Serving You & Your Teen

Does it feel like no one understands you, or takes your view into account as you plan for a future that seems unclear? If the answer is “yes,” there’s good news—you are not alone, even if it feels that way sometimes. And, there’s a good chance that the person who popped into your head when you read that question also answered “yes.” The research is in when it comes to challenges, studies show that everyone faces them. But, not everyone faces the same challenges, or needs to face them similarly.

Encouraging Teens, founded by Desiree Panlilio, is dedicated to changing and improving the relationships between teens and their parents, their communities, and their peers as they plan for the next steps toward the future—no matter how unclear it may seem. Instead of believing teens are challenging, let’s encourage the realization that teens are facing challenges. Instead of giving teens the same roadmap for a collective path, let’s give them the tools and support needed to create their personalized roadmap for the path of their choosing. With this approach, we can turn challenges into opportunities, confusion into conversation, and ambivalence into self-motivation to create…

Clear and Focused Futures.

How to Work with Me

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GROUP COACHING

Join other teens in learning how to be your best self for the future—all in an authentic, inspiring environment.

GROUP COACHING

Join other teens in learning how to be your best self for the future—all in an authentic, inspiring environment.

1:1 Coaching

Ready to dig deeper? 1:1 Coaching provides fully focused sessions that will accelerate progress with continued goals and next steps.  

MEET DESIREE

Prior to its official founding, Encouraging Teens was the passion and brain-child of Desiree Panlilio. As a former nurse, medical manager, and spousal mentor at the U.S. Navy’s Command Leadership School in Newport, RI, Desiree honed the skills needed for her future role as a mother and community leader. It was through her own teen-rearing experiences that she began developing the tools and communicative framework that would be employed in Encouraging Teens’ effective seminars.

From Parents 

Alan Jarrett

Last year in the midst of COVID and imposed isolation on our nation, our son lost his academic focus at college and his grades suffered drastically.  In the past when this had happened in school, he had been able to course correct with a little advice from us, his parents.  Not this time.  Emotions of guilt, anger and shame hung over him and colored any interaction with us on the subject of school.  We did not know how to help him.  However, we knew Desiree Panlilio of Encouraging Teens.  We had seen her success with her own daughters and heard how she had helped numerous other teens.  We hoped she might be able to help our son.

She did.  It has been a true game changer.  Desiree didn’t judge; she helped him focus and realize HE is in control of his destiny.  She then equipped him with a path and framework for him to plan to and execute that control, and for us to effectively engage with him for support and accountability.  With her guidance, he created, refined and actively owns his plan. It has been quite empowering for him.  We see it clearly through the change in his communication, his confidence and his attitude.  He recently commented that “I wish I’d known this from the start, it would have made college so much better.”

Make no mistake:  Desiree gave him something much more than a tool for success at school; she equipped him to own and maximize his success at any stage in life.  Thank you!

Nancy Anderson

Parents rest assured you can entrust your child to Desiree Panlilio. When our daughter was a very young cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, Desiree and her family became a sponsor to her. Beyond giving her much needed respite from the demands of a military academy, Desiree became a mentor, coach, confidant, surrogate parent, and devoted friend. The bonds of this special relationship have extended well beyond the four-year sponsorship at the academy, throughout our daughter’s tours in the Middle East, Southern Florida and beyond. Desiree’s ability to incorporate skills and experiences from her medical, military, academic and parenting realms make her uniquely qualified to listen to, encourage, counsel and guide youth and young adults through the gauntlet of life’s challenges both on and off campus. As an educator and administrator for more than 40 years, I do strongly recommend Desiree Panlilio as a highly qualified professional. Parents can be comfortable entrusting their son or daughter to her counsel. Desiree Panlilio is truly one of the best!

Tara Dribble

2020 was such a bad year for all of us, but for high school seniors losing out on their final months of school activities and then being expected to march off to adulthood in the midst of a pandemic was a perfect recipe for chaos in my daughter. Desiree was great at helping her realize that while it felt chaotic, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed and helped her reframe her experiences. She worked with my daughter to get herself organized and focused, which helped her self esteem and lead to setting reasonable and realistic goals. She now has a clearer map for her future. We all know there’s no manual for raising children. There’s no definitely no manual on helping them to transition to adulthood while navigating a pandemic. Desiree took time to get to know my daughter and then was able to enable and encourage her to find a balance with school, home, family, and work. My husband and I are very pleased with Desiree’s approach and effort in working with our daughter and highly recommend her.

