A recent Time Magazine article features a survey of teens that reflects the harsh and alienating bully climate youth experience in their cyber-realms. We all know that adolescence is a time when young people are in a mode of discovery and uncertainty about starting their life journey in ways that affirm their personal identity; it involves making choices about balancing personal values with where to fit in and when fitting in doesn’t happen, decisions are made about how to respond. The challenge has always been about being true to yourself, and when you are not feeling welcome it is easy to become discouraged – as this article indicates by the comments of anxiety and depression expressed by teen respondents.
Feeling welcome does not always come naturally even in environments that are relatively neutral. But when youth encounter places that are completely free from fear-based mindsets and judgment, the response is a genuine sense of belonging that nourishes the soul as described by two Rocklin teenagers, Kellsey Rassmassen and Jack McClain who hang out at the CrossRoads Community Church Teen Center because they say it is a place they can call a home away from home. “The teen center is a place where everyone is welcome,” Rassmassen said, “There is a sense of belonging and no judging, so it is easy to be here.” McClain appreciates the Teen Center because people from different homes and backgrounds can hang out together. “There are no worries about proving stuff to people,” he said, “And there is always someone around to talk to about problems or if something is troubling you.”
Does your teen feel welcome at home?
The challenge for the modern parent is to govern the home in such a way that strong emotion is not allowed to set the tone in the home. “Judgy”, harsh opinions about the trouble kids get into, yours and/or other people’s children, make home a much less safe place. In other words, your home can be perceived as a bully climate no matter how good of a parent you are.
The most effective strategy for managing the role of emotion is forgiveness, which is the decision to hold oneself and others accountable with a merciful heart. If your child has violated a family rule, or offended you or others in any way – deliver consequences with a passion for them to be free from guilt and shame and stand corrected. Giving kids a “clean slate” after consequences have been enforced is a message of hope and the peace of knowing they are not being judged for their past mistakes and thus making home a more welcoming place to serve as a shield from the stormy cyber social climate.