In Guiding Your Teenager

Take First Things First

We have seen that hiding feelings is not effective. We've seen that feelings which remain hidden manage in some way to come out in uncontrolled and often in unhealthy, destructive and inappropriate acts.

To avoid the acts by which a teenager is apt to hurt himself and others, it is necessary for him to have the courage to accept his own feelings at the same time maintaining his self-regard. This you need to help him do. And this you can accomplish by letting him know that you accept his feelings--his "good" feelings and his so-called "bad" feelings--and that you think no less of him.

How important acceptance is, you yourself can testify if you stop to think.

When you have certain feelings and they're not understood, you feel disappointed and disapproved of. Your sense of intimacy and contact are broken.

"You're lucky that your child's accident wasn't worse!" This is mighty poor comfort when you've been worried over whether or not he would regain full motion in his fractured knee.

"It doesn't matter a bit that your cake fell; you'll do better next time!" This brings slim consolation. You care about this time; not next.

"You don't have to worry about that exam, Son. You know your stuff!" But this, too, does not help. It may instead estrange the son. He is worried and it's his worry that he wants you to understand.

Blond Ann looks up, her eyes blazing. "That mother of mine! She's got no more sense in her head than a flea. I tell her I'm in love with Tom and she says, 'You'll get over it. You're only sixteen.' . . . As if my feelings didn't count simply because I'm two years underage. She makes me furious. I'd like to strike her dead. She doesn't understand me at all."

Young Pete, too, is angry. "You know what my dad said when I told him the other fellow got the job I'd been angling for? He said, 'Be sensible, Pete. There's no need for you to feel sore. Your boss never told you, did he, that he was going to give you that job?' Well, granted he hadn't. But it didn't make me feel any better to have my dad rub it in."

What Pete craved at the moment was not the sane, reasoning approach to disappointment. Nor was it a cheering-him-up kind of pity either that he craved. For this often carries a strange flat flavor.

"Don't feel bad, darling, that you lost your kitten! We'll get you another one tomorrow!" This cheers and consoles but it also directs the person away from his troubled feelings. And so it very subtly says, "You have no right to feel as you do."

"Don't worry, dear, over the operation. It isn't serious. Everything will be all right. It's done every day." Again the cheering on is present. But again the true feelings are told to disappear.

If someone implies that you should feel differently or tells you that you should not feel what you do feel, it doesn't make your feelings leave. The sense of disappointment or fear or chagrin or excitement is still in you. You can be told a dozen times, "Calm yourself now. Be steady!" But if you're not calm, such cautioning is obviously in vain.

No comments: