Worrying about teen worrying.(12 Posts)
My son is 17 and I just found him in tears staring at a blank page trying to write a draft personal statement. He wont talk to me and says he's just tired but i am really worried about him. He is a high achiever and is predicted very high grades in four A levels but socially he is very closed and seems to have a fear of failure and of looking stupid. He has very few friends and what friends he does have he never invites home. He has a very conservative nature and likes to follow the 'rules'. He never drinks alcohol (in fact he never even drinks tea or coffee!) rarely goes out (the cinema occasionally) He spends all his time working revising playing minecraft or making videos. He's pretty sensitive and wont open up to me if I try and discuss things with him so I try not to dig too much. Things like feelings, emotions, fear hopes dreams etc ...I know - what teenager does?). He is very risk averse and prefers to stay within the confines of his comfort zones. Because he doesnt have much extra curricular stuff in his life he is finding it hard to start the personal statement and he is worrying about it. I know this all sounds very teenagery but I just wish he was less uptight and could relax and have a little fun. Even get into a little trouble! I know that sounds mad! I dont think he is depressed as such but... I dont know, how would I know really? He is off on a trip with other six formers to North Africa for two weeks on Monday and I wondered if he was worried about that but he says not. He says' he's not worried about anything. But sometimes he looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He sets high goals for himself academically but he doesnt seem to balance that with ....fun. Maybe the trip will help. Gah! I'm just being a worrypot arnt I?
For the personal statement, would it help him to have the viewpoint of a university teacher?
There are a few cases- e.g. medicine- where targeted work experience/volunteering experience actually matters, but if he was going for something like that his school should already have told him.
Other than that, most of us don't give a monkey's what he does in his spare time. There is no evidence that trekking through the Himalayas or winning the junior swimming championships is going to make you even a tiny smidgeon better at studying English literature or advanced mathematics.
All we want to know is that he is going to give his all in his specific subject. A lot of English university teaching depends on the engagement of the individual student: if the students of the seminar group are dull and can't-be-bovvered, the seminar discussion simply doesn't happen.
So we want to know that he is actually interested in it: interested not just to the point where he does what he needs to pass his exams because he is a good boy, but actually interested. That he is someone who has chosen his subject carefully because this is what he really wants to do, someone who is going to go the extra mile, someone who is already reading a bit more than he has to or doing subject-related stuff because he just enjoys it. He doesn't have to gush, but something specific that he enjoys doing that is relevant to the subject would be good. Those videos for instance- could they be relevant in any way?
This is three years of his life where he is going to need to muster more enthusiasm than has ever been required of him before: enthusiasm that will carry him through the early Monday morning lecture and the late afternoon Friday seminar and hours and hours in the library. What is there about the thought of his chosen subject that makes him feel enthusiastic? Let him think about that, put it down, and try to come up with an example or two that prove his enthusiasm.
Thank you so much corythatwas for taking the time to write such a helpful reply. I feel a bit calmer this morning. He certainly does have a genuine interest in his subject (mathmatics) and yes the videos he is making are all about explaining maths stuff. He also mentors younger students. I think he is disappointed that he hasnt got as far as he wanted to with both of these things (he has just done AS exams and internal assessments which have taken a lot of his time of course) but as I said to him last night he can build on these things between now and application time. He's not very good at blowing his own trumpet and I guess its daunting trying to get across the enthusiasm in a written statement. But...he is bright he'll figure it out. I'll pass on your very good advice. Thanks again.
He sounds just like my DS was. Here's now doing Maths at uni and has grown up so much since he was 17. He did no extra curricular other than being immersed in Maths.
One thing that helped his confidence was getting a part time job at Kumon maths. They seem to employ sixth form maths students and though not well paid it was good for him.
You're describing my DS, almost 17, to a tee!! He's just finished AS's; he's a worrier, doesn't articulate well, and spends most of his time studying, gaming but, thankfully, playing quite a bit of sport. Doesn't seem to need to be around friends, which he's had since primary school, hasn't really made many new ones at 6th form. He would never break any rules and so wary of authority. He just seems awkward in own his own skin.
Conversely, I have a DD19 who's a complete party animal and prolific rule-breaker!
I know confidence is what he needs, and he has taken steps to break out of his comfort zone recently. He's started on his DofE Silver, which has brought about doing things he'd usually shy away from. Volunteering with coaching young children in his sport, taking up drum lessons as a new skill, and attending DofE meetings to arrange the expedition he's going on next weekend.
Sorry, going on about my DS, but just wanted you to know, I understand!
Cory has some brilliant advice!
Thanks TheRoadToRuin thanks for the Kumon idea. There is a local tutoring place locally which he is going to email for some work in the Autumn.
3cats good to know he's not teh only one. My DS is doing Dof E too and gets a lot out of that.
Thanks for the replies.
One titchy piece of advice about the personal statement - it's really hard knowing how to start it. Suggest he just start writing - any old thing. Really basic stuff that he'd never actually send, about why he loves his subject etc. but just worded the way he would normally speak. Then tweak it all and add the 'start' later. He'll feel better just for getting something down and once he's started will probably find he's got loads to say and goes over the word restriction. I had to help DD with hers in this way. She was trying to think of what she was expected to put. I just said 'tell me genuinely why do you like the subject?' which seemed to work.
My two DSs never did extra curricular stuff till about 17, but got in to good Unis. The stuff your DS has done sounds great to me.
DS1 was very quiet till 18. He's totally changed now - life and soul. Just needed to find himself and build confidence (he's dyslexic).
Someone else with a worried 17 year old Dd.
She struggled through exams as expected with a couple of meltdowns en route. But the personal statement is something else! We try to help and get our heads bitten off. As previous poster, I've just told her to get stuff on paper, and refine it later.
This seems a really difficult phase. I'm hoping once she knows her results and personal statement is in the bag she will lighten up a bit, or until A2 anyway.
Thanks guys, it really helps to hear others with introverted moody teenagers! Great tip Peebles1 . He has made a start this morning and I'm trying not to stick my nose in too much. I find that very hard!!
My 4 DCs are all at Uni now and all say that A'levels were extremely stressful. They were not at a pushy school and we never pressurised them. They seemed to put pressure on themselves.
I can remember one of my DDs crying over a mathematics PS too. She had very little extra curricular stuff but no one cares about that for maths. I told her not to worry about it too much but I'm not sure you can say anything to them to help sometimes. You just have to be there, sympathise with them and accept that's it's a huge deal to them.
I thought my DCs took things too seriously too. They are so different to how I was at that age.
Teens are their own person especially at 17. However maybe try help him to try new things like joining a club if you feel he needs to interact more? how about a laid back sport such as Golf or Bowls? I know exactly what it feels like to have few friends, but that's okay, quality over quantity remeber. You should also be praising him that he is trying so hard on his qualifications. But at the same time reminding him that he is still young and is allowed to have fun. But at the end of the day by 17 he may have already realised his true personality and it is just the person he is. In some ways you should be grateful that he isn't on drugs and getting into trouble with the police like some kids his age. Please don't worry about him not opening up to you, although i know how hard it must be, but as a teen talking to parents about personal problems can be embarassing and they would rather tell their mates. or keep it to themselves. You are doing fine as a mum i'm sure, don't worry!
ah thanks worried, I know you're right, its just such a guessing game with teenagers and i suppose its natural to worry especially at this transitional age . He's definitely his own person. He's away on a trip now so wont see hi for a couple weeks. I expect he's having a great time.
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