It is good to hear that there are some teens out there who are filled with hope and enthusiasm! It gives me hope!
Pag, you say "Some of my comments are not meant to be 'look, it's easy' but more a view of the attitude that helped him" and I certainly accept the first part of that. But IMO/E, young people's attitudes are so strongly shaped by the attitudes of those they find around them and the feedback they get from others. There's a powerful 'Give a dog a bad name' effect... And kids rise or sink to expectations.
In my DS1's case, he got some very negative messages at secondary school - intentional and accidental - and he was very strongly influenced by them. I remember a few particularly:
"You're the only boy in year 8 who still reads for pleasure!" --> So he stopped, because he absorbed 'boys aren't supposed to read'.
"You're not good at maths" --> His attainment in maths slipped backwards: he started Y7 in top set, but at the end of Y10 his 'level' was actually lower than it had been at the end of primary school.
"You're going to fail your GCSEs" - This was 'shown' to him particularly vividly when the senior team called him into a staff meeting to show him his position on the Y11 'Wall of Shame' (their words) - which was photos of all the kids causing 'concern' displayed in order of predicted grades, with my son second to bottom. --> So he stopped working. Why bother, if he's going to fail anyway?
My own input could mitigate, but it couldn't possibly counter-balance all the negative feedback from school: we had countless conversations where I'd say things like "School is wrong: you are not stupid: you would do better if you chose to work"; and he would say "There's no point in working because school say I'm stupid and I'm going to fail".
My greatest sadness is not that my son under-achieved academically, but that school damaged his self-confidence so badly. He left school believing that he was stupid, a failure, had no future, was not 'wanted' or valued, was unlikely ever to get a job... (He went badly off the rails last year, though - thankfully, fingers crossed - he is getting back on track now... )
Special is right that other interests and hobbies are needed: but a young person who feels bad about themselves is less likely to engage in other activities; and a young person who is disengaged - or worse, angry about it all - isn't really wanted.
All my DS's other strengths and talents were sidelined or dismissed, and over the years, he had fewer and fewer opportunities to use them. And this happens to thousands and thousands of teens each year - because we have created a society in which teenagers are supposed to stay in school and study - now for longer than ever. The ones who are not suited by this are treated as failures or 'difficult'.
Humans - including teenagers! - are motivated by appreciation, success, challenges they can succeed at, praise, feeling useful... And yet our society does not generally give teenagers many opportunities to have these positive experiences.
Of course there are exceptions to this - teens who do DoE etc. (whose parents are probably disproportionately present here on MN!) But I am talking about the generation of teens we are raising, not any individuals.
Teenagers who aren't 'academic' - and even those who are - are made generally 'useless' by our society. They are given fewer and fewer opportunities to enter the world of work and be useful. They are expected to be least active at the very time of their lives that they have most energy. They are forced into greater and longer dependency on their parents. They are rarely appreciated and praised - indeed, as a group, teenagers are much more likely to be criticised and demonised.
I think my own son will be OK in the end, because he is who he is and has me for him mum! And I expect your DS will be alright in the end too, look. But I do worry for this generation, which contains so many young people who feel - and are treated - as 'useless' or 'failures' or 'difficult'. I hope we don't create a self-fulfilling prophesy.
> Climbs down from soapbox and goes to put kettle on <
He is hoping to study Politics and International Relations...
..but it still makes me sad that he is a 1/2 empty glass person rather than an overflowing one and I can't work out why..
When I was growing up my Mother was always a "you can't" - and me a being the stubborn "who says I can't" person strided out to prove her wrong - I must have been a real PITA. - plus the fact that I love a challenge.
Due to this - I have tried throughout his life to try to inspire him to look on the positive side but I seem to have failed miserably
I guess he will find his level but I do find it unsettling that he feels whatever he does will not cut it ....
OP: does your son have an idea about what he likes doing? Is he better at languages, humanities, science? That might give him some ideas about what to pursue. I agree that for a young person who has no idea what career they want to train for, studying a subject they enjoy is a good start.
I remember our miserable sod of a headmaster giving a speech at my prom which was all about pollution and the imminent destruction of the world.
Otoh the annual break-up of school was celebrated in our local church by an old priest who always gave the same sermon: You must NOT be afraid of the future, you must have HOPE. Mimicked by generations of school children, but I do think the old boy had a point.
