Tornado Drills. They always freaked me out as a kid. The rushing to the stairwell, the cramped spaces, the hands over the head, the constant, ignorant chatter of the children beside me who didn’t seem to understand that this could be REAL.
7 years later, I find myself in that same position. Cramped spaces, overwhelming surroundings, hands over the head, scared of reality. Ready to leave (highschool, home, tradition, bad habits, the list goes on...) but terrified of what lies outside.
Chances are, you, your child, or your student has felt the same way. So how do we as peers, parents, and educators, provide empathetic, solution -oriented help to teens trapped in a tornado?
Build a strong foundation. In a National Poll created by StageofLife.com, it was found that 84% of teens believe that nurture plays a larger part in their identity than nature. This idea of nurture is not constructing a walls around a person so that nothing can touch them, but rather building a strong, reliable platform that allows them to experience the winds with grounded assurance. How you ask?
Brave the weather. Whose opinion would you trust more? The weather man standing in front of a green screen receiving satellite updates, or the one reporting live in the middle of the storm? Too many times I watch teachers and parents assume that their students lives’ are too young, too messy, or too hostile to enter, and pass up the incredible opportunity to truly impact the life of another human being. So here’s a challenge: ask the teen in your life about his or her day, for 3 days in a row, until you get more than a 2 sentence answer. Get to know the names of their friends, their sense of humor, their most embarrassing moment, and their favorite candy. Don’t back off just because they seem prickly at first, remember, you’re building a platform of trust, and that takes time.
Believe in recovery. Ok, you’ve taken the time to enter into the mess of life, hormones, and decisions with your teen, so now what? Don’t be content to stay under the stairwell. Now that you know what kinds of winds will knock your friend down, encourage them to find hobbies, habits, and outlets that strengthen their readiness for the next bought. For me, it’s soccer and naps. Thanks to the people around me, I know that when I’m upset, overwhelmed, or over thinking, I either need a pillow or a soccer ball. Helping your teen or student find productive ways to rebuild and refocus before life after high school is key to their independent success, and in the end, the thought of tornados might not seem so daunting for either of you.
Maybe you thought this article was a tornado; maybe I took the metaphor too far, but as always thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts in the comment section!