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Help, I'm only 14, but I feel old!



Q. I’m starting to get a habit of biting my nails…. Which is odd because I get angry at people who bite their nails. I don’t like myself much…I don’t like the way I dress, I don’t like my hair or glasses, or my personality, or my body. I’m such a loser. I’d like to be normal. I wish I didn’t have to deal with people. I wish I could live alone and not have ridiculous feelings, all of which are a result of too much contact with people. I want to be in solitude. I’m too set in my ways to change…


A. Teenagers have a really tough time in life sometimes, because they are starting the transition from being children to adults which can be very stressful for them. Sometimes they are expected to act like adults, when they do not yet know how, and at other times they are expected to remain children when they are more advanced and mature. 

It also sounds as though you are very intelligent but are not getting the reinforcement of that maturity, neither are you getting the affirmation, appreciation and value you need to feel proud of yourself and who you are, so you are naturally feeling undervalued and low in confidence and in esteem. Hence why you don't like anything about you, because you perhaps feel neglected and/or rejected by those who matter to you. When we do not feel valued we often turn inward on ourselves, beat ourselves up, and reject ourselves, which makes us appear even more unappealing and isolated. When that happens, a lot of fear comes into play, which brings its own anxieties.

Your intelligence might also rob you of friends who can't relate to you and your mature level of thoughts at that age. You would need to build your confidence up by becoming friendly with people like yourself; perhaps join a club with your interests and take an interest in others, without being too self absorbed. For example, to ask for answers to your question then call someone 'idiot' when you don't like the reply, shows no respect or appreciation for others. How can they then have respect for you?

The bottom line is: If you don't love yourself, how can others love what you reject? Furthermore, a person who is so intelligent cannot be 'a loser', especially when you haven't even begun to live your life yet, and have it all ahead of you. You are capable of great things. You just won't achieve them if you keep beating up yourself in that negative manner! I can assure you that, because we are constantly evolving, from one state to the next, these feelings will pass. You have a long time before you actually become set in your ways. Youth is the most flexible time of life.

We all need solitude sometimes, especially people who are very creative and innovative, but something is deeply wrong at the moment which you need to address. What is really bothering you about your home life just now? If you find yourself wanting solitude and feeling old, you could be undergoing a form of depression or simply need to build your esteem. Have you tried a counsellor?

How do I resolve this argument with my Mum?



Q. Me and my mum had an argument about my birthday, I told her that my birthday is just a normal day and I cba doing anything now because there is nothing special about me being born, she got upset about it and we haven't said a word to eachother... How do I make her understand that I didn't mean to say that? What should I do?

A. I can understand how your mother feels, being a mother myself. She loves you and wants the best for you.

Kids are ALWAYS special. Up to 25% of children worldwide die at birth, with another 5% before they are seven. Anyone surviving REALLY is a special person, and parents love to celebrate their children's birthdays. However, it sounds as though you were having an emotionally stressful time, or you don't like how your birthday is usually celebrated, or you don't like the fuss, which is okay too. A compromise is usually needed on such occasions.

If you share emails, that might be the best way. To write her a heartfelt email just explaining that you were having a bad moment and you do accept that you are special, with an even more special Mom! Perhaps give some different ideas of how you would wish to celebrate it and ask her help and advice on it to make her feel included.

Better still, if you can try to talk to her face to face, apologise for what you said, acknowledged that she would have been hurt by your statement, and ask her what she had in mind for your birthday, that would be the best - and quickest - way.

Or, if you can afford it, why not get her some flowers, with a card that says something like: "To the Best Mom in the World. I might not be special, but you are very special to me", or whatever seems appropriate to you.

Upsetting the ones we love sometimes is all part of relationships. We do it when we are not happy with ourselves or our situation, and we tend to take out our feelings on them instead of talking about what bothers us. She will naturally be waiting for you to make the first approach because you rebuffed what she proposed.

So just have a chat, clear the air and have a fabulous birthday!!

