When you became a parent, little did you know you’d also landed the job of quasi-life coach. That’s right — you’re not just there to dish out food and do laundry. You’re there to pick a falling kid up off the ground, and then make sure they have the confidence to get up on their own someday. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it as you watch your child grow into a confident young adult.
With that said, I never realized just how many epically inspiring half-time speeches I’d deliver to my kids. The difference is, the ones you give a 5-year-old and the ones you give a 15-year-old are worlds apart in both substance and importance. Decisions you make when you’re 5 aren’t going to have a long-term impact on your life, but when you’re 15, they most definitely can.
So, parents of teens, prepare yourselves to give these 11 pep talks. You may even have to give them two, three, or five times. Teens have a way of forgetting things. Trust me.
1. Taking the SAT/ACT
Give it your best shot, but know that three hours of filling in bubbles doesn’t begin to define your future. I’d rather you nail a test of immeasurable things like character, spirit, and grit — not Latin suffixes and memorized math formulas. I can assure you, no boss has ever asked me for my SAT score (which is a very good thing because I couldn’t remember if I tried). Also, please take note: If you happen to score above average, you still have to do your homework and take out the garbage.
2. First Impressions Mean Everything
So take your personal grooming seriously. Clean, polished, and well put together on the outside is attractive for all the right reasons, and it doesn’t have to be complicated to get your swagger on. Try a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner like Head & Shoulders with Old Spice Swagger. It takes the place of all those bottles in the shower and leaves you with a great smelling scent and flake-free hair like you’re ready for whatever life brings.
And because people do, in fact, notice your hair, skin, nails, and clothing choices, take the time to put your best foot (and appearance!) forward. Using quality grooming products can make all the difference to boost your confidence and show your peers that you care about yourself and the person you present to others. It’s true: You only get one chance to make a first impression.
3. The Night Before They Start High School
I’m not going to lie: The next four years will have their rough spots. There will be angst, frustration, and yep, probably even tears. High school is a rite of passage, and not something all kids excel at. And if you don’t, that’s OK. I’d rather you peak in college than obsess over being the star athlete, class president, or in the “right” clique.
Use this time to discover your personal style, take care of your body, cultivate your mind, and most importantly, develop a sense of humor about what life throws at you. Make friends, lose friends, join quirky clubs, play sports you’ve never tried, and don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s just high school — life evens out for everyone. Don’t believe me? Just give me five minutes to look up my old high school friends on Facebook, and I can prove it to you.
4. Prom Night
This shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all of your high school events. If it’s epic, good for you. If it’s not, well, just think of all the better nights you have to look forward to. I do ask that you allow me to take a photo of you and your date to cherish forever and ever, and for you to view in embarrassment years from now when prom and that trendy haircut you have are nothing but a distant memory.
Speaking of distant memories, it’s always better to recall a less-than-exciting night than have no recollection of a fun one because you got falling down drunk. Nothing good happens after 2 a.m. Nothing. And never forget that no means no means no means no. If things get weird, call me. I will always have a “no questions asked” policy if you need a ride home when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
5. The First Real Date
Boys, open doors (all of them), pay for dinner and the movie, pull out her chair, and bring her mother flowers when you pick her up. Take her home 15 minutes before her curfew, and call (not text) her the next day. Girls, offer to split the bill, but let him pay when he insists, don’t duck-face-selfie during the date, and remember your body belongs to you and you only, now and forever.
Both of you should show up dressed to impress, so make the effort to present your best selves, both on the outside and the inside. That starts with Head & Shoulders in the shower, because of course you’re going to shower before you get ready for the big night. Many a bad first date has evolved into a great relationship, so don’t let one awkward night tarnish your dating mojo.
6. Peer Pressure to Try Drugs and Alcohol
You’re gonna be asked. It might even be a friend’s parent who says, “Want a beer? It’s OK with me.” Just know this: You are underage. No, I don’t think if you stay at home and drink it’s safe and OK. If you’re not of legal drinking age, it’s as simple as that. Same goes for drug use — it’s illegal and dangerous.
Life is really all about being able to handle yourself with strength and dignity in the toughest of situations, and being pressured to try drugs or alcohol will be the first of many. Practice being strong now. Oh, and want to know the greatest thing about being the sober one at the party? You’re gonna remember everything that went down. There’s a lot of power in that. Trust me.
7. Deciding on College
It’s your decision. Even if three generations of your family share an alma mater, it doesn’t matter. Choose the school where you feel you’ll be the happiest. Just keep in mind that the education and experiences you get at college are mostly up to you, not the school you attend. Unlike high school, if you don’t jive at the college you pick, you’re not stuck there for four years. Like a fork in the road, take another route and transfer.
8. When a Friend Isn’t Really a Friend
It’s gonna happen — no way around it — and it’s gonna suck and hurt your heart big time. To be honest, my heart is going to break for you too. But always remember, it’s not a reflection of you. Learning to keep toxic people out of one’s life is a skill most adults don’t even possess. Just promise me you’ll always be a good friend to the people who deserve it. They’re the ones who will have your back when you need it the most.
9. Before an Important Tryout or Audition
Here comes the “You’ll always be a star in our hearts!” speech. I know, cliché, but it’s true. And here it comes…that team or the cast of that play will never know what they’re missing. The truth is, life isn’t fair. You’re going to get rejected over and over and over again. It doesn’t mean you stop trying, though, because with each failure, an even better feeling of success awaits you. When you fail big time at something you wanted with all your being, take heart in the great lesson you just learned: humility.
10. Standing Up for Yourself
I may still treat you like a kid sometimes, like when I find your laundry 5 feet from the hamper, but let’s face it, you’re not. So if something doesn’t feel right to you, it’s probably not. Start trusting your instincts. If that means standing up to an adult, whether a stranger or an authority figure, do it. I will always support you if you’re in the right. Repeat after me: You never have to ask permission to do the right thing.
11. After a Breakup or Major Failure
A breakup may feel like the end of the world, but it’s not. Revenge, what-ifs, regrets, hatred, or pity parties are tempting, but you’ll find they are a waste of precious time and energy. So after you’ve taken time to process your feelings, pick yourself up and move on. The same goes for life in general. Just when you think you’re winning, be prepared for life to throw you curveball, because nobody is immune to failure. The best thing you can learn to do is catch it, and throw it right back. Harder.
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