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Blog > Teen Counseling
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Today teens are faced with blurred lines between real and fake self-expression. It is difficult for them to take the beginning steps to consider self-knowledge, truthfulness, and other building blocks as they move to personal growth. As they function with greater genuineness, they become more aware of the many aspects of themselves.
It is difficult for teens to think about themselves first, rather than how they appear to other people. Having grown up with social media, this generation will not have the security of knowing whether they developed as they otherwise may have.
This is a culture where certainty about what is real and what is not has been shattered on many fronts–social media is making its own impact towards distortion. Learning by social comparison is an established method of human growth, and it’s normally persistent in adolescence. However, now with social media and demanded performance, it is more of a weapon with possible mass destruction. Viewers may assume that a person’s postings are reflections of their real life—-even when you doubt that they are true. This creates self-doubt and questioning of “am I measuring up to the others” and fears of being left out.
There is a vast web of judging. The distortions are public and permanent and open for assessment by others. The “likes” are counted and used as assurances of significance. Most people want to be accepted and developing a sense of self in that context can be destructive. Developing a sense of self in that context lacks spending time thinking about what’s important to you—instead, you are thinking about what other people value. This typically leads to feelings of insecurity or failure or dismissal. It begins to shrink your self-confidence bit by bit.
Then you begin to loathe yourself for caring about it at all.
Directing your identity growth requires time away from social media. It takes some solitude to get to know how to be yourself. Some alone time allows you to think about what is important to you. It gives you a zone that is free of judgment. It produces self-awareness and personal growth. It allows you to be able to choose the people that you are comfortable with and that will help with your continued growth. These are relationships that provide true social support and validation and allow for healthy experimentation without judgment. This is true support versus judgment by other people’s exaggerations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to help in learning to validate and appreciate self. It is important to learn the skills of how to direct your thoughts and move forward with a physical action to avoid being trapped in the whirlwind of being judged by others.
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We’ve heard a lot about elderly and people with underlying medical conditions being at high risk during this virus pandemic. Frequently we have forgotten or avoided talking about the teen population that does not fit into these two categories. The teens that are not allowed to see their friends or play sports or go anywhere.
These teens are a high-risk group for stress and anxiety and depression. They are mature enough to understand there is a risk; however, it is difficult for them to see themselves as part of the “at risk” group. Most teens are accustomed to being able to get out and do activities with their friends. It may be playing sports, jogging, walking, riding bicycles, going to movies or other activities.
Teens usually have a lot of energy. They are wonderful; full of curiosity, creativity, and adventure. They are beginning to make some mature/adult decisions about their lives. Now that this virus/pandemic has shut things down or closed them off greatly, there is pent up energy (mentally and physically). What do these teens do with this fantastic energy? Do we hold them back or help them continue their lives in a different mode?
Trauma is created in many different ways. We can say it is better to be safe than sorry. That’s true. However, we also need to consider the damage being done to people (teens) that are being “locked up” with all this mental and physical energy. Now they are cornered with lack of control over their lives and lack of experience on how to deal with this kind of shutdown. Just when they are beginning to make some adult decisions, they get stopped and stagnated. They are at a crossroad of childhood and adulthood and now they get slammed with this trauma. It’s like a train with speed and destination and out of nowhere comes this big Stop crossing. It leaves the teens in limbo especially the younger teens.
As parents and teachers and any teen leader, we are responsible for helping our teens to see a different perspective on how to live their lives in a healthy and rewarding way. How to create a life past this pandemic.
Remember: the older teens usually have a vehicle that they can go and do some things. Younger teens are stuck depending on the adults in their lives to provide them with a means of transportation. They cannot get into their cars/trucks and drive to a site to work or visit with friends. They are stuck depending on older adults who are busy with work and paying bills.
I believe teens are also a high-risk group because of the isolation and lack of control that can lead to depression, anxiety, fear, anger, sleep problems and many other issues.
In the past, their lives were going along with a bright future with school, friends, sports; then this train wreck was dumped in their way. There has been and will continue for a while to be negative effects from this virus pandemic. Thank goodness some places and activities are beginning to open up for all of us.
Note: An important part of our job as adults is to help our teens see/plan past this pandemic fear and shutdown. This is an important time to use our Cognitive Behavior Skills of communicating effectively, problem solving and team playing.
I believe our teens are highly intelligent and creative. My grandson, Christopher, contributed to this Blog. His input was helpful in acknowledging and organizing the effects of this pandemic on teens. With helpful and understanding adults, our teens will be our next generation of mature and thoughtful adults.
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Lisa H. Lang Ph.D. is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) & marriage and family therapist (LMFT) located in Flower Mound, TX with over 30 years experience. She is a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and life coach offering psychotherapy, hypnosis, and other solutions to those seeking counseling. Dr. Lang is conveniently located to residents of Flower Mound, Lewisville, Carrollton, Southlake, Grapevine, Coppell, and the Dallas/Fort Worth area.