My mom is the proud grandmother of thirteen grandchildren. Each one is completely different from the others. We are all very close and my sis and I even live on the same street; we have twelve children between us. Currently we have two twenty-somethings, five teens, three tweens and two eight year-olds.
Recently my mom had very serious surgery. My sister and I took turns caring for her along with our step-dad. Most of the teenagers came to the hospital on the day of surgery and waited for hours to see how grandma would do. They all love her very much. For me, as a parent, aunt, and teacher, the most interesting part of this experience was the variety of ways each child dealt with grandma’s illness and recovery.
Some of them paced and worried. At times they all used humor to overcome the concern and anxious waiting. Some wanted to be part of the hands-on care, while others generously donated time and money to run errands for grandma as she recovered. Teens are much like adults (only usually more intense). They react differently to stress.
My oldest daughter likes to turn stress into action. When her friend disappeared she raised money for the search efforts. For grandma, she took over caring for her younger sisters (who happened to get sick at the same time) so that I could care for my mom. My teenage son doesn’t talk about his feelings. He keeps to himself and sits in his room or talks on his cell phone to his girlfriend. My younger teenage son never stops talking!! He wants to know what is happening. He wants to tell you what he thinks and feels (even when my ears are too tired to listen anymore). My sister’s daughter is also an action girl. She runs errands for grandma and visits often. Her teenage son is quiet and thinks a lot, similar to my older one.
When we are called to work with teens, we can be mindful of their differences in processing information, difficulties and stress. Similarly, we can recognize that they communicate in individual ways. What might not make sense to us may make perfect sense to them.
The cousins are comfortable praying together and using humor when they have to face something difficult. Observing our students may give us insights into the strengths they have when confronting difficult things. Approaching them where they are, instead of trying to make them cope in the same place we are coming from, will bring about a more positive outcome.
We can also help give them tools to help them work through stressful situations together. Teaching them prayers to say together, such as the Rosary, offering intentions and having a Mass for the teens can help. Using sharing techniques (such as going around the room and asking each person what they think about a particular situation), can draw in some of your reluctant students. Even playing games or role playing can aid in these efforts.
My mom is slowly recovering and the kids are really supporting her in these tough days. I am so blessed to be able to witness the strength and love of all her precious grandchildren, each contributing in their own way. Many blessings.