In our second blog post, we talked about building emotional intelligence and social strength. Today we will discuss how you can strengthen her decision-making and self-advocacy skills.
Both decision-making and self-advocating require self-awareness. In order to make choices that are aligned with her values, goals, and safety, college students need to understand what matters to them, what they want, and what are their boundaries. If your daughter is going to stay strong in the face of college pressure and persuasion, she needs a strong sense of self. Similarly, self-advocacy requires knowledge of how to use inner strengths when facing a difficult or uncomfortable task, like speaking up for herself, asking for help, or setting a clear boundary with a peer or authority figure.
Self-awareness is the way in which we see ourselves: our values, talents, interests, and strengths, as well as how we fit into our environment and interact with others. Self-awareness fuels confidence, which is critical in college and beyond. Together, self-awareness and confidence support value-based decision-making and the ability to clearly communicate needs.
Dr. Tasha Urich, the author of Insight and lead researcher on the topic of self-awareness, points out: people who know themselves and how others see them are happier. They make smarter decisions. They have better personal and professional relationships. They’re smarter, superior students who choose better careers. They’re more creative, more confident, and better communicators. They’re less aggressive and less likely to lie, cheat, and steal…. some research has even shown that self-awareness is the single greatest predictor of leadership success.
To help your teen develop self-awareness and thus support decision-making and self-advocacy skills:
Ask questions like, what are you telling yourself about yourself? Is that helping? If not, what would be a more helpful message? Help her become more aware of her thoughts and how her thoughts impact her feelings and choices.
Provide processing tools.
Talking with a neutral person, like a life coach or therapist, can build self-awareness and broaden perspective. Journaling is another helpful tool for processing experiences and emotional reactions. Processing feelings and experiences lead to more clarity, and with more clarity, young people make better decisions.
Highlight her strengths and weaknesses.
Tell your teen what qualities you see in her and when you notice a certain quality driving a particular action. For example, if you think your teen is determined, point out when her determination shows through action. Ask her about a “Strengths Story:” a time when she used one or more of her strengths to get through a challenge or tough situation. Also, normalize weaknesses and acknowledge that asking for help is not a weakness. Explore how she can use her strengths to overcome a weakness and what qualities she might tap into when she needs to be assertive.
Differentiate between confrontation and conversation.
I meet a lot of girls who say they “fear confrontation” and therefore never express their needs or boundaries. Point out examples of how people calmly and openly express themselves. Acknowledge when your daughter does it and point out how she can do it in other situations.
Build a framework for healthy decision-making.
Teens and college students are naturally impulsive. Many need to learn specifically HOW to make self-empowering decisions. The first step is clarifying an optimal outcome. From there, identify the choices that can be made to reach the stated outcome. A simple, What-How practice can help. For example:
Start with asking, What do you really want? or What could improve this situation?
Then, How can you get that? What choices do you have? What is within your control and out of your control?
Lastly, What is your first step? What is something you can do right now that will create a change?
Also, teach your teen the value of a pause. In heat-of-the-moment, a pause allows time to think about desired outcomes. Taking a pause can help calm nerves, improve clarity, and even allow for a situation to change.
As your daughter celebrates the end of high school and starts basking in the relaxation of summer, consider how you can prepare her for the next stage. Use the summer months to strengthen her emotional intelligence, social strength, decision-making skills, and self-advocacy skills. Look for opportunities where you can let go so she can strengthen her sense of independence and move toward her next milestone with confidence and grace.