Do you ever wonder how well your teen is really doing? Sure, your teen might be an average student, but they are not making the honor roll. And sure, your teen has friends but she’s frequently quarreling and comparing herself to them. Yes, your teen might get along with their siblings, but you notice that occasionally your teen is lonely. So, how can you really tell just how strong your teen’s wellbeing and emotional health is?
Experts have wondered the same question. School administrators, mental health professionals, policymakers, and parents have all wondered about the signs that indicate whether or not their teens are going to succeed. They’ve wondered about the indicators that point to just how well a teen will fare in adulthood. Fortunately, experts have wondered enough to research and find the answers to these questions. Although nothing can predict a teen’s future, there are some strong indicators that point to the quality of an adolescent’s mental and emotional wellbeing and how they might do in adulthood.
Success Indicators Have Changed Over the Years
Historically, when organizations and experts went to measure just how well teens were doing, they often looked at the absence of negative factors such as the absence of:
- family poverty
- child neglect
- child abuse
- teen pregnancy
- teen substance use
- suicidal thinking
- mental health in family of origin
- early childhood trauma
The above indicators are often still measured. However, over the years, more and more experts have discovered the importance of highlighting what teens are doing well. The following is a compilation of positive outcomes for teens put together by various organizations and their assessment tools.
- life satisfaction
- social competency
- emotional competency
- positive identity
- pro-social involvement
- positive family life
- community connections
- positive school life
- involvement in religious or spiritual activities
- having realistic academic expectations
- healthy out-of-school activities
- parent involvement in teen’s life
- caring for others
- physical health
- contribution to their community
- having goals for the future
- perceptions of neighborhood
- level of support from adults
By looking at different indicators in the lives of teens, experts have a wider information base to assess how well teens might do in the future. They have a greater understanding of youth development, including what can not only help create positive wellbeing in teens but also maintain it.
How Parents Can Use this Information
How does all this information translate to parents and other adults in a teen’s life? Well, it helps create a clearer lens through which to see your teen. It helps to assess your teen’s wellbeing in addition to the standard markers like academic success or behavior. Below is a list of traits that point to a teen’s wellbeing. Your teen might not be a stellar student, for instance, but perhaps they are resilient, confident, and creative.
- A strong character in teens keep them from giving in to peer pressure.
- When a teen has self-confidence they know that they are unique. They are aware that there’s no one else like them and they feel good about that! They have an appreciation for themselves.
- When a teen has goals, they know where they are going and why. This also adds to self-confidence.
- Resiliency in teens gives them the ability to get back on their feet and move forward when life throws them down. They are more able to bounce back when faced with life’s adversities.
- When teens have self-respect, they are more likely to also have respect for others, for life, and for family.
- Teens who tend to value their education and life goals also tend to understand that becoming educated will not only affect their own future but also the future of their children.
- Teens who the difference between right and wrong tend to make positive and healthy choices for themselves.
- The teen brain is exploding with growth, which in turn helps teens be flexible and make new choices. With more and more neural connections each day, teens can easily learn from their mistakes and grow from them.
- Teens with self-confidence and a strong character know how to be respectful and listen to older generations.
- Teens who are emotionally intelligent tend to have an understanding that their lives are a mirror of how they treat others. They have an innate sense of the interconnection of their lives with the lives of others.
- Teens who have goals for their future know that their personal sacrifices will be in their favor later in life.
- Teens who are happy and satisfied with their life can be proud of their achievements and abilities.
- Teens who know how to be caring tend to also be accepting of others. They’re aware that every human being makes mistakes and has weaknesses, including themselves.
- Teens can appreciate the sacrifices that others have made for them.
- Teens know that success is the result of determination, hard work and a positive attitude.
Exploring the positive indicators of teens can help parents with seeing their adolescent with a broader lens. Instead of simply assessing a teen’s wellbeing through their academic success and ability to stay out of trouble, parents might explore some of these important characteristics. This might assist some parents in recognizing that their teen is doing well overall despite some behavioral concerns or rebelliousness or parent-teen arguments.
On the other hand it might also assist other parents in recognizing that there might be more support their teen needs in areas of emotional intelligence, confidence, resiliency, or setting goals.
What Parents Can Do Now to Support Their Teen’s Wellbeing
Once parents have a sense of how they want to support their teen’s wellbeing, they might take action in the following ways:
- talk to your teen
- model for your teen what you want to support in them
- match your teen up with a mentor
- encourage your teen to volunteer or get involved in the community
- become more involved in your teen’s life
- praise your teen generously
There are many ways to measure mental illness, academic failure, or poor behavior in teens. However, there are many more ways to see what’s positive in teens, and in fact, when teens have a strong character and confidence they are more likely to succeed in their adulthood.