Thursday, February 3, 2011

Who am I? The real work of a teenager Part 4

Sometimes during this whole who am I process, some teens feel a need to just take a break from it all. In a good way. We call this time identity moratorium. Maybe your teen is a senior in high school, and he/she knows they want to go to college, but they feel burnt out by school and want a break from academics. He/she really doesn't have a sense yet of the direction he/she wants to go in, and feel just to go to college to go to college seems like a waste of both time and money. This is a healthy decision not to make a decision. That is what identity moratorium is all about. It is a conscious decision to take a break from making a decision. Sometimes this happens after a freshman year, or after graduation from high school or college, needing some perspective your teen may want to work a mindless job, go be a ski bum in Aspen, or travel the world. As long as this is a plan to make a plan there are no worries. Sometimes just living in the world helps teens to explore the parts of themselves they are just getting in touch with, and that require freedom from school responsibilities. 

This breaking from the normal often scares and freaks parents out. There is a worry that their teen may never become self-supporting, fully functioning adults if they don't follow the norm. I recently met with a couple whose son is an amazing techi. In his freshman year of college, he immediately found a part-time job in his college tech support office. He loved the job and his bosses loved him. He worked longer and longer hours while his grades began to suffer. The world of work where he excelled, was treated as an equal and felt competent, was way more fulfilling then his work as a student, where he suffered with ADD. He was asked to take a leave from school because of failing grades. This was devastating for the parents, but in fact, I saw it as a gift. For this student, working at something he was passionate about and felt competent at was a self-esteem builder. Why not have work be his primary effort, and make school the part-time effort. The question wasn't whether he would finish his degree, but that he would do it in a different way. His parents understood that his path to graduation would be a different path, not a bad one, just a different one. And that is the key. There is no right way. When a parent understands who their  teen is becoming, they can support whatever path it takes to get there. 

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