Let's Be Positive About Teenagers
Expert Nicola Morgan is trying to sway the conversation so that it isn't relentlessly negative about adolescence. Parents and teachers of younger teenagers and pre-teens will be most interested.
Ever since the first publication of Blame My Brain in 2005, I’ve been writing and speaking about teenage brains and helping teenagers and adults around the world understand the explanations for everything we associate with adolescence. I believe that understanding is immensely powerful. Schools and families are familiar with my work and I’m proud to help them support the teenagers in their care. (See my website for more information about my writing and public speaking.)
But something has been happening since The Teenage Guide to Stress was published in 2014. Quite rightly, there has been a strong public focus on the devastating problem of teenage mental illness. While I’m very glad about this, there’s an unintended consequence: an impression that adolescence is a mental illness, that “teenage” is synonymous with “problem”, that bad things will happen in the teenage years, that it’s a time to be endured and survived, rather than lived well. We focus on the problems and forget the positives, the power.
Something else: normal negative human emotions are too often viewed as a problem, as if anger, anxiety, fear and sadness were demons; as though feeling those things means there’s something wrong with your mental state.
Those “negative” emotions are, in fact, entirely proper. It’s healthy to feel angry when someone treats us badly; to feel anxious or afraid when faced with frightening things; and miserable after sad times. Not to have those feelings would be unhealthy.
So, I've created a new project, Positively Teenage. The website is just a fledgling at the moment but soon I will have book reviews, stories from the positive side of adolescence, links to activities, and lots of articles.
Positively Teenage will recognise the following:
- That adolescence is a natural, positive, essential and temporary stage of development
- That parents and young people should welcome and be excited by the idea of a young person moving strongly and healthily towards adulthood and independence
- That there might be “downs” along the journey – in fact, there probably will be, because that’s life, whatever our age
- But that a positive, healthy and knowledgeable approach helps us live through the downs and enjoy the ups
- That, yes, mental illness may happen, that we must recognise the symptoms when it does, and that then medical intervention is important
- But that it’s wrong and unhelpful to approach the teenage years feeling negative or pathologising every downward emotion
- Because, although “bad things happen”, good things happen, too, and many teenagers go through these few years perfectly well, becoming strong, resilient and ambitious young adults.
I know, from my work in schools, that there’s a hunger and a need for a positive view of adolescence. Parents of 10-12s in particular ask for something uplifting, unthreatening, empowering. Does adolescence have to be bad? No, it doesn’t. I want to show you how it can be good, heartening, positive.
Do contact me if you have anything you think I should cover. And publishers, if you have a relevant book you'd like me to review, contact me. If you go to Positively Teenage and click through to my main website, you'll find the contact page there.