Jen Williams

Desiree is amazing! She’s a wonderful coach and understands teens very well. She’s organized and communicative with emails and appointment reminders. My son has great respect for her and appreciates the skills she uses to help him succeed academically.

Crystal Clark

Desiree has been a wonderful mentor and leader in her various roles within the community. She has always exhibited great moral values and has been a wealth of knowledge and guidance.

Meredith Anderson

 I was beyond blessed to have Desiree and her family enter my life while I was studying at the Coast Guard Academy. Then, and even now, she and her family have provided me the best counsel and life advice for navigating the military I could ever have asked for.

Kate Robinson

This is the perfect job for Desiree! I’m so very glad to hear she is branching out to share her gift with others. Our daughter is now a well rounded successful sophomore in college and still leans on Desiree as a life mentor.

Write Goals!

Only three percent of adults have written goals, and everyone else works for them.
(Brian Tracy)

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

Brian Tracy is the CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations. That quote by Brian Tracy made me pause and think, “Do adults have goals?” On further investigation, I realized that adults do have goals, which are often vague, not defined, so it is more of a vision, a dream. There is no clear goal and the steps required to obtain that goal are missing. Most important adults I asked had no date and no timeline of when they will achieve that goal. The “goal” was something to work toward as they moved through life, and had no date to achieve the goal. The standard by which I believe goals should be written, SMART goals, was not being utilized by adults. By not having clear goals and a pathway to achieving the goal, your individual goals give way to helping someone else to achieve their goals. All of a sudden you are helping someone else achieve their goals and helping them create success while your own goals are further pushed into the future. The question becomes, will you ever achieve your own goals and the success you want, or will you continue to help others achieve their goals? What is your focus? However, let me share why goals matter.

Goals are important for adults and teens. If you want your teen to have goals, you as the parent need to model creating goals, monitoring your goal progress and celebrating when you achieve your goal.

The importance of goals is to create accountability. A goal comes with a set of objectives that must be met in order for the goal to be achieved. The goal must be clear, precise and have a date that it must be achieved. Most importantly, the goal has to be written down. If your goal is not written down it is not going to materialize. It is easy if something is in your head, to change the goal, change the date you want to achieve it and to not focus on creating the success that goal will bring to you. The method I like to use in creating a goal is the SMART goal system. This system will have you write a “specific, measurable, attainable, results focused, and time sensitive goal”. By following the SMART goal system, you will then be able to create and write down the objectives and the dates each objective must be met in order to achieve the goal. A weekly review of your goals helps to keep you on track. This also role models to your teen how important it is to have goals and to work toward achieving them. We all want personal success and to achieve those goals are the cornerstone of moving forward into the life that you want.

The result of achieving your goal is personal satisfaction, and moving toward the success that you want in life. Your teenager will see this. They may not say anything, but they are watching and learning and will start to create goals which you can encourage through conversation. The accountability, the focus, and direction goals give your life is an important life skill.


As a parent you can move from individual goals to family goals. Family goals focus on achieving accomplishments agreed upon by the family. This is an easy way to role model goal writing and the importance of it. An example of a family goal may be a community project: Our family will volunteer to lay wreaths with the organization Wreaths Across America this December. Next is to write down the steps to make this happen, such as how do we volunteer, where do we volunteer, what date does this take place, what time? All of these questions can be researched and answered and it role models goal setting and the steps to make the goal a reality. Once you have completed the goal, celebrate and create the next family goal.


As a parent, we are the most influential person in our teen’s life. It may not seem that way, but they are constantly watching and evaluating our behavior. What behavior do you want your teen to learn?

For help with writing goals check out our online course on goal setting. This is a goal setting workshop designed for tweens, teens and young adults. The course is a go at your own pace and teaches the methodology behind SMART goals. Want a way to track all of that progress, order our planner. Check out the website for the link. Give your teen an edge this year. 

 

 

Take Time to Reflect.

