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Adolescence is often characterized by the “not enoughs.” Teens may feel not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough or cool enough. At the same time, they are trying to figure out who they are, where they are going and how they will get there. It is a confusing time, in more ways than one.
In her book Write Where You Are, author Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Ph.D. leads teens through the labyrinth of adolescence by using writing as a vehicle for self-discovery and healing.
What exactly are the benefits of teens putting pen to paper? Mirriam-Goldberg counts the ways:
Self-discovery. Writing helps teens discover who they are. According to Goldberg, “This helps you better understand yourself and your place in the world.”
Self-love. “Writing produces a sense of pride and accomplishment,” says Goldberg.
Finding your own voice. “Writing allows you to communicate in your own words and voice, without the filters and blocks you might use when talking to people you want to please, avoid, connect with, impress or run from,” explains Goldberg.
Finding answers. Writing encourages teens to look inward. “Because writing forces you to sit and think, it can be a way of finding answers to questions in your life,” says Goldberg.
Finding your creativity. Writing immerses one in the creative process. Experts agree that when practiced over and over, these creative skills transfer to other areas of life.
Finding your emotions. The feelings of adolescence are intense. Often teens aren’t sure how to deal with them. “Writing is a safe way to release your feelings, explore them and begin to cope,” says Goldberg.
Writing for life. Like any other form of art, writing is a way for teens to connect with the world. This can help them feel more engaged and interested in life. “Writing can make you feel more alive,” Goldberg said.
Writing your dreams. Goldberg says that through writing, teens can discover their true dreams, not what other people want. “You can think about these dreams, what it would take for them to become real and what you can do to start making things happen,” she said. “Then you can write your way there.”
Writing can serve as a grounding force for teens who may feel confused, insecure, emotional and even lost. It can give them answers to their questions and even provide questions that they didn’t know existed. It can serve as a planning tool for the future and a way to get to know, appreciate and even love oneself. All it takes is a notebook and pencil to get started.
Here's a couple writing exercises to get your teen going:
- Take a subject: the family pet, a vacation or special family memory. Try to pick a subject that isn't loaded in controversy or negative feelings. Write about this activity from your parent's perspective. Parents can write about the activity from their teen's perspective. Exchange papers and see what others believe you are thinking. This helps parents and teens gain a greater understanding of one another without treading on explosive territory.
- What frustrates you? Write a letter to the President of the United States explaining your frustration and what you think should be done about it.