Support youth as they seek time for themselves

Youth can often feel overwhelmed or frustrated and need time to themselves. Learn how we can best support them.

Respect the importance of private, physical and emotional space.
Respect the importance of private, physical and emotional space.

As adults, sometimes we just need to take a break. Whether it’s because we’re feeling overwhelmed from work responsibilities, family obligations or even mounting to-do lists for volunteer roles, it’s important to take time to regroup and pay attention to one’s self. Sometimes we find ourselves doing this by going for a walk, practicing mindfulness or finding a comfortable space to be alone for a bit.

It can be easy for adults to recognize when they need a little time for themselves. But what about youth? They, too, can feel overwhelmed or frustrated by a variety of things that are happening in their world, resulting in them seeking time for themselves.

How can we support youth best when they need some time to themselves? Michigan State University Extension offers the following tips:

  • Talk to youth. As you acknowledge youth may need some time to sit quietly or take a walk by themselves, let them know you’d like to listen to what has them frustrated. This conversation can be done before or after they take that time for themselves, but just be sure the conversation doesn’t override the fact that the youth is seeking some time alone. A resource that may be helpful is “How can you talk to your child about their day?” by MSU Extension educator Kendra Moyses.
  • Help youth practice mindfulness. If you’re not familiar with mindfulness, MSU Extension defines it as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. Mindfulness isn’t just for adults! It’s for youth, too. Learn more from “Mindfulness in adolescents” by MSU Extension educator Karen Pace.
  • Respect the importance of private, physical and emotional space. Angela Oswalt Morelli, MSW, has written on the topic of self-esteem and allowing for children’s privacy. She suggests parents can foster healthy individuality in their children by giving them an appropriate degree of privacy that allows them to have time and space (both physical and emotional) to themselves, free from the need to please others. She provides several suggestions in her writings for parents to help youth create appropriate physical and emotional spaces for themselves.

Helping youth learn to take time for themselves is important. As they grow and learn when and how to take time for themselves, they are actually learning important life skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, stress management, managing feelings, self-esteem and personal safety. The Michigan 4-H Youth Development Program utilizes a tool from Iowa State University called the Targeting Life Skill Wheel (TLS) to help identify life skills. 

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