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
(Peter Drucker)

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

I am asked, “Why do we need to reflect?” What is the purpose of reflection? As an adult, I am too busy with work, kids, and life to find the time to stop and reflect. But taking time for self-reflection is so important, and here are some reasons why. Self-reflection is a part of self care and helps us to “do better and be better.”
Self-reflection builds self-awareness as it allows us to look with curiosity at our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions. It is a chance to step back and ask the “why” and what is behind our actions and emotions. Self-reflection leads you to growth, positivity, and happiness. By journaling your responses you give yourself permission to grow and understand yourself and where you want to focus your growth.


Self-reflection is an essential skill for personal growth. Without it, we walk around unconscious and often reactive to others and even our own selves. We have all had that conversation with our teen, where we blurt out something mean, inappropriate, or sarcastic. The moment the words are out, we want to eat them, to take them back. We regretted the comment the moment the words were out. Those words are based on an emotional response, and self-reflection might assist you in choosing healthier responses and changing behaviors (even thoughts) that aren’t working well for you. After all, communication is the relationship, and evaluating how we communicate, what we say, and how we say it is so important. I find that journaling a “bad” interaction with my teen allows me to assess it and then write how I wish the situation would have gone if I could have a “do-over”. We don’t always get a do-over, but we can learn to first apologize and how to restructure our communication to build trust and the relationship with our teen.


The intent of self-reflection is to assist you in positive change, not to bring you down, or to make you feel like a bad person or a bad parent. Our children are changing and we are changing. We are constantly growing and learning and discovering a new and better version of ourselves. Let self-reflection instead lead you to better ways to support yourself. Practice self-compassion, and listen to your inner knowing. Where are your strengths, how to build on them. How do you grow your weaknesses into strengths? Consistent positive self-reflection can help in your process of personal and spiritual growth and transformation. Writing goals and steps to achieve personal, spiritual, and transformational growth is also important.


Reflection is often performed through writing, possibly because this allows us to probe our reflections and develop them more thoughtfully. I like to write down at the end of the day what I have done well, and how to do it better. I also like to reflect on where or what was my biggest “screw up”, and how do I do better, and what do I need to do to make sure I do not repeat that mistake. Because let’s be realistic, I can find a new way to mess things up tomorrow, the possibilities are endless. The one thing that is also endless is the grace I give myself, to know that I am trying my best and tomorrow is an opportunity to apologize and to work toward a better version of myself. It is all in a positive frame of mind, that growth mindset that I can and will do better.


Now, if you want to experience the benefits of self-reflection, but need a little assistance, working with a life coach can be helpful. Life coaches help you self-reflect by asking the tough questions, helping you discover the answer, and then digging a little deeper to really understand where you are right now and where you want to see yourself, to create the future that you want to have. We all know the path that we want to take. Having a life coach helps you to find the exact pathway you want to take and how to create that pathway and goals to the success that you want to have in your future.

We are constantly growing and would like you to be a part of that. Follow us on Instagram @encouragingteens and join our group on Facebook; Encouraging Teens and to never miss a blog post subscribe to our newsletter on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Is It Rebellion or Growth?

To an adolescent, there is nothing in the world more embarrassing than a parent.
(Dave Barry).

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

Often I have parents call and want help because their teenager is rebelling. As parents we are accustomed to our precious little kids not questioning us, but joyfully doing what we ask. So when our teenagers reach an age where it’s natural for them to question, parents often see this as rebellion or defiance. Can I help? Life coaching is about coming alongside the client and helping them to discover the solutions that will work best in their situation. I ask the tough questions, provide some teaching of skills as needed. I assure parents that the word defiant and rebellious are not the choice of words to use as their teenager begins to question their parenting style. Teenagers are gaining independence, developing critical thinking skills and trying to fit in with their friends and maintain a relationship with their parents. That is a lot to package up into a young teenager. What most adolescents do is to push back in a normal, healthy way. Here are a few ways to navigate the moments that create stress as your teenager tries to gain control and independence.


