Dear teenagers: You are getting so close to launching into this world. I’m so proud. I’m also terrified.
Have I taught you enough? Have I prepared you to face the world? Do you know how much you are loved?
So, I wanted to share the thirteen best pieces of advice I’ve received in my life. These have become my mantras, my mottos, my guiding principles.
These are the things that get me through, and the things that I think can get you through, too.
It took me longer to learn some of these, so I’m telling you now. Embrace them all and you’ll live a happy life.
You may also like to read: Dear Son at 16, These Are 25 Truths I Want You to Know
13 Pieces of Advice for My Teen
13. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Don’t ever stop being grateful for the little things. Be thankful for the air you breathe and the food on your table because there are so many people that do without. Whenever you find yourself spiraling into the negativity, take a moment to write out what you are grateful for in your life….your health, your friends, your family, your pet…whatever it is, and remember how lucky you are. Gratitude can carry you through the darkest of times.
12. Time waits for no one. There will be a million times that you say the timing is not right. Don’t get stuck in the “I will do it when….” trap. Take the trip. Jump into a new career. Go back to school. Ask for a day off. Seek out joy wherever you can. Honor your responsibilities, but spend your life looking forward to what you can do next, as opposed to glancing over your shoulder at what you missed.
11. The way someone treats you is a reflection on them, not you, so try to always see the best in people. Remember there is often a reason behind a snide comment or freak out or someone withdrawing. Instead of reacting out of your hurt, check in on their pain. Break the cycle.
10. Change your thinking, change your life. Have you ever heard of the snap-back effect? It’s the thought that no matter how circumstances change–more money, new job, losing weight–we will always revert back to what our self-image tells us we deserve out of life. So, no matter what we change, we snap back to what we believe about ourselves. Our lives only change for the better, when we believe better about ourselves. It’s not our circumstances that make us content. It’s our thinking and approach to life. Love yourself for the wonderful human you are, and the world will love you too.
9. Grudges are like weights on your soul, so let them go. Be a forgiver. You don’t have to keep toxic people in your life, but don’t carry around the burden of being angry at someone who was probably hurt by someone else. Remember, forgiveness frees YOU from the burden.
8. Do the little things because they matter. Fill out the paperwork before you go to the doctor. Return the book on time. Follow up with a recommendation for a friend. Honor your commitments. Thank your waiter. Pick up trash. Don’t do these things because they make you feel good, do these little things because they are a big deal to someone else.
7. Get outside every single day. Look up at the sky. Watch sunsets. Admire the changing leaves. Marvel at the rolling clouds. Getting some fresh air will always enhance your mood. Screens are the cancer of your generation. Don’t forget that nature provides the best entertainment and will always clear your head.
6. When you find a good friend, hold on for life because you don’t get out of it what you put into it–you’ll get infinitely more. More support, more love, more caring than you ever thought you deserve. And don’t keep score. Just work hard to love the people you know love you too.
5. You are responsible for your happiness. Period. Not your spouse, not your kids, not your parents, not your friends, not your employer. Just you. That means when you are unhappy you need to assess your situation, speak up, and make a change. When you continue to be irritated by a situation that doesn’t change, you also are refusing to change. Remember that.
4. It’s okay to feel pain and sadness. As a culture, we try to avoid it at all costs, but leaning into these emotions can make you stronger. Trying to fill a void in your life with a person–or with another tangible such as food, alcohol, drugs, etc.–is a lost cause. Learn how to manage extreme emotions with healthy coping mechanisms, like exercise, meditation, talking with a friend, and rest, and you’ll be able to handle whatever life throws at you.
3. Listen more than you talk. Ask questions. Inquire into the lives of your friends beyond a “How are you?” Find out what makes someone tick. Listen to their story. Learn how they grew up and what shaped their lives. Understanding others’ perspectives that are vastly different than your own will make you a more compassionate human. This is what changes the world.
Want to stay connected to your teen daughter? Check out this Mother/Teen Girl Gratitude Journal.
2. Work smart, play more. It’s great to have a fulfilling productive career, but we should work to live, not live to work. Schedule out time to do the things you love. Read great books. Watch old movies. Hike a mountain. Volunteer. Find your passions and what you love to do and when life gets tough–and it will–you will still be able to find satisfaction.
1. Be kind. Always. Treat people better than they deserve. Make them feel special regardless of their status. Give grace. Because you never know when you’ll need the kindness returned or whose life you can change for the better.
And as a bonus, remember as your grandmother always says, joy cometh in the morning. Everything will look better in the new day’s light.
These teen years are hard. Here’s a collection of some of our favorite books to stay connected to your child.
3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager: Making the Most of Your Conversations and ConnectionsGratitude Journal for Teen Girls and Moms: Shared Prompts for Connection and JoySeen: Despair and Anxiety in Kids and Teenagers and the Power of ConnectionLove Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage DaughterStaying Connected to Your Teenager, Revised Edition: How to Keep Them Talking to You and How to Hear What They’re Really SayingThe Art of Talking With Your TeenagerA Survival Guide to Parenting Teens: Talking to Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You OutGet Your Teenager Talking: Everything You Need to Spark Meaningful ConversationsGrown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent AdultsDoes Your Teen Talk? No, but They Text, Snap, & Tik Tok: 10 Subjects Every Parent Should Ask Their Teen to Get Them Talking More in a Digital World
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