Over the past few weeks, we have been reflecting together on the addition of Positive Childhood Experiences in our teens and children’s lives. Please be sure to read the entire series as each blog post highlights various application strategies.
The next two PCEs we will cover include experiencing a feeling of belonging in high school and feeling supported by friends. These two experiences can be difficult to navigate, but we cannot avoid their importance in the lives of our childrens and teens. While caregivers do not have complete control over the application of these two PCEs, parents have plenty of opportunity to model and provide support.
As we noted in our last blog post, it is important to give your child a voice as they begin to identify their interests and hobbies. Listen to what interests your teen and help them find avenues to connect to others who express a similar interest. For example, your teen may express an interest in reading and watching anime. Help your student log on to the school’s website and search for clubs that may align with this interest. If there is not a club, consider encouraging them to charter a new club at their school. By connecting with others with similar interests, your teen will find that they feel a sense of connection and belonging with their peers.
If your child or teen is expressing concerns regarding their peer relationships, take time to listen to their worries and fears. Provide a safe space for your teen and validate their thoughts and feelings (if you need help validating go back and read this post!) It may be that your teen would like some support for problem solving but be sure to ask first and walk through the problem solving together with your teen’s permission. Often our teens just want to know that they are heard and understood, and they are able to problem solve on their own.
While it is important to find connections in school, connections outside of school provide opportunities for lasting friendships. If your teen is expressing difficulty connecting with peers in the school building, begin looking for what your community has to offer. There are recreational sports leagues, programs for gaming in the public libraries, and pet training classes. Connection does not always have to look like a sports team. Teens can meet with other students for book clubs, gaming clubs, archery, and theater. Be willing to think outside the box - your teen will thank you for your creativity and willingness to provide them with autonomy as they begin to identify what interests them.
Model the importance of friendship and connection in your home. Take time to invest in your own relationships by joining your own clubs and activities. When you come home and discuss the experience - be vulnerable and share the things that made you nervous and how you worked through them. Normalize the variety of feelings that inherently come with establishing friendships.
If your teen is experiencing increased anxiety regarding relationships and social interactions, consider a quick consult with KS Services. While some anxious thoughts are normal, the intensity and frequency of these thoughts should not interfere with your teens’ ability to engage in relationships and function academically and socially. Feel free to seek support in determining if your child needs further assistance finding meaningful connection.
Licensed Resident in Counseling