The Teenager’s Concept of “The Future”

Many authorities in government, schools, and even family try to influence teenagers to help them make wise choices for their future.  They provide all these suggestions with the assumption that a teenager’s mind is sufficiently developed to understand the information.  It is not always the case, and parents must learn how to prepare their children for everything, not just the future, but also, to receive suggestions about their future.  So bearing all this in mind, what is the best way to get thru to a teenager?

Teenagers are only very large children, whose minds are catching up with their maturing bodies.   This explains why advanced math like algebra is only taught at high school level.  The new and different abstract abilities of the developing teenage mind are only the beginning of the ideas they can understand.  Unfortunately, an abstract idea that is very difficult for many teenagers to grasp is the concept of “future”.  Since the future isn’t tangible and there are many new distractions in this stage of their life, many teenagers do not see a need to prepare for it.  Like math, this concept is very important because it exercises the mind.  The future offers many options that must be listed, organized, considered, evaluated, and planned in many ways to try to predict as many outcomes as possible.

It is not enough to wish to be rich or famous or successful.  It is important to make a plan about how to obtain those wishes. Consider, all generals go to war with carefully thought out plans, and surgeons go into the operating room with carefully studied X-rays and charts.  Of course they do everything they can to predict the outcomes, but no one can be sure about the outcome of a war or a surgery.  Although there is no control over the events that will unfold, you can prepare for the unexpected by being aware of the possibilities.

It is unfair to say that all teenagers are unaware of the future.  Some teenagers are not only aware, they begin to prepare at an early age.  Planning exercises can begin at a very early age with simple questions like “what do you want to be when you grow up?”   I think we all remember being asked that question, but was it ever taken further than that?  Parents must make sure to encourage children to keep imagining the rest of that dream, especially the steps to the final goal. 

Since the future is a hard subject to discuss with confidence because no one really knows what to expect, it is better to think of this concept as a game.  Like chess, thinking about the future requires abstract abilities, where we must think of every possible move and its consequences to all the pieces on the board.  While I encourage chess to develop this wonderful ability, I also encourage the open discussion about the future in family gatherings.  When parents begin doing this at an early age, they are sure to get through to their children at all stages in their life, from childhood to adulthood.

Because the future is riddled with uncertainty, it is also awkward for some adults to play this game. Remember that if you face your fears, you can overcome them. Do you think people who struggle in the present, are afraid of the future? Is it logical to expect more hardship? Is this why some parents avoid speaking of the future to their children, and perhaps only discuss it and broad and useless terms? I think that when people speak of the future (if they speak of it at all), they all imagine easy, happy, and hopefully thoughts that don’t reflect the reality of hardship and persistence. This habit is precisely why it is so important to make plans and visualize the necessary steps that will be required to succeed. These empowering mental exercises will not only help to be prepared for your future, but also to narrow the gap between unrealistic expectations and reality.

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