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How to allow emotional resilience in teens

Wednesdays, 7pm-8:30pm
Marilyn Manzi , MA

The ego protects us from perceived, stressful events. Perception is emphasized because the ego has been trained by your earlier experiences in life. A necessary purpose of the ego: You look both ways before crossing the street to avoid being hit by a bus. An unnecessary purpose of the ego: You stop eating because you fear of becoming “fat.”

The ego will flash thoughts based on how you trained it to react certain situations. The astonishing fact in all of this: You are in control of conditioning your own ego!

Empower the Teen:

Humble yourself by leveling with the teen’s experience. To prevent losing the teen’s attention, step into the teen's experience as opposed to stepping into your past. If the teen wants to know about your experience, questions will be asked like: “Has that ever happened to you?”

Acknowledge the teen’s unique self, which will allow the teen to overcome difficulty in their own way, and honor the answers are within his/her mind.

Bridge Intellectual Intelligence with Emotional Intelligence:

To shame the teen for their behavior humiliates their character and does not teach the teen to feel hopeful. Shame will teach the teen to avoid similar situations and feel small; meaning a lower self-esteem. Avoidance of emotions causes those feelings to be more intense in the future; causing depression, social anxiety, etc.

Instead, comfort the teen in private, normalize their feelings, validate their experience, and ask about what the teen learned. Honor the teen's courage in coming forward with the experience and praise the teen for taking a step into self-discovery.

Normalize the Feelings:

Normalizing the teen’s feelings is important because you are familiarizing the teen with their inner self, and more importantly teaching the teen to fall in love with their inner self. As humans, we all become angry, sad, anxious, etc., and the important lesson is what we do with those emotions.

For example, the feeling of shame is temporary because our ego wants to protect us exactly in the way we trained it to futuristically prevent us from “uncomfortable/stressful” situations. Talking with the teen about the feeling of shame will allow the teen to name the feeling, logically know shame is an emotion=temporary, honor their feeling of shame, which results in building emotional resilience.

Establishing Resources:

During times of stress, humans have an array of behaviors/distractions that alleviate the angst temporarily; sometimes creating self-destruction to avoid the feeling. Talk with the teen about what resources are available during times of different emotions. Open up the discussion around alternative behaviors that are realistic for the teen. There are three types of learning: auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. Try to encompass all three learning styles when talking with the teen.

Collaboratively with the teen, write out his/her thoughts, feelings, and behavioral outcomes. It is important that the teen acknowledges that there are at least 3 behavioral outcomes for each thought & emotion.

For example, the teen feels shame around testing poorly on their exam. The thought could be, “I am stupid" and the feeling is shame. Three behavioral outcomes: Hang out with other peers that do not care about college, work closely with a tutor, or actively speak with the teacher about how to improve test scores. In this example, we have 3 behavioral options (one negative, 2 positive). Now, work backward and discover with the teen how different behavioral outcomes will produce different thoughts and feelings.

A journey of self discovery will allow the teen to understand emotional intelligence, move through difficult situations, and know how to choose constructive behavioral outcomes (essentially producing positive thoughts and emotions); therefore, increasing emotional resilience.