I should add - not least because I think my posts sound a bit glib - my son struggled with being incredibly low when he first left home. Some of my comments are not meant to be 'look ,it's easy' but more a view of the attitude that helped him. He got very 'is this it? Is it all about a terrible race to kill each other over the few jobs available'
He needed to see studying as a pleasure and chosing a job/career as a series of steps and ways to find one thing that suited him.
There is a difference though between following your dream and trying to find a way to make what you love pay. Following your dream smacks of wanting to win x-factor. Making what you love pay means recognising your skill set and the things you enjoy and trying to steer towards a career around those skills. So DS 1 loves English/writing. So he is trying to get any experience writing that he can but is also looking at journalism, advertising, teaching, proof reading.... He is also thinking about what he enjoys in life so being around people, being useful matters to him, hence the charity work and looking at working with people with SN etc. He wants a decent CV too so he is looking at anything that enhances that. He did a sponsored bike ride across the alps last summer, he is studying Italian on a fast track course. Stuff like that helps
My eldest is only 12, but I am encouraging him, and the other three, to consider training for careers where there are jobs available. Nursing, teaching, police force, engineering etc. I have told them all that it's great to follow your dreams, but you need an income in the meantime.
Ds1 is 19, at uni, with no specific plan but full of optimism and enthusiasm.
My advice to him has always been to find the things you love and try to make them pay. He has joined the uni newspaper as an editor, he helps out at a charity youth club when he can, he runs, he plays sport, he tries different thing and meeting people.
Yes,it is hard. But having hobbies and activities helps get you out into the world rather than sitting at home thinking what's the point.
When I was 17 I was convinced the world was going to end in Nuclear war. This was in the 1970s when the government sent out leaflets telling people to hide under a table in the event of Armageddon. I was never going to have children because they would be doomed. Still have my CND badge .
My 17 year old DS is the opposite. His hopes and plans are so high I'm afraid he may be unrealistic.
they aren't being brought up in wartime or its aftermath. They have enough food, shelter, love, an education and a world of choices.
if the alternatives are seen as only education or getting stoned/doing nothing/committing crime then some interests and hobbies are badly needed. More to sport than team sport, remember: walking, cycling, sailing, climbing, plenty of others.
very few can or should know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Especially not in their teens. He won't be doing the same thing forever.
get the education they think they need (maybe uni but not necessarily) and then see where it all goes.
Yes, I agree with you look. My DS went 'off the rails' for a couple of years (Y11/12) and is (I hope) now getting back on track. When he was at his most disengaged and angry, and I was trying to cajole him to do something, anything, he used to say things like "There's no point. There aren't any jobs. No-one will ever give me a job. There's nothing I want to do anyway. What's the point of working? Why would anyone want to go and do the same thing, day in day out? And the world is going to end or be destroyed by humans anyway".
I definitely wasn't so fatalistic at that age. I had a sense that I could do just about anything, if I set my mind to it. He doesn't have that, and his motivation for being in college is not future hopes and dreams, but a recognition that studying is a better way to fill his time now than dossing about doing nothing, getting stoned and getting into trouble.
I'd really like him to find a 'dream' or something he want to do that makes him buzz, because I think that's what makes us humans happy, but he hasn't yet...
I'd encourage him to get a job or start his own business young. Don't wait until after uni. So many Leave with qualifications and Have no experience in anything. Or why not study for a degree part time while working? And encourage him to get into technology. If he doesn't already know how to code etc and all of that encourage him to.
I think things will be different for kids. Home ownership may be for the very, very few. Retirement will be a thing of the past. Maybe you'll have four or five careers...
Being a teenager is overwhelming at the best of times . He'll find his path
I was young in the early 80s- plenty of unemployment then. My MIL was a teen during the Second World War; she missed the evacuation boat and it was torpedoed- all on board died. My grandparents were young during the famine years of the First World War. There has always been causes for fear- and people have always managed to find resilience in the midst of fear.
I had a chat with my Son tonite and it is so so sad if his view of life is the norm...
He feels that there is no hope - even if he goes to Uni then he has little or no chance or getting a job... He was quoting me figures of people who are looking for work and can't find anything - it was pretty high ....
He feels really despondant - but grateful that he really may not have to make a decision for at least a couple of years while he studies.
He doesn't know yet what he wants to do - but maybe will feel " a vibe" soon...
I don't remember it being so dire in my youth - you just "went out there .."
Any ideas how to inspire my wonderful 6 footer +++++