There is a reason the teenage years are so dreaded. Teenagers are facing emotional, physical, social, hormonal, and intellectual changes at a time when they are also being introduced to alcohol, sex, drugs, body consciousness, and academic and peer pressures. Consider, too, the criticism, gossip, and public humiliation that can now unfold on social media.
If I could give one overarching piece of advice to parents of teenagers—parents of all children, for that matter—it would be this:
Encourage your children to listen to their “Inner Wisdom.”
Inner Wisdom is that voice inside of you that whispers warnings and encouragement. You can feel it in your gut. Some call it your gut feeling. Others call it intuition. Whatever you call it, we all have it, but few are encouraged to listen to it or taught how to use it.
Sadly, most kids are taught to override their Inner Wisdom in deference to the “wisdom” of their parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, and pretty much every other adult in their lives. The consequence of this is that instead of looking inward for peace and guidance, they spend most of their time trying to make sure the outside world likes them.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you teach your children to listen to their Inner Wisdom and allow them to take responsibility for some of the decisions they face, which also means allowing them to suffer the consequences of those decision, they will develop a skill that will serve them during their teenager years, and forever.
So how do you teach teenagers to listen to their Inner Wisdom? I’ll more fully answer this question in the coming months. For now, here is one powerful skill:
Teach teenagers to listen to their bodies.
Our bodies give us warning and welcoming signs all of the time, but we often either fail to hear them or choose to ignore them. However, our bodies are an important avenue through which our Inner Wisdom attempts to communicate with us.
A teenager’s body will tell her whether someone feels trustworthy. Her body will warn her when a situation feels unsafe. A teenager who is tuned into her body will notice when alcohol and drugs disconnect her from her Inner Wisdom. If she has come to trust her Inner Wisdom, she will not like this feeling of disconnection.
Because teenagers often sacrifice their own needs to please others, they can have a hard time hearing the information their Inner Wisdom is trying to tell them. They miss warning signs alerting them that they should not continue down a path. To be sure, though, these signals are there. The good news is that listening to your body is a skill that can be learned.
Here are three ways to teach your children to use their bodies to access their Inner Wisdom …
First, they can use the wisdom of their bodies to help them judge whether someone is “good for them” or not. If there is someone they feel even slightly uncomfortable with, have them ask questions like: Why doesn’t this feel right? What is my body trying to tell me about this person? If I have to sum it up in one sentence, what is my main thought about this person?
Second, they can use the wisdom of their bodies to improve their health. When they have an illness, injury, or even if they feel overly stressed, have them close their eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask their bodies what they need to feel better. It’s that simple. Your body knows what you need to do to take care of yourself, but too often, we accept physical manifestations of stress as a natural part of life. Not all stress is bad, but when our bodies start to break down, they are asking for relief. Choosing to ignore them affects not only our physical health, but our mental and emotional health as well. By asking their bodies what they need, teenagers can create a space where caring for their bodies is a normal, healthy paradigm.
Finally, they can use their bodies to help them make decisions that serve them. When teenagers are trying to make important decisions, they can close their eyes and imagine how it would feel in their bodies to make one decision. Invite them to visualize themselves experiencing that decision and encourage them to stay with the experience for enough breaths to really get a feel for it. Then have them imagine how it would feel to make the different decision. And again, have them stay with the experience of making this different decision until they get a real feel for it in their bodies.
There is a part of each us that knows what we truly need, believes we deserve to meet these needs, and will use every means available to guide us on the path toward taking care of ourselves. This is Inner Wisdom, and it can be felt in the body.
Teenagers often see their bodies as a source of embarrassment, confusion, and disappointment. As parents, we can counteract that by teaching them that their bodies are a source of wisdom and guidance.
Teenagers who listen to the wisdom of their bodies grow into adults who take care of themselves, honor their own happiness, and believe they are capable of achieving their grandest dreams.