Withdrawn Teenagers and Preoccupied Parents

I had a session with a sixteen year old boy today. He was a pretty typical teenager. He was slumped in the chair and yawning on a Monday morning. He’d had little sleep on Saturday due to a party and sleep over at a mate’s place and copious time spent online taking up most of Sunday afternoon and evening.

 His main focus during the beginning of the session was his need for more freedom and his mother’s need for knowing where he is and what he is doing all the times. He said about his Mum, “sorry, but she’s a control freak and she doesn’t trust me”. This was in contrast to the referral I had received via a worry filled email from his mother listing her concerns about her son, whom she described as cranky, withdrawn, disinterested and underachieving.

These to me are signs of a classic mother/son struggle, which tends to evolve during the mid-teen years. Rightly so, parents want their sons and daughters to achieve to their full potential at school so they have a rewarding future ahead of them. To this end a caring parent can become preoccupied with keeping their son/daughter on the straight and narrow. They can be preoccupied with assignment deadlines, test revision, subject grades and teachers’ comments. Added to this, Mums and Dads can feel the need to monitor their teenager’s friends who may be bad influences, parties that may be unsupervised and exposure to online games and social media. All this is to be admired. Wanting to know about these things and wanting to support your child to make good decisions concerning their school and social life is to be commended. But it is so important to do these things by subtle and shrewd means rather than in overt and potentially embarrassing ways. If too obvious, parents can become “control freaks” or “annoying nags” that young people all too often withdraw from and react in opposition to.

Teenagers are finding their feet as independent people. They are trying to discover who am I in my own skin? What am I to others? How can I be me and still honour my parents as well as my close friends? This is a very difficult juggling act. Added to these identity forming issues, some young people are facing the facts about life after school. They are suddenly grasping the reality of the need to work hard to get what they want. They no longer can leave things to the last minute and get good grades. It becomes all too obvious that, to do their personal best, they will have to put in the hard yards. For some this is such a stress inducing prospect they simply give up before they even begin to ‘pull their socks up’. Indeed, the young man I counselled this morning said to me, “I’m too young to be worried about the future. I just do what I need to do when a test is on tomorrow or when an assignment is due in two days.” Even whilst saying this I could see the doubt in his eyes. He was trying to convince himself that it was okay to live from day to day and not set achievement goals for himself or use a study time table … I think the best way to get young people into an academically motivated frame of mind is to help them explore possible career avenues. Once they get an idea of what type of work they desire, what level of achievement is required to get where they want to go, and what personal attributes employers are looking for, they do seem to take up a more determined and self-directed approach. 

© Dr Lee-Ann Prideaux 2013

Career Development and the High School Student

The concept of a career has radically changed from an earlier time when many workers remained in a job for life. The world of work is such an ever changing entity now that young adults need to be equipped with the skills and confidence to manage their own careers throughout life. They will need to be very flexible because they will probably need to make many changes in their work roles during their adult lives. These may include moving from full time to part time work, from large global organisations to self-employment, from contractual to more permanent positions, from periods of unemployment to casual work and so on. Young people will also face the need for lifelong learning so that they can keep pace with new technologies and the ever changing demands of the labour market. They are also likely to need to be open to making complete shifts from one occupational field to another depending on their circumstances at various points in their lives.

Career Development is a term used to describe progression through a sequence of jobs that involve the recurring advancement of skills and exposure to a growing diversity of activities leading to greater responsibility, status and higher remuneration. Employers were once considered accountable for the career development of their employees, however, one’s career development is now more commonly viewed as being the personal responsibility of each worker. Career development is also now regarded as involving more than simply the job role a person fulfils. It encompasses all life roles and how they are managed and balanced out. Hence, career development is about the process of managing your life, your education and training as well as your work.

The process of career development actually begins with self-reflection. This is a very important skill for young people to engage in and surprisingly, one which they are not very good at! It involves being realistic and discovering answers to questions such as; Who am I? What do I like doing? What are my strengths? What are my interests? What do I need to learn? What do I value? Where do I want to live? What sort of life do I want to lead?

Career development is so much more than deciding upon the first job one aims for once leaving school. It’s about self-reflection, researching the world of work, goal setting, decision-making, and undertaking ongoing learning as well as reviewing plans and becoming proficient at self-management. It’s about one’s whole life, frequently recycling constructive competencies and developing new and productive process skills using a confident and determined approach in order to live the life you want.

© Lee-Ann Prideaux PhD