Valentine’s Day: We Found Love in an (Unexpected) Place

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and love (and cheesy Hallmark cards) are in the air! Kids are buying each other candy, flowers, and festive singing grams. It’s an exhilarating time for many. What’s not to like about being liked?

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Unless…you don’t feel liked. Valentine’s Day can quickly go from a fun holiday when everyone gets candy to a pressure-packed high school petri dish of hormones, crushes, and fragile self-esteem. We all enjoy feeling cared about, and having the looming cloud of V-doom lingering over you doesn’t help that expectation. It’s hard to be disappointed on what society tells us is the most romantic holiday ever. Like you’re missing out, and you’re the only one feeling that way. It’s called isolation, and it’s something no teenager (or general human being) wants to feel.

Connection is an important part of the human experience. As young people grow into themselves and develop those connections with their peers, interest in and desire for romantic relationships grows. It’s true, romance can be a great way to connect and feel a bond, but it certainly isn’t the only kind of meaningful love out there. For parents of a lonely kid on Valentine’s Day, we’ve got a few suggestions of things to do to show your kids there are many ways to love, and be loved.

Take Them To A Petting Zoo

Petting various adorable animals, need I say more? In addition to the self-explanatory joys of spending time with dogs and cats and llamas, it’s healthy for you. Engaging in social and affectionate touch with animals, who are great companions, can do wonders for our social confidence and happiness. And if your kid feels self-conscious or uncool going to a petting zoo, you can always swing by your nearby pet store, or take a walk around a local dog park. There are plenty of options.

Read With Them

Reading can be such an incredible way to explore fantasy worlds, ignite your imagination, and especially explore different kinds of relationships and connections. The stories that books, TV shows, and movies weave allow a unique opportunity to empathize with and connect deeply with characters that live in those mediums. Just think of how Harry Potter has touched millions around the world. Surrounded by beautiful universes and beloved characters, alone time on Valentine’s Day is far from lonely or boring.

Volunteer With Seniors

When you are in a school vacuum spending time with similar aged youth, it’s hard to imagine the lives of people in separate life stages. Volunteering with seniors in a retirement community can help give perspective and provide an opportunity to hear their life stories (they were young once too!). And they’re often in a lonely position, in which many of their friends, family, and partners have passed. Small gestures like sitting and talking with them, passing out flowers, or generally spending time can go a long way in fostering appreciation, warmth, and connection.

These are only a few suggestions to broaden your child’s horizons on what love is. There are numerous other ways to find connection in the world, as evidenced by this Lifehacker article. Whether you find it in a beloved pet, a riveting story and characters, or in small connections with individuals different to you, love is a meaningful experience that teaches us about ourselves and others. And at the end of the day, you’ll be spending quality time with your child. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Helping Teenagers Overcome The Pressure of Sports

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5:30 am – wake up; 6:00 am – workout; 7:00 am – shower and breakfast; 8:00 am – school starts; 3:00 pm – school ends; 3:30 pm – after school practice; 6:00 pm – group project meeting; 7:00 pm – dinner at home; 8:00 pm – daily chores; 9:00 pm – homework and study; 12:00 am – sleep

The cycle repeats.

Teens carry a packed schedule as they try to balance sports and academics. They have little time for themselves between morning and evening practices, a full schedule of classes, and keeping up with their responsibilities at home. Regardless of physical exhaustion and the lack of sleep, teens continue to strive to meet the expectations of parents, peers, and coaches. The pressure to continuously perform can take a toll on a teenager’s mental health.

“Trying so hard just mentally stresses you too much. I think that’s what gets me. It tears me up.”

It can be both exciting and rewarding to watch your teen perform on the field. However, as a parent, you can’t help but feel helpless when you see your teen struggling to manage the pressure.

Here are some ways you can support your teen:

Relaxation Techniques:

Teenagers may experience increased stress during important games such as playoffs. Teens fear making a mistake that could cost the school their spot in the championship.

“It’s hard because you’re trying not to mess up. Like at any moment you mess up, everybody is watching.”

  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and guided imagery can be effective in calming stress before a big game.
  • Teens can use these techniques to stay in the present and have a focused mindset.
  • With regular practice, relaxation techniques can relieve stress in other areas of life.

Encourage a Balanced Life:

Competing at the varsity college level would be a dream come true for any teen athlete. Teens spend countless hours practicing and perfecting their athletic skills to reach this goal. However,  of the 8 million students currently participating in high school sports, only 6% will move on to compete at the NCAA college level. The odds of getting a sports scholarship are very low.

  • Talk to your teen and discuss whether it is really worth it to give up time with friends and family to pursue sports.
  • Sports don’t need to become your teen’s entire identity.
  • Encourage your teen to explore their interests in other areas (school clubs, volunteering, music, part-time jobs).

What to Avoid:

Often times, parents can live vicariously through their children. Parents may be putting added pressure on their teengagers without even realizing it.

“If you’re not starting, then you don’t go out this weekend.”  

  • Be sure to provide praise regardless of a win.
  • Refrain from overly praising your teen’s teammate or comparing your teen to a teammate.
  • Avoid disappointed facial expressions, tone, and body posture.
  • Resist the urge to shout instructions from the sidelines. Coaching is best left to the coach.

Original Source: VeryWell.com

School sports provide opportunities to form friendships, generate a sense of belonging, and improve confidence. For some, sports may relieve the stress of everyday life. For others, it only adds to the pressure of high school. It’s important to maintain open communication with your teen and discuss concerns regularly. As a parent, stay positive, provide encouragement, and unconditional support. If you sense that your teen is struggling to cope with stress, you can always reach out to school counselors for additional assistance.

If you or someone you know needs help:

For a database of international resources visit International Association for Suicide Prevention