Teen suicide has been in the media a lot lately. You may have heard about the show "13 Reasons Why" that tells the story of how a teen girl takes her own life after experiencing many traumatic experiences. There are mixed views about the show. Some feel like the show provides a valuable opportunity for discussion about bullying and teen suicide. On the other side of the spectrum are those that feel the show glorifies suicide and shows that it is an easy option. I tend to side on this end of the spectrum. I believe that "13 Reasons Why" is a show that can only be watched by those that are not in a vulnerable and emotional state and I don't know too many teens that are not in this vulnerable and emotional state. The teen years are difficult for the teenager and everyone who loves the teenager. We have all been through it and know that it has many challenges. This is why I feel strongly that every adolescent needs a life coach or someone they see weekly or monthly that can teach them skills that will help them deal with the every day challenges they face. This could be a counselor or therapist as well. I can think of many reasons why a life coach for every child is extremely important. Here are just 13 reasons why teens need a life coach to guide them through their most difficult years:
1. Social Media is overwhelming and causing disconnect from the real world. Teens need to learn how to balance their time and energy between social media and real life. A life coach can assist kids with achieving this balance.
2. State testing pressure is causing anxiety in many children today. The pressure is coming from the schools and sometimes the parents. Our youth needs help with managing the anxiety that comes from this pressure. A life coach teaches helpful tools to help manage this anxiety in order to be more successful in school.
3. Bullying occurs far too often at school, on social media, and sometimes even at home. It is rare for a child to never experience being bullied by the time they graduate high school. A life coach can teach skills to kids to help them handle the bullying and even prevent bullying from occurring. Kids also need these skills to help them realize when they are being the bully and how not to get in that situation. Most schools have an anti-bullying program in place, but in my experience as a middle school teacher, the students do not take the lessons seriously and the program can sometimes give new opportunities for bullying to occur.
4. Divorce is a norm for most kids these days, but it doesn't make it less destructive for a child. Many kids have false beliefs that they are the cause of the divorce. It's more emotional for the child than the parents. A life coach can help the child find emotional resilience and manage the big change that has occurred before the pain manifests into behavior problems, depression, and anxiety.
5. Peer Pressure is always present. Even as adults we experience this type of pressure. A teenager needs to learn how to follow their own personal inner compass and to love and take pride in who they are and the decisions they make for themselves. This is a skill the teen will definitely benefit from all through life and a life coach can help the teen develop this important skill of self-love.
6. Sexual abuse is more common than one might think. According to the center for disease control, teenagers account for 51% of all reported sexual abuse and female victims of teen sexual abuse while in grades 9 through 12 are more likely than others to experience eating disorders, suicidal behavior, pregnancy and risky sexual behaviors. Giving a child the gift of consistent life coaching can help a child stray away from situations where sexual abuse could occur.
7. The culture of alcohol drinking during the teen years has become the norm and not taken seriously. According to a study done at George Mason University this culture of alcohol drinking can lead to higher rates of teen sex, teen pregnancy, date rape, violence, and illegal activity. Many teens believe it is not a big deal to drink alcohol, because everyone does it, even their parents. Alcohol becomes a remedy for stress and anxiety for teens. A life coach can help teens with techniques to deal with anxiety, depression and peer pressure in order to keep the teen from getting involved in the culture of alcohol drinking.
8. The brain of a teen is still maturing. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain where emotional control, impulse restraint and rational decision-making take place. According to Dr. David Walsh, this part of the brain does not fully mature until around the age of 25 and this is why many teenagers do not practice "good judgment" in difficult situations. You can read more about the adolescent brain in Dr. Walsh's book, "Why Do They Act That Way?"
9. Adolescents do not like to talk to their parents. I'm sure you remember being a teenager and not wanting to tell your parents about the fight you had with your friends at school that day or the low grade you made on a test. During the adolescent years, kids withdrawal from parents and spend more time alone or with friends. Dr. Lisa Damour calls this time period the psychological equivalent of riding a bike with training wheels. Teenagers are preparing to strike out on their own and are wanting to talk to friends more than their parents. Teens need to talk to someone with a mature frontal cortex who can help guide them to good decision making and this could be a life coach, mentor, aunt, counselor or family friend.
10. Friend drama can cause many ups and downs for an adolescent. One day your teen is best friends with someone and the next day she is not. Hateful things can be said to each other and rumors can be spread. This can lead to bullying and depression. An adolescent needs to have a mentor to show them the bigger picture, when it comes to friends switching back and forth from best friends to enemies. A life coach can help guide a teen to use their inner compass in making good decisions when it comes to who should be a friend and who should not.
11. The decision of what to do after high school is a huge stress factor for juniors and seniors. This is more the case in competitive environments. "What University did you get into?" can be a loaded question for many teens that feel like they have to get into a good school or they won't be accepted by their peers or their parents will not be happy. Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do as a career as early a 9th grade. They get confused from all of the pressure from parents, friends, and media. A life coach can help teens listen to their inner knowing of what they desire to do in life.
12. The feeling of isolation happens to most teens. Teens are becoming more independent and trying to figure out what their purpose in life is, who their friends are, and what they are good at. As they are learning more about themselves they may have moments of feeling left out or like they are different than everyone else. A life coach can help a teen understand that we are all connected and here for different reasons. Teens are wondering what their purpose is and a life coach can help guide them in the right direction.
13. A popular show like "13 Reasons Why" can have great influence on a teen that is experiencing bullying, pressure, and/or abuse. Suicide contagion is real. The show can inspire a teen that is going through similar experiences as Hannah Baker did. Teens can be coached to know that suicide is not an option.
Provide your teen with someone to talk to on a consistent basis. A life coach will teach important, life-saving tools that will help teens gain a healthy mind in order to live a happy and successful life with meaning and purpose.