Tweens & teens
Monday, December 01, 2003
Take a little peace, make it go a long way :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
By Lisa M. Schab, L.C.S.W.
The thought of peace is with us at the holidays, as we focus on giving and sharing, and the love between us. Adolescents today, however, face more violence in the world, the streets and their own schools than ever before, often making peace nothing more than a nice idea.
Our teenage children have the opportunity to increase the peace between themselves and within the world, if they believe it is possible. You can empower your teen by teaching him how his personal decisions and actions affect the people around him, and ultimately, all people. He can start by understanding and implementing any of the following ideas:
The ripple effect. You are not a helpless teenager. When you act peacefully toward any other human being at any time, you raise the odds he or she will act peacefully toward another person, and so on. Renowned physician, author and student of quantum physics Deepak Chopra describes research that shows people who meditate can raise not only their serotonin levels (serotonin is a brain chemical that indicates calmness) but also those of people in their immediate surroundings. When you give off peaceful energy, it physically affects those around you. Increase the peace in your school, your home and your neighborhood by being peaceful yourself.
Inner peace. You cannot give away what you don't have. You need to feel peaceful inside in order to pass it on. If you don't feel this, you can learn to, just as you learned to tie your shoe or microwave your lunch. Feeling peaceful comes directly from thinking peaceful thoughts. If you spend five minutes a day focusing on something calming or serene, you can lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, think more clearly and increase the peace within you. Schedule five minutes today to sit in your room and listen to soothing music, or just close your eyes and picture yourself lying in the sun on a beach. Practice substituting peaceful thoughts for stressful ones.
Attitude. The world becomes what you see. Focus on the positive-in people and situations-and that is what you will experience. Likewise with the negative. Every time you see the good in someone, and act on it, you are sending them love, which creates a positive experience for both of you. People who feel loved are peaceful inside, and that is what they will pass on to others.
As you pass people in the halls at school, think of one good thing about each of them. When you find yourself ready to complain about something, try looking at it from a positive angle instead.
Manage conflict. It is impossible to agree with all other people at all times. But it is possible to manage disagreements in positive ways. You can keep differences of opinion from escalating into conflicts by: agreeing to disagree, refusing to participate in an argument, being strong enough to admit when you're wrong, allowing someone to yell without having to yell back or walking away.
The next time your brother or sister starts listing the things he or she doesn't like about you, instead of responding in kind, try taking a deep breath and let them have their say. Don't get sucked in.
Forgive. Holding on to anger will cause it to grow stronger and eat away at you emotionally and physically. Wanting revenge will increase your negative feelings. There's an old Chinese saying: "If you seek revenge, you'd better dig two graves."
Forgiveness lightens your heart and creates peace. Letting go of a grudge clears the air and your mind. You are free and unburdened from the unrelenting chains of animosity. If you are carrying around anger toward someone, decide to stop harboring negativity in yourself and the world-let it go and get on with the pleasures in life.
Practice kindness. Every day you have thousands of opportunities to be kind, and increase the peace between people. Let go of the desire to always be right, and practice being a big enough person to be kind instead.
Start noticing ways that you can show kindness to the people in your life and then act on them. Give a compliment, help a teacher, really listen to someone. The next time your friends are making fun of a kid outside of your group, decide not to join in. Instead of continuing an argument so that you can have the last word, try letting the other person make his or her point instead. You don't have to agree, just allow the other person to "win" the discussion for a change.
Get support. Find a teacher or other sponsor to help you start a Teens for Peace group at your school. Find ways to increase the peace in your hallways, homes, neighborhood and the world. Know that you are making a difference every single time you act with kindness.
Lisa Schab is a licensed clinical social worker in Libertyville and the stepmother of two, ages 20 and 24. She can be reached at (847) 782-1722.