Stereotypes are both funny and dangerous in equal measure. We laugh when comedians pick out those characteristic quirks and identify the common traits of common people. Maybe it is because we know a type of the person they are referring to, or perhaps we just see a little of their observations in ourselves.
Whatever the reason we allow ourselves to laugh at an imaginary ‘other’ person’s expense – I doubt our reaction is one of cruelty or mocking. It is simply a matter of recognition or maybe even a little empathy.
The danger is that we assume everyone is like that stereotype all of the time, right through to their core. People are subject to circumstance, uncontrollable biological changes and often a lack of understanding of what is going on around them. That is why Harry Enfield’s ‘Kevin the teenager’ has a lot to answer for.
Is 13 really the age of rebellion?
The fact is that all of us are changing, physiologically and chemically, all of the time – and never more so that when we were children transitioning into young people. The science of change within a young person’s mind and body is actually quite a scary topic to look into – it is almost cataclysmic.
Think back to how you felt at that age! On top of that there were major outside influences to contend with: parents still treating us as their little girl or boy, the pressure of exams and study, friends challenging our home values and whatever the ‘latest thing’ of the age happened to be (fashion, music or tech).
There is no ‘teenager’ switch which makes children become grumpy at a certain age – and all parents would do well to believe me on this one. We are all prone to mood swings, reactions and uncertainties – whatever our age.
Two top tips for helping ANYONE who’s going through a low:
1) Breathe: simple advice – yes – but potentially the most powerful mood changer ever discovered. Obviously, we breathe all of the time (if you stop altogether it would be a bigger problem than simply feeling down), but I am talking about using controlled breathing to calm down.
The next time you, your children, or anyone else you know is having a ‘moment’ encourage them to try this basic breathing exercise:
a) Sit upright with your hands on your lap, then slowly inhale through the nose, focusing on and being aware of your lungs gradually filling with air…
b) Hold that breath as you slowly count to three – you can even close your eyes if it helps.
c) Then let the air slowly and deliberately escape through your mouth as you consciously let your shoulders, stomach, face muscles and mind relax.
d) And repeat…
Just one of these breaths will help – try a sequence and you (they) will be feeling better in no time.
2) Find evidence: there are always reasons that people go through low moods or feel defeated. Often, however, these reasons are imagined or artificially inflated in our minds. Young people, in particular, with their huge capacity for imagination are prone to feeling the pressure of circumstance much more than they need to.
One great technique for helping someone deal with the negative pressure of circumstance is simply to ask them to identify the evidence (real, tangible proof) of the thing they are feeling (emotionally reacting to). Help them to quantify exactly what the real situation is and deal with that – rather than the imagined one.
In teenagers the imagined fears are things like: appearance, popularity, ability, being understood and pressure. The facts and realities are often very different – when you start to ask the ‘evidence’ question.
If you would like to know more about how to manage mood-swings and emotional lows – particularly with young people and teenagers – please just email and ask me. One email could change it all.