Regardless of your spiritual persuasion, comparing or coveting someone else’s stature – physical, financial, relational, etc. – to your own is a fast track to trouble. Envy, discontent, and insecurity seem to be at an all time high. This is particularly an issue in the age-groups where social skills are in their peak phase of brain development- the pre-teen and teen years.
Our teens are under “fit in” pressure like never before. The visuals through television and movies have been a hurdle for decades. However, never have teens been exposed to the never ending flow of images like they are with social media. Here’s the issue. A pre-teen /teen has not developed their “logical brain”, the prefrontal cortex. They can’t differentiate or effectively reason the images they see (along with time management, cause/effect, etc.) Their brains are in a mode which – in order to grow – compares themselves with what they see, hear, smell, touch. When they see images that are not truly part of their environment (ie social media pics from Hollywood), they are getting a distorted perception of reality. To them it’s real, but to all the adults around them – with a fully developed prefrontal cortex – well, we don’t understand why they think they way they think about themselves. In the most dire situations, the consequences of this disconnect can be unspeakable tragedy.
So what can we do? To some degree, this is a normal phase of brain development. Despite the difficulty and stress of managing social media platforms and time exposure with your teens, it is a must. Visually driven sites, like Snapchat and Instagram, have their success because they target the visual orientation of the pre-teen/teen. Monitor your kids activities on these site or better yet, block them.
Knowing this phase is coming in your child, and speaking affirmations into and with your child is vital. Affirmations spoken to and ultimately by your child is essentially “brain space protection.”
“You are a trailblazer and can do what YOUR heart desires.”
“Compare YOU to YOU alone… and keep working to make YOU better.”
“What others think of you is none of your business.”
It may sound harsh, but if your child hears these words consistently BEFORE they hit this stage of development, this normal phase of growth can be much smoother. Easy? NO. Smoother? Yes!
Words mean things. Make them count… it’s a great way to help our children transition. “I believe in YOU!”