Why Do I Hate My Life? Why Do Teenagers' Lives Suck?



In answer to that, some teenagers tend to hate their lives for a variety of reasons, but the main ones would be feeling isolated, and a lack of value and significance. Most teenagers want to belong, to feel wanted, loved and appreciated. However, often when they don't get on with parents, they find it hard to get a date or be popular with a group, they feel even more unwanted and rejected. Life then becomes terribly hard for them to cope with because it is all happening when they have no experience of dealing with such issues.

Not being as experienced as older people, they often underestimate the difficulties in achieving what they want and often expect things and people to be perfect. When that perfection isn't in evidence, or they feel frustrated in their endeavours, it can make them feel very disillusioned. Teenagers also tend to be fearless and want great things to happen to their lives, but often come up against the caution of others, or a general reluctance to help them with their dreams. This can become very frustrating for them because teens are likely to interpret the lack of support as a lack of trust or belief in them. Being impatient for things to happen, when they don't occur as expected, teenagers can begin to think they are failures.

The only way to overcome some of these issues and make your life more enjoyable is to be more outward in your approach, think of others more than yourself and get involved in community activities that give you a sense of worth. Most important, start loving yourself a little more and appreciating who you are, so that you don't feel too rejected when you don't have dates or fall out with others. Be also convinced that your parents think the world of you - they do love you to bits. Some parents just find it difficult to express or show it.

Far too many parents can also be too harsh in discipline and not enough on loving, while others just don't know how to handle teenagers, perhaps harking back too much to their own days, which is not helpful to the modern teen! You just have to give and take a little more with parents to get what you want from them and begin to be more lovable yourself to be appealing to others and to enjoy your unique existence.

Life has equal amounts of ups and downs. However, this simple balance is difficult to comprehend when you have been looked after for most of your life, getting whatever you might desire, and then find that you have to begin taking responsibility for your own life, only to discover that things seldom happen as expected. It can be very disappointing indeed. Furthermore, when your expectations do not match with the reality, things can look pretty depressing. The main thing to remember in all this is that everything is temporary. As you evolve it will all slowly change, most likely for the better!

The Dilemma of Being a Teenager Today



Teenagers in today's society have, to a great degree, the best and the worst of all worlds.

First, they are born into a society that couldn't be more revolutionary and innovative. They have all these gadgets at their disposal that their parents dreamt of and their grandparents couldn't even imagine. They have an incredible amount of information to aid their development. They also have opportunities galore to express themselves, to extend their reach, to discover their potential and to enhance their life quality. They would not be able to imagine what my world was like, 50 years ago, having to read by candles, having no phones at all, having nothing electrical and hardly any buses (we had to walk everywhere!). The mobile, the microwave, the video and Internet appear to represent an alien world I would not have believed capable of existing in my early childhood. So our youngsters couldn't be more fortunate.

However, they are having to learn even more than we had to do. There are so many things expected of them that they have to cope with, AND teach their parents as well, it must be kind of heavy to deal with, when all they want is to be looked after themselves. Many are confused about their identity, their ability, potential and direction. They have little guidance on innovations and, on top of that, many are kept back in their own development because of their parents' fear of this new world; the mental barriers the parents might have erected in their bid to cope with a new and threatening environment; one that has partially robbed them of their confidence and authority.

Finally, teenagers are increasingly operating within a world of their own through technology, especially with the new games, often lacking human warmth and comfort. They occupy a suspicious world where hugs and basic affection come with questions, doubts and caution. Many of them go through each day missing out on a simple cuddle, a word of praise, a hug, an affirmation of how wonderful they are and without understanding, affection and value. Without the extended family of friends and neighbours who used to affirm us and look after us, many youth now feel isolated, excluded and unloved. This increases the deviant tendency among them as many struggle to deal with their anger and pain. Teenagers live in a remarkable world compared to the one of yesteryear, but one which is slowly losing social connections while it traps the young in an oasis of insularity and virtual reality.

My son is drinking and smoking what should I do?