Compromise where it makes sense. Open up the lines of communication and have a conversation about expectations. For example, the messy room. Parents have an expectation of how the room should look, where things should go. Well, so does the teenager and more often than not, the parent and teen are on different pages, which is okay. The key to solving this situation is not to give your teen an ultimatum. “Clean your room or you can’t go out this weekend.” Instead, it needs to be a conversation where both parties get to voice their opinion with the honest intent to understand the other person’s perspective. I then encourage brainstorming, where the parents and teenager come up with a solution. Communication is the key to the relationship and finding solutions. This opportunity helps to develop problem solving skills that your teenager will use for the rest of their life. The solution may not be perfect and the agreement may be that it is tried for a period of time and then re-evaluated. The important takeaway is that the parent and teenager took the time to solve the problem together building trust in the relationship.


There was a book called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson. I will be honest. I have not read the book, but I like the title. As a parent, do not sweat the small stuff with your teenager. Teenagers need boundaries and rules, some of which are not small stuff and not negotiable. Those non-negotiable rules and boundaries need to be clearly spelled out. What those rules and boundaries are, are determined by you, the parent, based on your principles, values, and life perspective. There is no right or wrong boundary. Your teenager believes in your right to set boundaries and they want those boundaries. It lets them know that you care, and it gives them something to rub up against. However, other issues, such as the music your teenager listens to, the clothes they wear, are areas where a discussion and compromise can happen. It is about deciding what the battles will be.


Communication is the relationship. Communicate often with your teenager. Keeping the lines of communication open, allow for the discussion of topics before they escalate and ultimatums are being tossed around and later regretted. I have had many parents share that they have regretted the ultimatum and wished that the conversation stopped as emotions escalated. I have told parents that stopping a conversation that has become too emotional to be rational is okay. It is about taking responsibility for the decline in the conversation and finding a way back from the edge. A certain amount of push back is normal from your teenager, it should be expected. I tell parents it is part of growing up, becoming independent and autonomous. The teenager is finding their own way and it should be embraced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capture the moment.

Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.     (Mother Teresa).

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

There’s a popular saying “nothing is more important than family”. It’s the most important aspect of many people’s lives and the foundation of human civilization. Despite its importance, we often don’t spend enough time with our families as we should. For us as parents life becomes hectic, sometimes chaotic and our work commitments often keep us from spending time with our teen. However, it is so important to take time and to spend time with our teen. Time is the one thing we as humans can never give back and it is the greatest gift we can give to anyone. Giving our time to others is a way to show them that we care, that they matter and they are who we want to spend time with. For our teens they feel that having their parents show up and spend time with them is a key element in the teen trusting the parent and developing a relationship with their parent.
And the most important part of spending time with your family is communication, this builds the relationship.

Capturing the moment and spending time with your teen creates a bond that is not easily broken. It also provides emotional support to our teens. To teens, emotional support means they can talk to their parents about challenges, and expect parents will respond in a non-judgemental way. Parents will then help their teen navigate the challenge and help their teen develop the crucial thinking skills and communication skills to successfully navigate the challenge.
As well the idea of capturing the moment is about companionship. Companionship involves spending quality time together and genuinely enjoying each other’s company. This could be listening to music, hiking, dinner or watching a movie. All of this can build trust and create moments where our teen shares information about their life and we are there to listen and support.


Lastly, capturing the moment is a time for parents to role model behavior for your teen and to have a discussion about rules, expectations and boundaries. Remember all that time you have spent capturing the moment and building the relationship makes it easier for your teen to accept the rules and expectations you as the parent set for as the opportunity to share the reasons behind them are clearly explained in the many moments you and your teen spend together.

Our relationship with our teen is loving, nurturing and well meaning. However, like every relationship we need to make sure we take time to be with our teen. TO let them have that safe space with us where they can share what is going on in their lives and that we are there to help them gain the life skills they need to be successful in the world. The teen years are that transition between the young child and the young adult. It is a period of immense growth that we as parents must make sure we are a key member of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Play for Teens.

Play is fundamentally important for learning skills such as problem solving, collaboration and creativity.                                                (American Academy of Pediatrics).

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

Why do teen’s need to play? As a parent you may ask yourself that question, but the better question is what is play for a teen and why is it important for our teens? I want to discuss both of those questions.

