Monthly Archives: May 2014

Put Down That Cell Phone and Find Your Passion

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When I was a teenager, I thought the happiest teens must be the ones who didn’t get acne.  Or the ones who got excellent grades.  Or perhaps the ones who had a lot of friends or a great wardrobe.  Now I’m convinced I had it all wrong.  Certainly clear skin, honor roll status and solid friendships help a kid feel better about himself in the roller-coaster teenage years.  But it seems that teens who are passionate about an activity (excluding texting and other forms of screen viewing) may be the ones who are the happiest of all – or at least the most resilient.

Recently at my son’s high school baseball game in a neighboring town, I was prepared to be impressed by the powerhouse opponent his team faced. And I was not disappointed (except for the fact that my son’s team lost).  Sitting in the bleachers, I wondered how this town always seemed to produce top notch sports teams… They did back when I was in high school and they continue to do so today.  They even have music blasting over loud speakers in between innings…. And an announcer who would sound great at Fenway Park.

That announcer, my daughter pointed out to me, is Johnny, a boy she went to preschool with, fourteen years ago, who she remembers, happens to share her September 11th birthday.  Now Johnny has a commanding voice and is doing what he loves: announcing at sports games.  He’s been doing it since fifth grade, when he happily volunteered to fill in for an announcer at a Mighty Mites football game.  Now a senior, he and his best friend Luke (who started up a sports advice site  http://www.streakadvice.com/) will attend college in Alabama in September.  They will take different routes to attain sports-related careers but they have already booked air time to host a sports radio show on campus this fall.   Now that’s passion.

Even if a teen happens to love the challenge of reading Shakespeare and doing complex math problems (and I’m sure there are some who do), having a passion outside of school hours could make some of the daily challenges of high school – the coursework, the teen drama, the acne, the moodiness – feel less burdensome.  Finding a passion could even lead to career ideas or opportunities.  I went to high school with a girl whose love of sewing beginning in seventh grade home economics class, eventually lead to a successful career in fashion design.

A friend of mine was uncertain about her son’s interest in auto mechanic work.  She and her husband earned advanced degrees and are now professionals working in medicine and law. When their son and a classmate from his vocational high school scored the highest in the state of Massachusetts in an automotive repair competition last year and qualified for a competition at the national level, she finally realized this type of hands-on work was his passion.

But what if a teen doesn’t seem to have a passion?

Not knowing what one’s passion is, is similar to not knowing what careers are out there.  There are probably many that are suitable for each individual but until they are discovered, they can’t be tried.**

At my kids’ high school, an Ultimate Frisbee club has formed because enough kids expressed an interest in it.  Where was this game when I was in high school?  It’s obvious to anyone driving by, that these kids love their game.

1999021Quidditch – the game played with broomsticks, made popular by Harry Potter — is gaining in popularity.  I know a 23 year old who plays regularly.  Really!

Do my kids have passions?  My tween enjoys soccer, lacrosse and cooking (breakfast food, that is).  My son plays baseball, hockey and golf.   And my soon-to-be college student enjoys singing and lately, scrapbooking.  Will they make careers out of these passions?  Maybe indirectly.  Maybe not at all.  Their passions may even change.  But they may add some much-needed relief when life gets bumpy.

 

** Check out this site for hobbies you and your teen may not know about:

http://www.notsoboringlife.com/list-of-hobbies/ .

 

photo:  youthultimateproject.org

 

Learning To Let Go

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This week my second child got his license.  I was at work, staring nervously at the clock when his road test was scheduled to take place.  I prayed that if Warren, the intimidating registry inspector was assigned to give him his road test, he would remain focused on the task of driving safely and using the proper signals.

Moments later, a text came to me. I GOT MY LICENSE!  This was followed by a picture of him behind the wheel, ready to take his first solo ride back to school. Fantastic.

How did this happen?  How is he old enough to drive away alone?  I distinctly remember standing in our driveway (the one he just backed out of alone), watching the kindergarten bus take him away for his first day of school.  He was smiling happily.  I, on the other hand, couldn’t talk to the grandparents and neighbors standing with me. The lump in my throat prevented any sound from escaping.

Why is it so hard for me to let go?

As a parent, I’m fully aware that letting go is necessary if my kids are to become independent.  Letting go means letting them make some decisions on their own and letting them be responsible for their own actions.  This is not easy.  It’s hard for me to refrain from reminding, warning and advising my children — about everything that they should do, everything that could happen — even though I know it’s more helpful to trust that they are making good decisions and choices.  It’s perfectly normal for teenagers to not want to hear the reminders, warnings and advice because they want to be trusted. In fact, it is the occasional eye rolling that reminds me I may need to back off and let go.

Letting go and accepting that some mistakes will be made is an essential part of raising teenagers who will be able to function on their own.  I am still in the process of learning this.  I was recently upset, then pleased when a heavy package containing a high school text book arrived to our house via UPS.  Frankly, I couldn’t understand how a big textbook could be misplaced somewhere between school and home but my daughter took the initiative and ordered another, gently used one, and paid to have it delivered to our home.  I was not involved in any part of the process, yet the problem was solved. (She would not be allowed to graduate, I realize now, if she did not produce a textbook).

My son learned a valuable lesson when he showed up to play a high school baseball game and his uniform pants were caked with dirt from the previous game.  His coach was disappointed in his appearance and voiced his feelings in front of the team.  Since then, making sure his uniform gets into the laundry has become one of my son’s priorities, even if that means moving wet clothes from the washing machine to a temporary basket to make room for his uniform.  I can accept that.

Bigger mistakes, I realize, will result in bigger lessons.  A friend recently told me she wishes all new drivers could experience a minor car accident so they could learn how it feels and how easily it can happen to even the most attentive drivers.  How will my young drivers react to being pulled over by a police officer?  How will they deal with running out of gas when they are far from a gas station?

Years ago, before they had their own cell phones, my kids would occasionally call from the school office.  I forgot my trumpet.  Or, You forgot to sign my reading log. Or, I owe money for lunch.  Unshowered, I would jump in the car and drive up to the school to make everything right. I wanted them to receive credit for homework they had completed.  I didn’t want them to owe money for lunch or to have to sit and watch during band practice or gym class while everyone else participated.

At the time, the simple act of driving less than two miles to help my child, felt right.  What I didn’t fully realize then, as some wise parents did, was that letting my kids face the consequences of their mistakes or absent-mindedness, is often wiser than rushing in to rescue them.  Kids learn from their mistakes, even if the same mistakes are repeated over and over again.  If the lessons don’t sink in right away, they will eventually.

By the time they are in high school, teenagers have been told over and over again to do their best.  They know that hard work and perseverance in any activity is the key to success and that beginning in high school, grades really do count (on transcripts).   It is up to them to show up, do their best, and ask for help if they need it.  When they learn this most valuable lesson, the possibilities for them are endless.

 

 

What Students Really Need to Hear

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What Students Really Need to Hear

I am sharing this with anyone who cares deeply about teenagers. Please share it with the teens in your life!

AFFECTIVE LIVING

It’s 4 a.m.  I’ve struggled for the last hour to go to sleep.  But, I can’t.  Yet again, I am tossing and turning, unable to shut down my brain.  Why?  Because I am stressed about my students.  Really stressed.  I’m so stressed that I can only think to write down what I really want to say — the real truth I’ve been needing to say — and vow to myself that I will let my students hear what I really think tomorrow.

This is what students really need to hear:

First, you need to know right now that I care about you. In fact, I care about you more than you may care about yourself.  And I care not just about your grades or your test scores, but about you as a person. And, because I care, I need to be honest with you. Do I have permission to be…

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