Men's Articles

Clarity Of Purpose - Where Am I Going?

"They just don't seem to know where they are heading." "I wish they would show interest in something." "If they carry on like this they'll achieve nothing." As parents of teenagers, we have most probably said something like this ourselves. We would love our children to have a clear sense of purpose. But let's face it - teenagers are not adults. The challenge is that they're not kids, either.

These years are characterised by lots of changes: changing hormones, changing eating habits, changing body shape, changing relationships, changing thought processing, changing sleeping habits, even changing skin! At times, our growing `little darlings' revert to toddlers, while in other ways they show tremendous responsibility and good sense.

One thing is for sure; they are very unlikely to have clear goals by the early to mid teenage years - but they will have interests and opinions. These may be somewhat offbeat and strong, but it's a starting point. Before we get onto specifics, let's remember that it's their life. Though they won't admit it, many parents like having teenagers so they can relive their adolescence.

If we could have our teenage years again, many of us would probably want more friends, better academic results, greater sporting success, fewer pimples and more fashionable glasses. Don't try to live your life vicariously through your teenager. Get a life of your own. This may be the most meaningful contribution towards helping teens find a sense of purpose.

Set A Good Example

This is perhaps the most significant factor in this process. Generally, we take after our parents. We look like them, sound like them and have similar mannerisms. Studies have shown that this goes beyond the physical and is evident in work habits, belief systems and social interactions as well. So, let's model purpose and all the other character traits we want our teenagers to have.

Don't moan, comment and criticise. Many a we11intentioned parent gets upset and starts to lecture their teenagers. However, the lesson is lost in the lecture. One approach is to say something like this, "I have some thoughts about that, would you like to hear them?" If you get the green light - go for it. If your teenager says "No" there's not much point in driving ahead, is there? They are unlikely to receive your well-intentioned words of wisdom.

Learn About Your Teen's Unique Personality And Interests!

If their interests are not "good enough" for you, don't write them off. Unless it's life threatening or morally threatening, encourage them. A 14-year-old is unlikely to pursue something right through in adulthood. If we squash or discourage them, they may become unmotivated and morose, and may even pursue unhealthy interests. Look for opportunities to stimulate new interests as well as learn more about their current passions.

This will open up communication. If you child shows interest in business, ask a friend who has a business if your teen can spread a day helping in some way. Similarly, if your teen is interested in hairstyling, arrange a visit to a local salon - in so doing, they will learn more about the industry. Visits and interviews are an excellent basis for discussion about future plans.

Respect Your Spouse

Your relationship with your spouse is another important factor. Do Mum and Dad speak well to each other, speak well about each other and listen to each other? If parents share hopes and dreams for their life together, their children will learn by seeing and feeling the sense of purpose. We know how different we are from our spouses, and respecting these differences is very important for our children.

Our teenagers are on a journey-they're not there yet! Part of the journey is the process of clarifying goals and purpose. This takes time; sometimes a long time. In fact, if we as adults consider the (sometimes agonising) path we ourselves took to develop a sense of purpose, we would be better placed to help and inspire our children. While we cannot make our teens have a sense of purpose and clear (and appropriate) goals for life; we can certainly encourage them on their way.

Make Time

There are no shortcuts to parenting teenagers. We need to invest in three things-time, time and time. Family meals are a great opportunity to have good two-way interaction. In many households, the family meal is interrupted by work, study, TV, handphones, etc. Make time a few nights each week to turn off the technology and sit and chat with the family as you enjoy a meal together.


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