Everyone is busy, busy, busy. Our society dictates to all of us, including teens, that to be busy means we are important, and that our lives are filled with purpose. But is that the best life lesson we can teach our teens? Our lives get so full of activities and busyness, we don’t take time for the things that are truly important. Teens need to learn to be busy doing the RIGHT things.
How do you hone in on what is most important?
Teaching teens to focus on the most important things or activities in their lives now can teach them valuable lessons later on about how to structure their time, and thus their lives.
Ask your teen these key questions:
- What makes you really happy?
- What activity brings you the most joy and satisfaction?
- What are you doing that makes you feel useful, like you are really contributing?
- What are your goals for leaving your greatest impact on the world?
Help your teen figure out the answers to those questions, and then zero in on the involvements that agree with her goals, and thus help her achieve her optimum mode of operation. Activities are certainly good and beneficial, so long as your teen is doing something that is fulfilling to him and that makes him happy.
I realize that may seem a bit heavy for teenagers to have to think about. Many of them just want to make it through their next math test or English class essay. But the sum total of your teen’s daily activities does actually contribute to his long term goals, and not in a small way.
The book Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a fantastic resource to help teens and adults alike figure out what is really important, what is essential, in their lives. It discusses many aspects of how we can get overloaded with priorities from other people, and how those priorities can grossly interfere with how we want to live our lives.
The author uses an example of your closet and how it can get overfull of items you don’t need or that you don’t even enjoy wearing. He says to imagine cleaning out your clothes closet, only to have someone else stuff more into it by the end of the day. Our lives work much the same way if we don’t have a well-executed plan for keeping the closet of our lives organized and protected from other people’s clutter.
Teens need to learn how to prioritize their lives and activities just as much as adults do. How else will they be prepared later on when doing their jobs or managing their families? We as parents must teach them life skills they need in order to succeed. So often, we take for granted that the public school system is going to take care of those things for us, but it just isn’t true.
In fairness, the school system has its hands full teaching other things, like math, English, science, and History, among other things. Unfortunately teaching everyday life skills, such as time management, finances, budgeting and checking account management, how to do their taxes, and other crucial skills must be left to outside teaching sources.
Another critical factor: Sleep
Your teen needs more sleep than you think
Sleep is another underrated quantity that teens desperately need. According to the National Sleep Foundation website, teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Only 15% of teens surveyed reported getting as much as 8 ½ hours.
Teens are so overloaded with schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, that sleep gets shoved to the back of the line. We all seem to wear our lack of sleep and overbooking as a badge of honor.
According to McKeown in Essentialism, eating and sleeping properly are known as “protecting the asset.” If we wear our bodies down and don’t bother with critical maintenance, we forfeit our health and our means to succeed in the long run. Another bad lesson to convey to teens.
In summary, I know from personal experience it is easy to get overloaded and over committed, but learning how to enjoy your child while she is still with you, and helping her to enjoy her own life, is something you will never regret. Make plans together, and make every effort to honor those plans. Figure out what is most important to both of you, and pursue that course.
What about you? Do you sometimes feel your teen is drowning in activities? I would love to hear about your experiences and anything you have to say on this topic. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
As a bonus, I am offering you a free download of my ebook, The Seventh Request. It is the inspiring story of how Andrea, our last 7 year adventure, came to be. I hope you will read it and be blessed by it. Just click on the title.
Coming next week: The Exceptional Teen Feature for April! Watch for it.