Supporting teenagers and raising global citizens – how to rise to the challenge

How can parents & schools support teenagers during the pandemic - and the disruption to their schooling & social life?

That is one of the key questions discussed in the webinar led by Dr Anisha Abraham, pediatrician, teen health expert and author of the best-selling book: Raising Global Teens: A Practical Handbook for Parenting in the 21st Century, which you can listen to on replay now by clicking on the image above.The webinar explores how teens can find their own identity and adapt to a modern, mobile world, especially if they are living in different cultures and countries. It also makes practical suggestions on how to help teens adapt to moving school, country or continent during their childhood and adolescence, and how to help them say goodbye when it was time to move on.The lively webinar, which features a panel of experts, parents, coaches and educators, tackled important subjects around social media, body image, traumatic events, puberty, communication, relocate and stress.

Recognising teens’ needs and challenges

In the webinar Dr Abraham explains that when teens move on and leave their old school and friends behind, it is important to mark the occasion properly. Parents can help by keeping communication channels open with their teenagers and trying to listen actively to the emotions that they are expressing.In the webinar Dr Abraham explains that when teens move on and leave their old school and friends behind, it is important to mark the occasion properly. Parents can help by keeping communication channels open with their teenagers and trying to listen actively to the emotions that they are expressing.In fact, open and regularly communication with a teen helps parents to understand the challenges and issues that their children are facing, and alert them when things might be going wrong. Dr Abraham suggests that if you are finding it hard to begin a difficult conversation with your teenager, you can ask them what their friends are doing, because this can give a very clear indication of the worries and problems that might be facing them too, and enable them to open up in a safe way. She also suggests that if parents are concerned about issues around social media or body image, they should not be afraid of asking questions because it is important to get professional help as early as possible if your teenager is struggling.Other key strategies for parents or caregivers to make communication with teenagers effective is to choose an activity where you are chatting side by side, rather than face to face. This might be on a car journey or on a walk together, because teens often find it easier to talk in these scenarios.

Technology pressures and benefits

The webinar raises issues around the use of technology and how it can be a way for teens to keep in touch with friends but could also become an issue if young people ended up having too much screen time. The webinar also addresses the particular challenges that face cross cultural teens, who may have parents of different nationalities and be living somewhere other than their own home country.Having a trusted adult to confide in, whether that is a family member, friend or teacher, can also be very helpful for a teenager. Dr Abraham said grandparents might play their part in this, even if it is via telephone calls, and can be a sounding board and a source of impartial advice, particularly if teens are not always willing to communicate with their parents.

Practical tips and experience

Dr Abraham grew up in the US as the daughter of South Asian immigrants and has lived with her husband and two sons in Asia, Europe, and the US. In the webinar, hosted by Jayne Constantinis, BBC World presenter, Dr Abraham shares her own personal family experiences of moving, and how one of her sons had adjusted to a recent move, while the other had needed more time to get used to a new school and environment.She talked about the advantages and challenges of being a third culture teen, someone who is experiencing multiple levels of culture both in where they live and their family backgrounds. In a time when the pandemic has changed the way many schools operate, she suggested it might be time for parents to dial back a little on their expectations, too. Some children cope well with online school – others really struggle. It is not always helpful to have very high expectations of children when they are having to cope with challenges in their life in addition to academic pressure.

Boundaries and experimentation

The teenage years are a time of great physical and mental development and Dr Abraham explains that although some young people may look like adults, their brain continues to develop until they are in their mid-20s.This is why teenagers indulge in risky behaviour and why they sometimes make decisions which seem irrational and foolish when viewed from an adult perspective. She explains that this is because their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that deals with rational decision making, is still in development.Dr Abraham suggests that allowing experimentation, but having clear boundaries, helps to keep teens safe but enables them to become more independent.As adolescence is a time of experimentation, particularly with alcohol, and the webinar discusses the use of alcohol in a moral and culture context. From a medical point of view, Dr Abraham discusses why delaying alcohol use until late teens or twenties is beneficial for young people both in a physical and a mental capacity.

Helping young people navigate loss and bereavement

Fiona Murchie, managing editor of Relocate Global, raises the issue around Coivd-19 and how young people may have lost a loved one in the pandemic. Dr Abraham recommends strategies to help teens cope with loss, whether it is the death of a family member, or the sense of loss that can come from having to say goodbye to school friends when it is time to move on.The webinar also features contributions from Marianne Curphey, Relocate writer and specialist on work-life balance, and from Paul Williamson, executive coach, who has wide experience coaching adults in leadership roles. The panel discusses the role of parents in supporting teens during challenging times, and how having a cross-cultural experience can create teens who are bi-lingual, tolerant, engaged and adaptable.
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