During the physical, emotional and intellectual explosions of the adolescent years, it’s critical that teenagers develop a belief in their own ability to succeed. We truly believe we can perform well we are much more likely to view difficult tasks as something to be mastered rather than something to be avoided. Here are five of the many skills that make kids feel successful.
- Learn to listen. Listening is a direct reflection of how much we value each other. Young people learn to become good listeners by having a parent, mentor or other adult consistently listen to them. The ability to listen with intention and compassion enhances self-confidence and self-control.
- Manage stress. It’s essential to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy outlets for managing stress. Healthy outlets include exercise, talking, creative pursuits and venting anger through words and exercise in safe environments. Unhealthy outlets include bottling up feelings, overeating or restricting food, violent behavior, passive activities like TV and video games, alcohol and drug use, premature sexual activity, and blaming others.
- Embrace anger. Most of us think that to be successful we need to keep a lid on negative emotions. For low-income students that instinct is especially understandable because acting on angry impulses raises the risk of getting hurt in the neighborhood or can be a threat to fragile relationships at home. Yet we all find relief when we are given permission to appropriately vent rather than swallow our anger and frustrations. It was Emily Dickenson who write, “Anger fed is soon dead, tis starving that makes it fat.”
- Reject the victim mentality. “Nothing good ever happens to me. At times all of us feel like a victim.” This is especially true for youngsters growing up in poverty who often live in dangerous neighborhoods in highly stressed single-parent families. The challenge is to separate the experience of being a victim from the tendency to develop a victim mentality. We can’t control the former, but we certainly can control the latter.
- Value humor. Adolescents are allergic to sarcasm from adults, but they have a great appreciation for humor. If a parent, mentor, or teacher can poke fun with their kids the friendly teasing can lead to a closer and more trusting relationship. Learning to laugh at ourselves is an important skill for everyone.