The power of reflection for teens

Dr Asha Pemberton -
Dr Asha Pemberton -


THE practice of reflection involves taking dedicated time, in silence to reflect on our lives, our actions our emotions without bias or regret.

In this way, we learn to connect with ourselves, answer questions with authenticity and therefore be better equipped to make decisions or changes.

While the term is often applied to educational models, leadership or mindfulness, it is important to teach the concept to children and teens.

The ability to connect with yourself, with openness and honesty lays the foundation for better cognitive development, decision making and emotional intelligence.

All of which are critical to positive youth development and emerging young adulthood. Reflection is a competency.

The practice itself is all about learning. Learning how we feel, why we feel that way and asking how we can grow and potentially do things differently. As teens navigate life, they make decisions daily. In fact they make hundreds of micro decisions moment to moment.

Young people are able to enrich their lives when they take the time to consider what worked, what did not, what can be done, and what cannot.

Reflection requires courage and through that courage they equip ourselves to be more in control of our emotions and decisions.

To get its full benefits, young people must make reflection a habit. This if often easier said than done but parents can support the development of this important skill.

When young people appear distressed, emotional or irritable, often the knee-jerk response by parent is to meet them with similar frustration.

Instead, this is an opportunity to pause and take a step back, and ask them to sit and think about exactly what is happening in their minds, and slowly analyse their thoughts, actions and best next steps.

Authentic reflections require young people to be honest and take time to consider decisions or experiences which were embarrassing, due to poor choices.

These do not have to be made public, and in fact should not be!

However, the act of facing that discomfort and processing the emotion is the foundation required to make improvement and change.

Young people are often able to recognise their errors, laugh at themselves and learn when encouraged to reflect in a safe and non-judgemental space.

To get started, suggest that young people make reflections a weekly practice.

To support this, encourage them to make daily notes or journal entries about significant events during the week and then take time on one day to reflect upon them. These can include accomplishments, happy moments with family, disappointments or challenges with peers.Reflecting on positive as well as negative experiences is important. We learn equally from choices that went well and those that did not.

Beyond that, young people are encouraged to really identify the why behind the emotion.

To narrow down the reason why an event, a person, a situation or an outcome triggered a particular feeling.

Without reflections, teens are even more likely to act impulsively and erratically.

The teen brain is dominated by the emotional centres. This means that young people are temporarily wired to be less rational and more dramatic.

That considered, any strategy that can be taught to support their cognitive processes leads to better decisions and outcomes.

Reflective practice is one of these strategies, which when regularly applied and supported can lead to lower risk behaviours, more fulfilment and more positive strides into emerging young adulthood.


"The power of reflection for teens"

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