WHETHER you are a teenager or living with one, adolescence is no easy road to traverse. There are the mood swings, the messed up circadian rhythm, the need for more hours of sleep vs. the school schedule, and the angst of daily social life. If you’re a teen, parents suddenly reveal a complete lack of understanding for who you are. And if you’re a parent, your teen transforms overnight into someone foreign and suspicious of all your good intentions.
Adolescence is a time of confusion for everyone involved, including siblings. And I’ll bet my next bit of advice is going to come as a big surprise: writing can help. How, exactly? Here are three valuable ways that journal writing can support you during this phase of life:
- Writing is like counting to ten — only longer. When biting your tongue and counting to ten is just not enough (no matter which side of the fence you’re on), writing about how you’re feeling can help diffuse the situation. You’re less likely to say things you’ll later regret and more likely to think about the other person’s point of view.
- Through writing, you can explore and clarify your feelings — particularly important when you have conflicting feelings or ambiguity.
- Through writing, you can imagine best and worst case scenarios, have imaginary conversations, and write letters to your parents/children, working out some of the issues that could come up before you actually have that face-to-face conversation.
If you’re experiencing adolescence in any way — personally or as a family member — here are a few journaling prompts to get you started.
If you’re a teen:
- Make a list of the problems you have in your life right now. Then write about the emotions associated with those problems. (For example, let’s say one of your problems is that you just found out your best friend has been gossiping about you. Emotions may include hurt, anger, wanting revenge, jealousy, and more.) Write about different ways you could handle or express those emotions that would be constructive rather than destructive to yourself and others.
- How do you feel about living in your home right now? Are there things you don’t like? What are they? What could you do to help things improve? Write down all the things you like about living in your home.
- Do you like your body? Why or why not? Make a list of all the things you like about your body (the list should include physical abilities as well as appearance) and why you like them.
If you’re a sibling of a teen:
- What changes do you notice most in your brother or sister? How do you feel about these changes?
- If you’re younger, write about the kind of person you’d like to be when you’re a teenager. If you’re older, write about the kind of person you think you were as a teenager and, if you had it to do over again, what you would do differently.
- Is there any way you could make life easier for your teen brother or sister? Would there be any advantages to you to do so? Write about the possibilities as you see them.
If you’re a parent or other adult relative of a teen:
- What do you remember most about being a teenager? And what do you remember about your attitude towards and relationship to your parent(s)?
- If you could go back and do it again, what kind of teen would you like to have been? Would you be different than you were? If so, how and why?
- Make a list of some of the problems you think your teen is experiencing in his or her life right now and what worries you most. What kinds of emotions do you imagine your teen is feeling and what emotions are you experiencing as a result of those problems? What are some of the ways that you think each of you could constructively express those emotions? If s/he is willing, compare lists (see #1 under “If you’re a teen”).
- Make a list of the different ways you could strengthen your relationship with your teen. What action could you take today or tomorrow to start? Do you have any resistance to taking this action? If so, why? If not, what has held you back in the past?
Adolescence is a time of tremendous and rapid change — and not just physical. It is the final stage of childhood before becoming an adult. Learning to develop meaningful relationships and make good decisions are a part of this process, which of course means making lots of mistakes. And mistakes, as we all know, are the fastest way to learn.
Please join the conversation by writing your thoughts in the comments field below.
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