Part of teaching your teen how to become a responsible adult is instilling in them senses of compassion, empathy and social awareness that will help them foster better relationships and build stronger communities. They are our future, after all.
But with so many social issues in the spotlight, it can be hard to know where to start. Therapist Alisha Powell knows teaching young adults about social responsibility can be overwhelming, which is why she suggests starting in your own backyard.
"Model social involvement," Powell encourages parents. "So, being aware of what's going on on the local political level, who's running for city council, who's running for mayor and also being aware of things on the ballot on the local level that's going to impact the community and families in the area." Powell also suggests encouraging teens to volunteer in areas that interest them, whether at an animal shelter or a soup kitchen.
There's arguably never been a better time to encourage teens to pay attention to national and global affairs too, though it can be hard sometimes to rationalize letting our children watch the news when the president himself embodies some of the characteristics we might feel uncomfortable passing along to our kids.
"I think that if there ever was a time to be more socially aware, it's now because of the climate that we're in and the policies that are being passed that have impacts on millions of people," Powell added. "Yes, the news is unfortunate, and yes, the news can be really depressing, but the news also is a source of discussion and dialogue and speaks to the need for more activism on the local level. It also speaks to the need for more information and more education on how politics works and who gets elected and what term [limits they have] and what impacts it has on the rights of marginalized people."
Though there are many debates about the value social media brings to young adults' lives, platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are helping connect teens from all over the world as they rally for social justice and support each other through difficult times. Recently, we saw teens reach out and bolster each other's voices following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Great Mills high schools earlier this year. Millions of young people comforted one another and rallied for change. They proved they weren't just young voices stuck behind screens when they demanded legislators pass sensible gun legislation at the March For Our Lives events across the country. Parents can take a cue from those remarkable teens and treat their own kids like the potential changemakers they truly are.
When it comes to parenting, everyone wants to do what's best for their children. We want to provide them with the most exceptional educational opportunities while also pushing them to excel in extracurricular activities like sports and music. We want them to be studious, social, considerate, empathetic and cultured; but above all, we want them to be happy.
There will inevitably be rough patches as you guide your teen into adulthood. There may be times when you feel underappreciated or when your teen thinks you are being overbearing. You'll see many sides of both yourself and your children along the journey — strength, humility and, yes, even stubbornness. But the beauty of relationships is that they can be resilient during the ebbs and flows of life. The more flexible and forgiving you can be with yourself and your kids, the more likely it is your bond will carry on far into their adult lives. And who knows? Maybe one day they'll be the ones asking you for parenting tips.
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