My teen son has a propensity for hanging out with other teens who like the same sports, the same music, the same video games, and the same clothes. Maybe during lunch at the school cafeteria, everyone divides up into their cliques and avoids everyone else’s cliques.
As I recall my days of high school, I know why teens naturally prefer the company of those who share the same characteristics. I’ll admit that, even now, I am disinclined at times to step outside of my comfort zone when it comes to learning about people.
Reality check: expanding your circle of friends is worthwhile! Step away, for a moment, and talk to new people!
Here are three reasons why I’m encouraging my teenage son to expand his circle of friends:
Having empathy and sympathy for others is the pinnacle of life and it prompts us to be grateful. The strength to be conscious of and share the feelings of another human being cannot survive solely through cell phone screens. Andrea Arnold, a British filmmaker and actress said, “I always think that if you look at anyone in detail, you will have empathy for them because you recognize them as a human being, no matter what they’ve done.”
Sometimes, I catch my son sliding into a funk. He may have started to feel sorry for himself. Listening to others’ stories would help him to understand his feelings, even when it’s painful to do so. If my son tried to do this more often, it would change his perspective on life! When we are able to positively alter a sullen disposition, we are then gifted with the opportunity to embrace our life as it truly is and not how we wish it were.
Checking in to reality empowers us to live a fuller life. So often, we become locked into our views. We don’t even think about why we believe what we believe any more. Maybe what we believe made sense at one time, but it is no longer relevant. Maybe we were right then and still are today. Or maybe we were wrong all along.
My husband has a question that he loves to ask our kids: “Tell me more about that.” While it’s most often used during a chat after the younger versions of us have behaved badly, it’s also a great way to continue a conversation after one of them has said something like, “I hate Donald Trump.” Okay, we say. Tell me more about that. Inevitably, they work out their feelings and thoughts and we get a clearer picture of who they are as they are growing into young adults. Sometimes, our discussions with them alerts us to check our OWN reality.
It broadens our perspective. You won’t grow intellectually if you aren’t prepared to have your assumptions tested. The world’s a complex place with a lot of fascinating people. What they have to say can be worth listening to.
It might be time to take a moment to ask your teenager: “Do you ever find that at school, the mall, or wherever else you might be, you tend to hang out with people who are a lot like you? Tell me more about that.”