Adults traditionally view the end of the year as a time to take stock and self-reflect. Many people assess their lives and the way they’re living them..
You might have the hope of approaching the new year with a new outlook and perspective. You don’t have to wait until the end of a year, or any other milestone, to do some self-reflection, but milestones are a helpful reminder for many people to do so.
If you’re the parent of a teenager, you may be hoping that your teenager also takes the time to self-reflect around this time of year.
Teens can often come across as self-centered and lacking a sense of purpose.
This is normal – your teen is just now reaching the stage where they’re supposed to be developing the ability and the desire to see beyond themselves – but often teens can use some help in strengthening that development.
Take a look at some ways that you can encourage your teen to engage in some self-reflection this time of year.
Self-Reflect On Core Values as a Family
Make it a point to talk about your values with your teenager, and give them the opportunity to talk about what they think their values are and how they intend to live by them.
You can use items in the news or situations in a television show or movie to give you an opening to talk to your teen about these subjects. For example, a portrayal of discrimination on a television show that you’re watching with your teen might give you a chance to start a conversation about the importance of equality and treating all people with respect, and how you can practice that in your own lives.
Encourage your teen to share their own thoughts and point of view on the subject, but even if they don’t, keep starting these conversations. Even if your teen isn’t sharing their own thoughts with you, they’re hearing you, and this will help get them started thinking about their own values and how they can live them.
Be prepared – your teen might challenge you, either by disagreeing with your values or pointing to a time when they observed you didn’t – at least in their view – live up to the values that you believe in.
This is OK, too – it means that your teen is thinking critically about the subject.
If you and your teen disagree, ask questions about their point of view and look for areas where you share common ground – it may just be that you and your teen have different ideas about how to reach the same goals.
If your teen tries to “catch” you being hypocritical, consider whether or not they’re right.
It can be useful for teens to learn that people sometimes do fail to uphold their own values, even when they believe in them strongly. Everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes the best thing you can do is simply acknowledge the mistake and try to do better moving forward.
However, it’s also important for teens to realize that not everything is black and white. For example, if you’re discussing the importance of honesty and your teen points out that you tell white lies, like pretending to like a present that someone gave you even when you really don’t, then you and your teen can talk about why it may sometimes be more important to be kind than to be one hundred percent truthful.
Expose Your Teen to Diverse Perspectives
During the teen years, children begin to develop perspective-taking abilities – that is, the ability to see things from the point of view of another person.
This is an important skill and it’s a difficult one for humans of any age. But that’s why the teen years, in particular, are an important time for teens to be exposed to a diverse range of people, communities, and ways of thinking.
Because your teen is developing their ability to see things the way that other people see them, not just from their own point of view, making sure that they encounter diverse perspectives now will help them learn to be more empathetic to others throughout their lives.
Some teens live in neighborhoods and attend schools that are very diverse, others live and learn in environments that are far more segregated. Take a look around and be honest with yourself about what kind of environment your teen is in.
If they’re not exposed to much diversity in the course of a normal day, you may have to go out of your way to help bring more diversity into your teen’s life:
- Look for opportunities for your teen to travel, work, volunteer, and socialize outside of their normal bubble,
- Get them books by authors who look, live, and think differently from your family, or
- Help them find art and music from cultures and made by people with perspectives that are different from your family’s.
Encourage Journaling to Self-Reflect
Broadening your teen’s perspective is important, but so is giving them the tools they need to process new information and new perspectives. Journaling can be a great way to help teens process their thoughts and experiences, self-reflect on those events, and shape their world view.
Journaling can look different for different teenagers. Assess your teen’s interests and talents to help you decide what might most encourage them to journal.
Would your teen be more likely to use a traditional diary, or would they prefer to be in front of a camera, vlogging their thoughts?
Artistic teens might rather have a sketchbook where they could draw and jot down stray thoughts and feelings. Other teens might prefer bullet journals that include stickers and different-colored pens.
Talk to your teen about what medium might make them feel comfortable expressing their thoughts.
The teenage years are naturally a time of transition, which means that teens are naturally in a time of life that’s conducive to making big changes.
If you can guide your teen toward a path that encourages and facilitates time to self-reflect, they’ll most likely be willing to take the steps along that path themselves.
Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent mental health and drug treatment center dedicated to identifying, understanding and properly treating the core issues that impact teens and their families.