Be Happy Be You – a book to create happy teenagers

 

It’s what we all want for our kids. From the moment they’re in the world, all we want is for them to be healthy, well-adjusted, and above all happy. As little kids it’s not hard to solve most of their problems, because what they really want is YOU. When things really start to get interesting is when they reach adolescent years, when their needs and emotions become much more complex, and parents don’t automatically have the quick fix. In our house, independence began to kick in around the age of 11, and it gradually became more obvious that my children were finding solutions (and more problems) from people who weren’t me.

Friends, teachers, and even the internet started to become the first point of reference, before they would think to ask for my help. And that’s normal! It’s what we want them to do, what they need to be able to do to live well as adults in the real world. But how do you help them get to that point, especially when your middle aged point of view seems so far from their perceived reality?

(By the way, if you’re looking for ways to keep teenagers occupied when they’re bored, I’ve created a list of 75 things for teens to do at home).

 

Be Happy Be You

A new book, written by Penny Alexander and Becky Goddard-Hill, authors of a hugely popular book Create your own Happy, for younger children, has formed the basis for my most recent conversations with my 12 and 15 year-olds. Both of them have experienced moments of anxiety, health worries, and friendship issues, as most kids do. Neither of them is that keen on ‘self-help’ or talking about their feelings, especially if it’s something I want them to do. (When my eldest was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes we were offered counselling for the whole family. Everyone refused except me!) So I wasn’t expecting much response when I asked them to flick through the book with me.

 

Exercises to help create confident teenagers

 

What I definitely wasn’t expecting was my usually taciturn, occasionally pessimistic boy to get his teeth into it. Here’s why I think the book appeals to even the most moody of teenagers:

Bite-sized sections

Be Happy Be You is divided into three main parts

  1. Being happy in yourself
  2. Happy relationships with other
  3. Being happy with where you fit in the world

Even better, each part is split into very short segments, each focusing on a different aspect of life, written in a way that is neither scary, nor patronising. There’s a no-frills description of how a teen might feel, some science to back up why it’s totally normal, and a short activity for them to do to help them strengthen their life skills in that area.

So for example, the section on overcoming self-doubt introduces the concept of imposter syndrome, putting it into context from a teeager’s point of view, with quotes from Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe about how they’ve suffered from it. The science bit talks about a study of hugely successful women who couldn’t see that their success stemmed from their own skills and qualities, putting it down to luck instead. Next there are some creative exercises to help teens plan how they might deal with something they don’t feel confident in, as well as some top tips for dealing with self-doubt when it strikes.

I love that there’s something for every type of person in this format. My daughter is incredibly creative, and will probably enjoy some of the more practical exploration of the topics, whereas my son might prefer to keep the written tips in mind to draw on when he encounters a situation he needs help with.

 

Help with raising confident teenagers

 

Teens can pick and choose depending on their mood

The shortness of each segment means kids can dip in and out, picking whatever they feel they need help with most. Body confidence, peer pressure, resolving conflict, online behaviour, bereavement, and inclusion and diversity are just a handful of the real-life issues covered in the book. And they can get a handle on any concept in a quick 10-minute read before bed, picking out short activities to do in the morning, or things to dwell on before they go to sleep. My 12 year old went to sleep trying to visualise a place that makes him happy last night, and even engaged with the concept of mindfulness, which I would never have predicted in a million years!

I honestly think that even the most recalcitrant teenager will find something in Be Happy Be You to help address their feelings about issues in their lives. If you’re interested and would like to read more before buying a copy, here’s what some other parents of teenagers have to say about it:

You can read more from Penny and Becky at createyourownhappy.co.uk

 

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