It was a weird week at home.
Beckett, 13, left Monday for a three-day, two-night field trip at Echo Hill Outdoor School in Worton. He has been away from home before but what made this trip unique was the inability to communicate. There were no phones or electronics allowed. It was meant to be an exciting, fun and interesting outdoor experience for he and his classmates. A departure from normal life was the goal, and I think it was mission accomplished.
Being a teenager, even if he did have his phone with him, communication would have likely been sparse anyway. Short responses like, “all good,” “I did,” “yes” and “okay” would have probably been the norm. It’s funny how I missed those texts back.
I was pleasantly surprised how talkative he was about the trip when he got home. I figured he was going to need time to decompress assuming he probably did not sleep well camping out. He talked about how much he liked his camp counselors, how “chill” the teachers were who chaperoned and how it was cool to spend time with his classmates in a different environment.
As parents, we certainly wanted to hear more details about everything, but we also know he will share more as time goes by. When he first got home, all he wanted to do was take a shower. Afterwards, he was anxious to get on his phone and catch up on whatever he missed. He hunkered down in his room and was clearly enjoying being alone.
Pam and I had to exercise some restraint and give him space. Of course, he had plenty of time away from us on his trip, but I also realize he needed to wind down. We needed to be patient. The thoughts I was having reminded me of this column I read a few weeks ago on raisingteenstoday.com headlined, “The Power of Solitude: Why Alone Time Could Be The Key To Your Teen’s Well-Being.” I thought parts of the column was worthy of sharing.
“The harsh reality is that our slick-paced society has placed a negative connotation on “alone time,” especially as it relates to teenagers. If they’re not busy at school, in extracurricular activities, involved in sports, working or engaged with friends every moment of the day and they’re spending time alone they must be lonely, lazy, unpopular, or depressed.
What we may not realize is that when our kids are given the freedom to escape from their busy lives, even for as little as a few minutes a day, they begin to develop more insight into who they are as a person. In fact, according to science-backed studies, inserting a healthy amount of solitude into an over-stuffed schedule can actually prove beneficial to our kids’ emotional and mental health.
… before you begin worrying that your child is spending too much time alone, here are a few reasons why learning to enjoy solitude may be the absolute best thing your teen can do for themselves.
Teens crave privacy. In fact, their need for privacy isn’t just normal, it’s necessary. Teenagers have a lot of growing up to do and they need the space to do it. One of the benefits of spending time alone is that it gives kids the freedom to do what they want to do. No compromising, no discussion, no negotiating – it’s their choice. It also gives them a chance to think about what motivates them, what they’re passionate about and what interests them which means they can dream, ponder and create in a way they never could if they were constantly surrounded by others.
When kids spend time alone with their own thoughts they begin to develop a greater understanding of who they are by tapping into their emotions. Through self-reflection, they learn what makes them happy, sad, frustrated, etc., and in turn, they tend to become more content with who they are and rely less on validation from others to make them feel fulfilled or worthy. They’re not drawn into the never-ending desire to be accepted, to fit in or to be in the cool crowd and they don’t need the constant validation of likes, hearts or thumbs ups to feel good about themselves.
Being constantly busy and surrounded by other people every moment of the day can be mentally exhausting. Spending time alone doing what they enjoy gives teenagers the time they need to re-energize after a long day. In fact, Lea Waters, psychologist and author of the book “The Strength Switch,” said kid’s brains are like computers. “It’s a little bit like if you have too many programs running on your computer. Your computer starts to slow down. When you shut those programs down, the computer speeds up again.” Just like computers need to reboot, so do kids. … the fact is teenagers who learn to accept and enjoy solitude in their life actually begin to crave the benefits that accompany it.
When you’re comfortable with yourself and the idea of being alone you tend to choose who you spend your time with far more wisely. Kids who get to know themselves through self-reflection have less tolerance for drama, games, and gossip and they have greater strength to walk away from it. They know who they are, they appreciate the peace in their life and they’re not afraid to step away from stress when life becomes unnecessarily complicated.”