The best advice from my parents that stuck with me through the years is that if you have children (especially 4 girls) you need to surround them with positive role models.
They realized as we were growing up that we were not going to be around them 24/7 and that there would be other people influencing us. So – they encouraged us to join activities and be involved in organizations where there were other adults making a positive impact.
They did not realize it at the time but my first signs of depression and anxiety appeared when I was a teenager – and it was something I never talked about. I suffered in silence because I didn’t know what I was experiencing. And although I had negative thoughts about myself that consumed me when I was alone, I had two huge positive influences – Rockdale County 4-H and Toe Jame Time Clogging.
My parents allowed me to become very involved in 4-H, therefore introducing two County agents in our lives. I was able to get involved in the community and learn very valuable skills. I found something I was passionate about and felt good about doing. The leader challenged me and supported me. They provided the additional structure that I needed and rewarded accomplishments. These adults developed young leaders and provided ways for me to be responsible.
Fifteen years later, it’s the skills that these leaders taught me that I use professionally and personally every day.
My parents also encouraged my sisters and me to start clogging classes. This was life changing for us. Not only was it something we got to do as a family but the instructors became part of our family. For me, I was more academic so physical activity was not a strength. I hated PE and never felt the experience of being part of a sports team. Clogging changed that. I had a team where we relied on each other. I was able to funnel every negative thought caused by my anxiety into physical activity. I had people I could laugh with. We were able to dance in both France and England. My parents sacrificed a lot to give us this opportunity but it was life-changing.
Although I never talked about my depression and anxiety until the past couple of years, I always recognized that having something I could feel good doing was important. I urge parents of teens that are going through tough times to make the same decision my parents did. Introduce positive role models into your family. Allow your teen to experience something that challenges them but gives them the skills to grow and the confidence that they can overcome.
I am very thankful for the positive role models I had as a teen. They set me on a more positive path. Being a teenager is hard. Being an teenager that suffers from depression and anxiety is excruciating. But I made it through. And it is because of my parents decision and they adults they introduced and allowed in our live that made a difference.