Something has been happening since The Teenage Guide to Stress was published in 2014. Quite rightly, there has been a strong public focus on the devastating problem of teenage mental illness. While I’m very glad about this, there’s an unintended consequence: an impression that adolescence is a mental illness, that “teenage” is synonymous with “problem”, that bad things will happen in the teenage years, that it’s a time to be endured and survived, rather than lived well. We focus on the problems and forget the positives, the power.
Something else: normal negative human emotions are too often viewed as a problem, as if anger, anxiety, fear and sadness were demons; as though feeling those things means there’s something wrong with your mental state. But “negative” emotions are entirely proper. It’s healthy to feel angry when someone treats us badly; anxious or afraid when faced with frightening things; miserable after sad events. Not to have those feelings would be unhealthy.
Positively Teenage remembers the following:
- That adolescence is a natural, positive, essential and temporary stage of development
- That parents and young people should welcome and be excited by the idea of a young person moving strongly and healthily towards adulthood and independence
- That there might be “downs” along the journey – in fact, there probably will be, because that’s life, whatever our age
- But that a positive, healthy and knowledgeable approach helps us live through the downs and enjoy the ups
- That although “bad things happen”, good things happen, too, and many teenagers go through these few years perfectly well, becoming strong, resilient and ambitious young adults.