Q. My son is 14 going on 15 and about to be a sophomore in high school. All his friends are about a year older than him because he skipped a grade. I went to use his computer and I saw that his Facebook was up, and one of the first things on his activities was a video called "Team Golden Shower". I was really curious to see what it was and it's a video of my son and his friend playing beer pong, and taking shots of vodka. I decided to go through his pictures, and it was full of pictures of him chugging vodka, and doing keg stands and sure enough all his friends are doing it too. Its been 3 days and I haven't mentioned it yet, what should I do?

A. The first question is: Do you smoke and drink?

If you do, it is natural that he is going to do the same and think it's 'okay' because children can only follow their parents' example, especially if they have not been guided otherwise. Parents are the first people they see when they are born and, from that moment, they are socialised through them. Children copy everything that is done unless they are taught differently.

If you don't do either of these two activities, then your son is going through the usual teenage angst. Sounds to me as if he has confidence and personal value issues and need something to make him feel significant, grown up and important. You need to talk with him, but not in an accusatory way. Just find out, to begin with, why he feels the need to smoke and drink, and when did he start. You might then be able to trace a cause. Affirm all the GOOD and APPROPRIATE things he does. Praise him as much as possible, while gently pointing out the dangers of drinking and smoking at such a young age. It could also be the company he keeps and the competition within it. He perhaps feels that he has to 'prove' himself in that company by behaving like them.

It won't be easy because it is about abusing your trust (though he might feel angry that you have violated his by looking at his Facebook on the quiet). But it sounds as though your son needs attention and reinforcement at this difficult point when he is making the transition from teenager to adult, and only you can give him that by emphasising the great things about him, and downplaying the bad ones.

However, as mine is a British perspective, and you are clearly an in America, the approach might be different.

I'm scared of what my son will do. Help!



Q. My 22 year old son is on pills and weed. (I dont mind the weed). He has gotten violent towards me. He has punched in all my walls and kicked out my bedroom door and front door. He has cussed me out at 3 in the morning, all because of Xanax. He PROMISED me he wouldn't do pills anymore. I saw a text on his phone last night. it was from his friend promising 3 xanax for a ride. I have a 5 yr old daughter that witnesses these violent outbursts. HOW DO I TELL HIM TO LEAVE WITHOUT FEELING LIKE A PIECE OF CRAP? He works part time and cannot afford a place of his own

A. You have obviously gone through a lot and my heart goes out to you, but you have to tell your son to leave, and soon. You will always love him but it is his ACTIONS that are causing the problem and, unless you are really firm with him, he will just keep abusing your love and doing what he pleases. When he has to take care of himself and look after himself without your help, it might bring some sense to him.

You cannot live his life for him. He is an adult and has to start taking responsibility for his actions. The more he stays with you and gets away with bad behaviour is the more you are silently condoning his actions and the more he is abdicating responsibility for his life. Worse still, the more he will continue to do it because it gives him power and allow him to vent his frustrations. He is manipulating you too because he thinks you have to put up with everything he does simply because you are his parent.

However, we don't get change by trying to change other people. We get change by changing ourselves. Time for you to do something different, more in line with what you want, because appeasing him and putting up with his selfish behaviour hasn't worked so far and can only get progressively worse.

If he wishes to stay with you then he must abide by your rules and standards. That's a fundamental requirement. If he is not willing to do that, especially when he is in your home, it is time for some tough love. You might feel like crap in the short term, as you say, because it is not an easy decision for a parent to detach themself, but you will be helping both him and your family in the long run and that's the main thing that matters. He doesn't sound very mature and needs to learn to be an adult. That comes with independence, not you coddling him or constantly worrying about him.

The stark fact is that, if you do nothing, you will simply keep getting what you've always got. Nothing whatever will change!! Don't think of how you'll feel because this isn't really about you. It's about your son and what is good for him in the long run. Keeping him at home to be abusive is not good for him or his development. He has to learn to look after his own life. Furthermore, the more you put up with bad behaviour, the more you'll get. But the decision, of course, is entirely yours.

