Q&A: Convincing too-busy teens to cut backWritten by Karin Gregory
Question: I think my teenage daughter is going to burn herself out! She has so many interests and activities going that it makes my head spin. Sports, music, community, church, school – I’m not sure how she can continue this pace but she refuses to give up anything! How can I encourage her to cultivate a more balanced life?
In today’s turbo-paced world, it’s not unusual to find teens juggling weekly schedules so busy they rival that of a Fortune 500 executive. In addition to the many areas you mentioned, developing social relationships and part-time employment can consume a big chunk of a teen’s week as well. You are wise to be concerned about helping your daughter learn to cultivate balance in this stage of her life.
A good place to begin is to examine your own life balance. Do you model a healthy understanding and practice of the work/rest cycle that God models for us throughout Scripture? Is the Biblical gift and necessity of Sabbath truly reflected in your life? If not, it may be a challenge to persuade your teen to make a shift until you are committed to the same healthy direction yourself.
Another good question to consider is whether your child’s busy schedule is the result of intentional, strategic choices, or whether your daughter hasn’t yet developed the skill of saying No thank you to the expectations and opportunities set before her. If some of the activities your teen is carrying require parental permission or financing, have you been as vigilant about saying Yes and No to her as you might have been when she was younger? Exploring this can generate some helpful, honest dialogue between you.
Some teens overload themselves because they worry, If I don't do this now, I might never get the chance again! If this is driving your daughter’s packed schedule, it will be important to discuss with her the natural reality of choice. We simply can’t be in two places at one time, and time is not an elastic, renewable resource.
Sometimes we find ourselves in the blessed but confusing position of having too many great opportunities. Your daughter may need help choosing between them. Or could it be that “busy” has always been part of your daughter’s personality, but it’s so much more obvious to you now that she’s older, mobile and developing independence?
Another possibility is that pain or anxiety is at the root of your adolescent’s hectic pace. Ask yourself whether this is a new pattern in her life. Has your child experienced trauma or grief that she is responding to by trying to outrun the hurt? Is your daughter perhaps struggling with anxiety that has not been addressed? These are difficult but necessary questions to explore as you come alongside your daughter with helpful life skills and support.
Karin Gregory is a counsellor with Focus on the Family Canada.
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