Millennials are the generation of young people currently enrolled in high school and college. They’re tech-savvy, quick to learn, and extremely ambitious. They’re the most civic-minded generation according to Pew Research, and they’re often more open-minded than earlier generations.
But, being raised in an educational system built around the concept that “Everyone gets a gold star” and “You’re all special and unique” has created a generation that feels entitled to the attention and praise they’ve received throughout their primary learning experience.
A Common Anxiety
Because of this, when Millennials start to enter more challenging classes and send off college applications, these uncertain situations make them anxious, sad, and easily hurt. They’re so used to thriving in an environment of praise and positivity that any alteration to that world makes them become insecure (and sometimes even depressed.)
Teenage expert Madeline Levine explains, “Preteens from affluent families…experience among the highest rates of depression, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints, and unhappiness.”
What does that mean for parents? First of all, it’s not your fault. Society as a whole has created a new educational format that is focused around test scores, top grades, and college applications. With such a focus on achievement, students often strive for breadth rather than depth when it comes to the material they study in school. Or, they miss out completely on experiential learning opportunities because they are focused on subject matter that will show up on their ACT/SAT (rather than what might truly interest them.)
The Fix: 3 Questions
There is a way to correct this path, however. And it begins with a conversation, or, rather, a series of questions to work through with your teen. These questions shift the focus from results to desires.
1. Who (or what) do you think defines who you are?
With so much influence coming from social media, television, and magazines, teens today can find themselves being defined by how these entities label them. Whether it’s clothes, personality, or social influence—it’s important to start a conversation that breaks down this perception that a teen can be defined by anyone other than him or herself.
2. Where do you want to go in life, and what do you want to do?
This question is aimed at getting to the core of what motivates and inspires your teen. The answer shouldn’t be focused around getting into school or landing a well-paying job—it’s about what truly excites your teenager. Is it travel? A hobby? An idea for a new invention? Find out what ignites the spark of passion and encourage your teen to go for it. After all, when they start working, they’ll spend 40 hours (at least!) of every week doing that thing. If they don’t love it, they won’t live a happy life.
3. How will you achieve it?
Teens are confused about how to get from point A to B when it comes to pursuing their passion. Many adults are, too. Talk about what makes a successful person—things like hard work, no shortcuts, and 100 percent dedication. Brainstorm together on how your teen can start a path that leads toward achieving their goals. This might be some initial travel experience, signing up for an internship or supplemental class, or working with a mentor to get some insider knowledge.
The Answers Are Rewarding
This dialogue is a chance for you to better understand and motivate your teen. With three questions, you can help motivate him or her to get on the path that leads to happiness—not what they’ve been taught they “should” do. Even better: These questions will keep the mental wheels turning even after the conversation is over.