It is time we had a new name for 'grown-up children'. Do you have the answer?



We seem to have ample words to use in our every day language, no shortage of options to describe things and people. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, when it comes to our offspring, the most important people in our lives, the only suitable word in the English language we have to describe them is 'children'. This word is supposed to last from birth to death, regardless of the age of the child. Our children seem to be the only nouns in time that do not have any expansion on their labels, just one simple cure-all word that is highly unsuitable for adults.

Just like everything else we speak of in life, for clarity and relevance, we do need to demarcate the age of our children, one word for children under 18 (children) and one word for those over 18(?). It means that the minute we say that word, the world knows they are grown ups. We would feel less embarrassed about the fact that they are 'not kids anymore', we would waste far less time explaining that they are 'grown up' now, and they wouldn't feel so silly being called 'children' when they are clearly adults!

We appear to need three grown-up words here: one for all sons, one for all daughters and one for all 'children'! Can you supply the missing link for any of them? A wonderfully creative new word for all adult children? Or one for the men or women? You could make a lot of parents very happy and make it an absolute pleasure to tell people that our kids are not really kids without have any angst about it. To make us proud to have our..........(?) Fill in missing word!

If we have enough good suggestions, we will then have a poll of the public, to see which ones are the most popular. Can we actually influence the world from Confidence-Guide.com and even make history? That would be wonderful and you could even become very famous for creating them!

RULE: You can make as many suggestions as you like, or use parts of other words in existence, but the result has to be a NEW word. Your own unique creation. Send your suggestions to us!

I would like to kick off the suggestions with the word kidult. It is rather cute and it combines both 'kids' and 'adults' together to retain that definite grown up children air. I would love to claim it as my own, but I saw it written somewhere some time ago. It obviously didn't catch on, as I have not seen it used anywhere else, which is a pity. Could it gain a brand new lease of life? Up to you. :o)

Why are teenagers materialistic?



Not all teenagers are materialistic, to begin with, but the majority seem to be, and there are some easy answers to this.

Youth is an age of experiment and exploration. It is through experimenting with life in all its forms, and exploring the wonders of everything around them that they gradually get to know their world, to build their confidence, to acquire the knowledge that eventually turns them into adults and the experience to make the right decisions for their future, especially relating to their career and partners.

Youth is a time of low self-esteem because they are usually starting out with virtually nothing, just themselves. They find themselves in a world which is already established and, in the human hierarchy, they are almost at the bottom, just above babes and infants. That does not empower them too much because they have to now work very hard to take their individual places in that hierarchy. They have no money, no knowledge and no experience - the usual things associated with adults. They can only build their confidence and esteem through one major thing: their possessions - their clothes, toys and friends. So whom they align with at this time says a lot about them and is also crucial to how they wish to portray themselves. Hence why they experiment a lot to identify what suits them most, what adds the most kudos to their daily lives and what makes them most significant.

Fashion, in particular, becomes important at this stage because they can control and manipulate it to best effect. It is a major statement about who they are, how they see themselves and whom they wish to be. Hence why a lot of their money goes on fashion and cosmetics. In this kind of seemingly materialistic way, they dictate the terms of how they are perceived, they can boost their esteem, their confidence and their ability to be valued, admired and desired. They actually have the power to present themselves in desirable ways which are appreciated by their peers and so a subtle competition develops.

Being a teenager is mainly about the 'ME' culture because it is an important learning age. Being an experimental age too, the focus will be on the self to learn as much as possible in order to compete with peers, to be regarded as someone included and valued and to lay the foundations for future achievements in life. Money becomes paramount because that is the only marker of success that a youth can actually deliver in his/her own way, hence the focus on getting as much of it as quickly as possible (aiming to be a millionaire at 30, for instance).

In a nutshell, youth is a time for big hopes, big dreams and big aspirations and exploring the means to fulfil them. These will mainly be centred around money and possessions to boost the individual's competitive edge. It is a materialistic time because possessions are all they have to demarcate them from each other. Knowledge and experience in the ways of the world are still to come for them.

