30 Jun Don’t Judge A Teen By Their Cover
Teenagers need time alone. It is essential to their cognitive and emotional development. However, time alone can be hard to come by when families are staying home and there is little private space.
I want to share the story of a teenager I know.
James is 17 and serious about his grades because of his family dynamic. He believes the only way to get out of the tiny apartment he shares with his mother and three younger siblings is to graduate and join the military. James has worked with a recruiter for a year and can almost smell his freedom. Yet sometimes he feels guilty for wanting to leave. He knows his mother needs help with his two younger brothers and baby sister, and at night he takes care of them while his mother works.
One day his English teacher assigned a project requiring students to sit alone for one hour with no distractions, and freely write whatever comes to their minds. James panicked. He knew this would be difficult given his home life. He was too embarrassed to tell his teacher, though he knew he might have to share his concerns.
When he finally got the courage to talk to his teacher, she responded that she was sure he could put away his video games long enough to spend some time alone and complete the assignment. She told him he was bright, and that he might gain some insight into himself. James told her he spent his free time cooking, cleaning and caring for his siblings. Embarrassed, she realized her error. So his teacher invited James to meet her at school so he could use her room for an hour to be alone and write.
Teens face so much stress, especially in our world today. These stressors can be compounded by teachers, parents, and family members who sometimes make assumptions about teens based on their appearance – dress, hygiene, skin color and the list goes on and on. Our kids need to be seen for who they are – not who we think they are or should be. We need to recognize how our own experiences and biases can prevent us from seeing our teens for who they are – both on the outside and beneath their covers.
Teens need to have positive adult connections. Adults need to recognize signs of distress in teens and encourage them to get help. In counseling teens can find a safe space and get the one-on-one attention they need and deserve. Teen years are tough, but no teen should have to tough them out alone.
Jacqueline Burnett-Brown, PhD, CDP, CDT is a counseling intern at CHRIS Counseling Center – DeKalb. To make an appointment please call 404-636-1457 or email intakeccdekalb@CHRIS180.org.