By Georgia Smith-Lyle, Licensed Professional Counselor
We have all been a teenager and come from the pressures and influence of culture. Not all cultural influence has a negative bend. However, as a therapist who counsels teenagers in today’s culture, I have strong concerns.
The past year and half COVID 19 has heightened the negative cultural influences that already existed with our teens. I call them “our teens” because it takes a village to raise a child. Children will be influenced by the world around them. We all have a part to play, directly or indirectly, in the lives and characters of tomorrow’s leaders.
Present times have been challenging and our teens have exhibited more fear, anxiety, suicidal ideation, isolation, depression, vaping, and pornography to name a few issues. Of course, teens want more than anything to be accepted and connect with friends at school, on sports teams, or church events. The opportunity for those normal connections were severely altered by COVID 19. That is not news to any of us, but the severe impact on our teenagers has fostered so much concern. In my profession, I am seeing all the above issues heightened. I want to offer hope, encouragement and tools for those parents who are raising a teen at home.
First, if your own life and home life have been filled with any of the above issues, get some help for yourself. Our children of all ages need to see parents who are secure, and working towards positive growth for themselves. Our teenagers in particular understand and sense far more than they might tell you and parents are their role models.
Second, connect with your teen on their level and engage the family to do things together. Find out what gifts, talents and desires your teen has and do what you can to get them involved with the things they find enjoyable, fulfilling and can identify with in a positive way. They need direction and focus on activities that promote confidence and positive growth. Remember, boredom leaves room for the mind to gravitate to areas that may compromise their character.
Third, if you see your teenager struggling, pulling away, or isolating, get some help for them. Also, know who your teenager is friends with as best you can. The influence of others their age or older will impact them for the rest of their lives. Pay attention to their phones and the influence of social media. Social media today has strongly and severely influenced our children/teens in negative ways.
As a parent, will you stand by while your child has access to anything possible, they want to see, or will you guard and protect them from things they have no idea will harm them destructively? Social media is an epidemic dilemma and parents with teens are the only ones who can help change the social media dilemma that can harm teenagers’ emotional development.
Fourth, teenagers and hard work are a great combination. Hard work builds character and teaches those who work hard that not everything is given to them. Being lazy and not caring, while someone gives you everything, does not develop strong leadership or basic honorable character.
For those reading this article, I want to encourage you to continue the positive impact you have on our teens. For those who this article has highlighted some needed changes, I’m glad I could be a small influence through an article.
I’m a mom and a grandmother, as well as a therapist. The most important job I ever had was raising my children and trying to direct their development in a positive way. To all parents, one of the most important jobs and opportunities you have is directing these young lives to be all they can become.
Georgia Smith-Lyle is a Mental Health Counselor in Dallas and surrounding areas. Her main office is in McKinney, and her ranch office is in Petty, Texas, where she utilizes Equine Assisted Psychotherapy with her horses. She is also an author and is passionate about writing. She and her husband, Jeff, have begun a retreat venue which will host all different occasions (whiteroseranch.com). To reach Georgia, email her at email@example.com, or call 469-855-0256.