But the basic human struggles stay the same. We all want to have friends and meaningful relationships, to enjoy life, to have opportunities available to us so that we can make our dreams come true, and much else besides. No one wants to be hurt, isolated, unloved, or alone.
While the details may be different, the basics are the same. So, when older people take the opportunity, as we’re doing here, to reflect on their past and the things they wish they’d known or heard when they were sixteen, it doesn’t hurt to listen. Maybe something will make sense and resonate with you.
Advice for Teens
Your parents are on your side.
When you’re young it may seem like your parents and the authority figures in your life are trying to thwart your joy and kill your vibe. The rules, the “talks,” the lectures and all that seem to testify to the fact. The instincts of most of the adults in your life likely tend toward protection and nurturing.
Yes, they may be a bit clumsy or heavy-handed at times, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t on your side and don’t love you. They know what it’s like to be a teenager, and they are doing their best to help you walk your journey in a way that leaves you in one piece at the end of it.
Don’t rush to grow up.
The future is tomorrow. Time flies faster than you might think, and what was a distant future becomes “next year” or “next month.” You’re growing up faster than you realize, so instead of yearning to be an adult, do adult things, wear adult clothes and so on, just let the process of growing up happen naturally.
There is a time and a season for everything, as the teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes says. As a teen, you’re no longer a child, but you’re not quite an adult just yet. We often find ourselves straining to get to the next milestones in our lives, instead of enjoying when and where we are, being content where God has placed us. Enjoy the present and you’ll become an adult in due time.
It’s not the end.
Sometimes the things that happen to us feel like the biggest thing that could happen – we feel immobilized, crushed, and gripped by events. It may be a party coming up this weekend. It may be a big test or game. It may be a date. FOMO makes it feel like if you don’t get into it now or if you don’t have this experience now, then your life is over and there’s no coming back. We fear that things may pass us by, and that fear can be overwhelming and lead to poor choices being made.
If you miss out on something, know that it’s not the end, even if it feels that way. Life goes on. There will be other opportunities in different circumstances, and your life doesn’t hinge on this one moment. When necessary, be willing to say “no” to your friends (and to yourself), just as you’re willing at times to say “no” to your parents.Sometimes what crashes into your world is the loss of important relationships. It may feel like the end; like you’ve lost a part of yourself. Each relationship is unique, and it speaks to a certain part of us, but losing that relationship is not the end of you.
Know that friends will often come and go, and the friends you have now will likely not be the same friends you have in college or when you’re much older. This may be sad to think about , but it happens, and it’s not the end of your life. New friends will come your way, as will new experiences to which you can say “yes” without regret.
Find your voice.
It should go without saying that you are unique, made in God’s image, and that you have infinite worth. You also have a purpose, and God has given you the gifts and strength you need to live out that purpose. Those gifts, which include your unique voice, need to be cultivated and nurtured. Peer pressure can dull that voice if you let it.
Resist peer pressure, with the knowledge that “cool” is a constantly shifting target. It is more important to find what works for you. Chasing what’s cool is like chasing after the wind – you will keep chasing it and even if you catch it, it shifts again, and the chase continues. You’ll exhaust yourself trying to fit someone else’s definition of “cool.” Besides, what’s cool for one crowd isn’t for another. Some people are into parties while others aren’t. Others are deep into music, art or tabletop cards and other games. What you are into is important and it’s worth discovering.
Do yourself a favor and don’t just follow the crowd or go with the flow. Be willing to step out and protect those who can’t protect or speak for themselves. Instead of chasing “cool,” pursue authenticity. Be willing to be yourself and learn to grow comfortable in your own skin. You’ll find your own tribe and attract like-minded people who find you cool and interesting just as you do them.
Take care of yourself.
There’s a lot of stuff out there that can negatively affect your health and sense of wellbeing. As you go through life, you must look out for your mental, physical, and emotional health. Get some exercise in, whether that’s walking, playing sports, or anything else. Do what works for you (and what your doctor gives you the green light for). It’s good for your body and your mental health.
Take steps to protect yourself online and in the relationships you’re in. There are people out there who are more than willing to take advantage of you, so you need to be savvy in your online and personal interactions.
The reality of online and in-person bullying also means that school or another venue may not feel like a safe place. Talk to your parents or another trusted individual if you’re unsure about something or if you’re facing bullying of any kind. It’s better to be on the safe side.
Also, being a teen carries its own pressures from school, peer relationships, and so on. Some of this may be overwhelming for you, and that happens to all of us at one point or another. Be willing to ask for help when you need it; it’s a bold and courageous step to do so, and far from being a sign of weakness.
Lastly, you must learn to love yourself. Invest in yourself and your personal growth. Do the things that you enjoy and that bring light to your life and know that you have infinite worth in the Lord’s eyes. To learn to value the things that make you who you are there is no better place to go for that than to your maker. God loves you with infinite love, and as you grow older, let your roots grow deeper and your understanding of who God is grow with you.
As you grow up, begin setting aside childish things and begin thinking in an adult way about your own faith. No doubt your faith has faced challenges, and high school can be brutal that way. At a certain point, it’s not enough to believe in God because your parents do – you need to start figuring things out for yourself, so that your faith and walk with God is something you own.
“Cable Bridge”, Courtesy of Cristofer Jeschke, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Admiring the View”, Courtesy of Adam Birkett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Dave Goudreau, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Shadow on the Wall”, Courtesy of Sirisvisual, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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