My uncle touches me weirdly. Is he a pervert?



Q. My uncle touches me in a weird way. I have known him since I was a baby but sometimes he is maybe too nice and when I tell my parents they say he is just very fond of you. I know it's true but he tickles my ears and my cheeks and once he told me to lay beside him on the bed. And he gets kinda mad or cross when he hears I have a boyfriend. Is he a pervert? What should I do? I don't want to seem rude but my guts are telling me that when I'm with him I feel uncomfortable.

A. He is not a pervert, but he clearly has some feelings for you which are not appropriate, especially if he is getting mad about your boyfriend when he is not your father. If he is also asking you to lie on a bed beside him that is wrong too. That is where sexual abuse normally starts from. If you feel uncomfortable, pay attention to your instincts, they are always right.

Start detaching yourself from his company so that you are never alone with him, if you can help it. Tell him you don't like being tickled as you are not a baby anymore and avoid any close contact with him. The tragedy is that your mother isn't taking you seriously because parents tend to go in denial when they do not wish to believe anything bad about the people they care about.

Sadly, you are on your own with this problem, so the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to avoid physical contact with him when you are alone with him, and also avoid being alone with him while still treating him with respect. If anything else happens that makes you feel bad I would tell another adult - like a teacher - if you feel your parents won't take it seriously. It is not a nice position to be in when you sense danger and you;re not sure what to do. just avoid im as much as you can when other adults are not around.

Are Role Models the Answer to Young People's Deviance?



A Conservative shadow minister in the UK, Chris Grayling, has warned of a "Jeremy Kyle generation" of irresponsible, alienated and socially inadequate young men making their presence felt in society. His answer is to promote more 'positive role models' but I have never felt that an emphasis on role models is the necessary answer to our young people's problems.

Some of the current famous footballers might be failing to set a good example, but it does not mean that all male role models are bad or inappropriate. There are many quiet heroes getting on with their work and setting fine examples, but they tend to be ignored. We just don't hear enough about them simply because it is the scandalous stories that usually attract the headlines. Furthermore, young people are the product of their homes and community, first, before the wider society makes an impact. If we need to change the negative trends we have to start from the home and the individual.

People do not behave badly for no reason at all. Adverse behaviour usually signifies a feeling of low self-esteem, insecurity, exclusion, lack of self belief and, most likely, a lack of self love. Those affected tend to look outwards for answers, becoming lemmings to social actions in order to feel valued and included. Many young people now lack the secure influence of their parents because they are exposed from a very early age, through new technology, to the influence of others and far more external stimuli which lessens the influence of their parents and older adults. It means parental values, which might be regarded as 'old fashioned', are now swamped by other influences which draw youngsters in through their need to belong.

I applaud any initiative that seeks to change the parlous state of some of our children into something more positive and affirming, and anyone should be commended for at least addressing the issues and seeking to change them for the better. However, I believe that this good intention by the Conservatives might go the way of all the others because of the misplaced expectations around it. No palliative of any kind will do more than touch the margins of these youngsters because their essential and basic needs are not being addressed, and the idea of selected role models itself is highly flawed in a number of ways.
Most important, the USA has tons of Black role models which put Britain to shame and yet the incarceration rates for youngsters in America are still higher than ever. If role models offered any better results than other remedies, many young Black Americans would have been the main beneficiaries.

The main answer to the current dilemma with youngsters is to help them to build their self esteem and sense of value. Very little else will do. We cannot appreciate anything else in our life unless we appreciate ourselves first, recognise who we are, where we are going and the benefits of reaching there - not for anyone else, but for ourselves. Young men and women have to learn to value themselves first, to develop the self confidence and self-empowerment that will lessen their dependency on others and on the cult of celebrity; to see their own value and significance before they can see that in others or their community. Until that core need is addressed in any way, all the other initiatives designed to bring them into line will merely remain peripheral to the achievement of the main goals.