There are two sections here. The first section covers the basics of the teen heroic journey and you will see your patients represented here. The second section looks at what you can do. Unfortunately, limited time with patients can be frustrating, but you may be able to find creative ways to support your teen patients on their journeys. The more trusted adults that play a role in their lives – even limited roles – the stronger their support network becomes.
The Teen Heroic Journey – Some Basics to Remember
The Heroic Journey is Inherently Ennobling – (but not all the behaviors are noble)
Teens are not just incomplete adults. They are literally on a ten-year heroic journey. They are challenged to let go of their known world of childhood, encounter a great deal of unknown and face a wide range of challenges and tests, and they must discover and master the ways and competencies of young adulthood. And – they will be in-between for a long time.
They didn’t ask for that journey. They got thrown into it simply by a new stage in human development – adolescence. They will be on a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs for ten years. They will need to call on their courage and develop resilience and the ability to persevere.
They will need to figure out how to manage their journey and become the authors of their lives – the central shift from child to young adult. And they will need support, even if they don’t seem to want it.
Teenagers Face Three Core Challenges
These are big, complex challenges that are addressed over ten years – not always in obvious ways. There is no recipe for supporting your teenager(s) in dealing with these challenges, but the big sections on each challenge provide a lot of information on each one.
- Forming an identity as a young adult. “Who am I?’ “Am I worthy?”
- Developing more mature relationships – with parents, peers and romantic partners. “Where am I connected?” “Who cares about me?”
- Building a wide range of competencies. “Am I capable of taking care of myself – of being successful?”
There are Three Different Types of Test
These are the same types of tests faced by adults in personal change – or corporate change. Teenagers just face a lot of these tests at the same time. The big section on what to expect looks at these tests in more detail, including examples.
- Letting go of the old ways of childhood
- Discovering and mastering the ways of being a young adult
- Dealing with being in-between childhood and young adulthood – “inbetweenity”
Teenagers are Tested on Five Levels
Growth through being tested will happen on various levels during the teen journey.
- Physical level
- Intellectual level
- Emotional level
- Social level
- Spiritual level
This is one reason the journey can be so confusing and unsettling at times – and exciting and rewarding at others.
The Journey is a Rollercoaster – There are Lots of Ups and Downs
The rollercoaster is a central part of the journey experience for teenagers – and for parents. And it lasts for ten years. There are naturally lots of ups and downs – they are unavoidable – just part of the journey. Expect them. Celebrate the ups and don’t let the downs diminish or discourage you or your teenager(s) – they are just part of the journey – for everyone.
- There will be successes and failures – progress and setbacks
- It’s an emotional rollercoaster with excitement and anxiety, confidence and doubts, clarity and confusion, feeling connected and feeling unconnected, etc.
- Teenagers will develop the ability to persevere and increased resilience as they go – and so will you
The Role You Might Play
1. Where You Have Infrequent Contact
For teens where you have infrequent contact, such as school or sports check-ups, there are still ways that you can have a significant impact. The heart of the heroic journey is becoming the author of a life and that is the basic conversation you can have with them. It doesn’t take much time (and you don’t usually have much time).
You can refer them to the site, give them a favorite quote(s) from the site, recommend a particular part of the site, etc. None of those actions take much time, but they keep you connected to your teen patients around the dominant experience in their lives. You can also extend your contact by putting parts of the journey of particular importance to you in print or on your website.
The same actions can be applied with parents and other care givers. They are on a journey too and guidance from a trusted source can make a profound difference for them.
And, I’m sure you will come up with ideas not noted here.
I am not what happened to me. I am who I choose to become.
2. Where You Have More Frequent or Intensive Contact
The heroic journey is particularly important for patients who have been diminished in some way – chronic illness, major injuries, abuse, etc. It is important because it is inherently ennobling and can help teems who have been victimized to get out of a victim posture and into more of an author posture. We are all victimized at times, but the key is to not be a victim any longer than necessary.
The general empowerment possible with teens inherent in the heroic journey can help them deal with their frustrations and limitations relative to their conditions.
Perseverance and resilience are critical for any teen on a heroic journey, but they can be particularly important for teens with chronic illnesses or facing long difficult recoveries. The emotional rollercoaster can also be more intense for them and can undermine care if not managed.
Actions. The actions noted in the infrequent contact section above are also relevant here. However, for patients with whom you have more contact, like those with chronic illnesses or a major illness or injury you may have a chance to engage with them on more of the journey.
That can be deeper conversations or getting them connected to sources of other support. It may also mean connecting more to other care givers, teachers, counselors, etc.
Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get
stronger and more resilient.”
3. Programmatic Influence
If you have a formal or informal clinical or administrative leadership role, you might be able to influence organizational elements that affect teens, such as policy, processes, strategy, etc. That can even be as simple as raising awareness of the issues and encouraging an organization to be more intentional.
For patients where you have concerns that they might hurt themselves, there are two sections on suicide in the Specials section of the site. One for teens who are feeling suicidal and one for people who are concerned about a teen committing suicide. There are also sections on Bullying, Thriving Making a Difference – and more.