To guide your children through the throes of their teen years, help them form genuine relationships and find their purpose. Having a goal directs their energies in a productive and life-giving direction, instead of frittering their youth away with a YOLO attitude.

This generation of teenagers is worrying parents like never before, throwing their talent out the door and accepting minimal wages to focus on a life of partying and binge drinking. Their motto, YOLO (You Only Live Once), is plastered all over their social media pages and stands out as their anthem.

When parents ask me “What can I do?” I have one simple answer: help them find purpose.

The well-known adolescent psychologist Steve Biddulph once said that teenagers need a “spark” in order to get through their teenage years. Purpose is that “spark” that lights up a teenager’s life.

A spark, when fueled by meaningful relationships, at school and home, grows and becomes an anchor for their very existence.  Purpose is the only thing that will consistently keep a teenager’s life moving forward.

6 Ways to Instil Purpose in Your Teenager

1 – Keep Them Busy

The teenage years could possibly be the most vital time to keep kids moving.  Remember that idle time is the devil’s playground. Keeping teenagers busy reduces the time they have to get into trouble.

Hard work won’t kill them, even in the school holidays.  Don’t accept “I can’t be bothered.”  Teenagers easily get stuck in a rut and accept second-best for their lives. They won’t find their life purpose while they are sitting on the couch watching television and eating chips.

2 – Search For Mentors

Teenagers need positive role models to look up to. These role models will draw out purpose in our teenagers. They will teach them things about life that you and I don’t have a hope in teaching them!

I search high and low for the right mentors for my children, because they will become who they look up to.

3 – Remember Routine  

Routine may seem trivial.  I mean, why fight about what time a teenager goes to bed or what time they wake up? Let me explain it like this. Routine protects your teenager’s life purpose. It can even protect your teenager against a life of drugs, crime and promiscuity.

Regular sleep patterns, going to school or work is often what stands between purposeful or unproductive living. At the first sign of your teenager wanting to discard routine, realise that it is routine that will keep them engaged in mainstream society.

4 – Don’t Rescue Them

The sooner teenagers feel the consequences of neglected responsibilities, the better. Don’t do their homework, don’t do their washing, don’t pay their bills or bail them out of jail. You can help them by allowing them to feel the full weight of their actions as early as possible.

5 – Win the Little Battles

If you say “no” to the little things and you lose those battles, what will happen when you say “no” to bigger things? What will happen when you say “no” to skipping school or “no” to going to a party where you know there will be drugs?

Little battles are critical battles. They aren’t a waste of time. They give you the authority and confidence when you face the battles which really matter. You are the final authority in your home so you need to have the final say, for your teenagers’ sake.

6 – It’s Not Over At 18 

I have heard many parents say that parenting doesn’t stop when your children turn 18.  These days our children seem to be staying at home longer and we have a far more complex relationship with them because of this.

Although our relationship with them certainly does change, realise they still need you as part of their lives. The decisions they are making in their 20s will impact their lives forever. They need you to be on their side all the way through their life.

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THANK YOU to everyone who has been passing these blog posts on, and for all your kind emails about their impact on your family.  If you have a topic you would like me to blog about, email me at reception@youthexcel.com.au  and I will respond to it as soon as I can.

If you would like to book me to speak at your school or community event, email reception@youthexcel.com.au.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, if your teenager needs support from a psychologist, counsellor or mentor, Youth Excel would love to help. You can contact me at reception@youthexcel.com.au.

What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell Their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.

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Originally published at Mum Daily. Photo by Hannah Nelson from Pexels.

About the Author: Michelle Mitchell

Michelle began her career as a classroom teacher but soon discovered a special interest in wellbeing. In 2000 she quit teaching and established a harm prevention charity, called Youth Excel. Her days were filled with running small group support programs for girls ‘at risk’ of dropping out of education, and she soon became well known for successful outcomes with tweens and teenagers who did not flourish under more traditional forms of therapy. Today Michelle uses her experience to write and speak in schools, community events and through media. Her best-selling parenting and children’s resources, including the highly popular Everyday Resilience Journal, have sold over 100 000 copies worldwide and have been translated into several languages. Michelle has been termed the ‘teenage expert’ by the media and is sought after for her compassionate, and grounded advice. Her innovative work has been featured on The Today Show, Today Tonight and Channel 10 Morning News and Sky News, as well as countless print media including The Age, The Courier Mail and The Daily Telegraph. You can hear Michelle on radio in Australia on a weekly basis.

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