It Doesn't Have To Suck
I started teaching Middle and High School just as my oldest child entered middle school. I made so many mistakes during her teen years and with her brothers who followed. I thought that I was preparing them for adolescence by telling them that Middle and High School sucks for everyone. I had thought that I was being an honest, understanding, and helpful parent. . When their lives inevitably sucked over the next six years, they would know that they were normal, right? And it does suck for everyone, right?
Instead, what I prepared them for was misery. I also think I prepared them for feeling alone, when my intention was to make them feel the opposite. “Generations of humans have turned 13 and become miserable, and we’ve survived it even though it sucked. It’s not you - it just sucks.”
Maybe they did feel less alone because of my brilliant statement, but instead I think they heard, get through it.” Why would they come to me and share their pain, when I had told them that it’s “just what happens to everyone”? So, during those years, they didn’t share their frustrations, annoyance, and discomfort with me until they couldn’t hide it, and I asked over and over what was happening. It wasn’t until they were in crisis or nearly so that I was aware of what they were going through. Once I was, I think I was helpful. I listened, I got them help from therapists and “You’re not special. Your pain isn’t interesting or important. You are supposed to suffer, so just from other adult confidants. I helped them fight their fights with controlling teachers, cruel friends, and pressures that felt overwhelming.
Now that I have worked with teens for years, have been educated by my children, and am a coach for teens, I have come to a huge realization: It doesn’t have to suck.
This is why I work with teens. I know that it may suck at times. The one thing that makes it so much worse is when it sucks, and they are alone - alone with their thoughts, alone with their pain, and alone and seeing no way out. When it does, I can help. I listen. I take them at their word - I believe their feelings, success, failures, ideas, and plans are exactly what they say they are. They can tell me about their lives, thoughts, and feelings because we don’t have a whole lifetime of history like I did with my kids, and I don’t have to make them do the dishes later. Being an adult who is not their parent helps, being trained in evidence based practices which have been vetted by psychologists and master coaches helps, and being a former teen who knows that though life may suck, having someone to listen and ask questions to help you make a plan to get through the suck and on to the joy helps enormously.
All of life sucks sometimes. Being a coach means I can be there through those sucky times, and help a teen remind herself, “It won’t always suck, and it never has to suck alone.”