the adults in your life? This reflection opens the door to empathy,
allowing us to gain deeper insights into the needs of today’s teenagers. Even though we find
ourselves in different eras, the fundamental needs of love, patience, understanding,
encouragement, a sense of belonging, and significance remain unaltered. These enduring
needs connect us across generations, remining us of our shared humanity.

Creating a Supportive World

Our goal should be to reassure our teenagers that they are not alone on this tumultuous journey called adolescence. They should have the confidence that they can count on us as a stable anchor while they navigate this challenging (and often fulfilling and rewarding) chapter of their lives. Let’s replace judgment and punishment with understanding and encouragement. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, uncle, aunt, coach, counselor, or any caring adult, I invite you to reach out to a teenager in your life today. Connect with them and express your love and understanding, assuring them that they are not alone on this journey. It is important to approach teenagers with empathy and open communication. If you suspect they might be grappling with mental health issues, encourage them to seek professional help when necessary. Your support can make a world of difference in their lives, potentially even saving lives, and aiding them in flourishing into resilient, confident adults. Together, we can cultivate a more empathetic and supportive world for our teenagers.

Written By: Catherine Mok, LCSW


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