First, what does play mean for our teens? It is not playing in an organized sports league such as a travel soccer team or being a member of the debate team that meets after school. Luckily for us parents, teen play is not a play date that we organize and orchestrate. Play is the unstructured time where teens are together creating and defining who they are in the group they are in. It is the teens themselves organizing who will be in the group for that event. This helps teens to define who they are and what their boundaries are.

Second, play in the teen years provides opportunities for your teen to take risks, practice decision-making and problem-solving skills, make mistakes, build confidence, overcome fear, and grow in maturity. Giving your teens time to learn through play encourages creative thinking, addresses your teen’s desire for greater independence and ownership in their learning, fosters social relationships, increases physical activity, brings about increased physical activity and creative expression. It also allows your teen the opportunity to demonstrate competence and improve leadership skills. Teens also need this time to discover their talents and interests and cultivate their gifts. That is an incredible amount of growth occurring in the time our teens are playing.

What does play look like for our teens and how do parents encourage play? Fortunately for us teen play, is hanging in the basement watching netflix, creating silly TIk Toks and Instagram posts. It is also going to the beach, the mall, the skate park or even gaming from the comfort of their own home. All of these opportunities are play for our teens. Play allows for our teens to develop their own personality and to validate who they are and what they may want to change as a person.


As a parent, It is important to be available throughout your teens “play” time as a coach and mentor. It may be discussing how something went wrong and how to solve it, or to help a group of teens solve a problem by asking questions and having everyone listen to each other. As a parent who is asked to be involved in the play, see your role as the mentor to help develop the life skills your and all those teens are working to develop. It is by offering your time and the questions to help the teens solve their own problems that you will build trust and the relationship with your teen and their friends.

Teens are in the awkward stage of child and young adult trying to navigate the space and to gain the independence that they will need to be productive young adults in the world. Our role is to make sure that there play encourages the life skills that create, build and cultivate the tools they will need to create the success that they want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Importance of Reading.

A capacity, and taste, for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. (Abraham Lincoln).

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

Teens are very comfortable using social media from Youtube, Instagram and Tik Tok so much so that they do not contemplate reading books. Teens often associate reading with school,homework and it not really engaging or an activity they want to develop as a hobby. However, reading has a few impressive skills that indirectly teaches our teens.

Before the electronic era, no one had to be reminded why reading was important. Reading was the way to gain knowledge. From philosophers to astronomers, everyone relied heavily on reading books to gain and share their knowledge. But as time went by, people found entertainment in other things and reading became less in vogue. There are many benefits to reading, but I want to focus on just three.

The first is focus and concentration. It is estimated that we lose interest in something within eight seconds unless it is constantly changing and dynamic. Technology has made us “lazy”. However, hard tasks require focus and concentration. Concentration is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It is a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and not give up. Reading 30 minutes a day helps you to gain focus and concentration. You are focused on one task and your brain embraces that skill and builds up your ability to focus and concentrate. This is an important skill for a teen to exercise as the ability to focus and finish a task creates success academically.

The second is improved writing skills and vocabulary. If you read more, you will naturally improve your writing skills. When we read well-written books, we naturally observe its writing style, cadence, and composition. These writing techniques and styles will find their way into our own writing style. Since your vocabulary and pronunciation improve by reading regularly, it makes you a better writer. The more you read, the better your writing skills will become.
The last thing reading helps with is the development of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the emotions someone else is feeling. Reading and understanding the characters in a book builds our emotional intelligence and empathy. Reading can support and teach us values about social behavior, and the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves. It allows us to gain knowledge of other worldviews and to help us grow, change and challenge our own perspective. All of this develops our emotional intelligence and empathy.
Our teens are in an active stage of growth and learning and reading is a great way to help them to develop their emotional intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Fun.

One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to ready by. (Jeanette Walls).

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

The start of summer and an opportunity for teens to unwind, relax, refocus and take a deep breath. For other teens it is racing around at a summer job or a college internship, or even starting that first job out of school. Whatever the summer looks like for your teen and for you as a family, I always feel it is an opportunity to read an extra book, sit on the beach a little later watching the sunset and spending time with those loved ones since the days are longer.
What are some great books to read over the summer….Well I often struggle with that. I enjoy reading books that challenge my perspective and I enjoy reading escape books that let me think about nothing but the story of the novel in my mind. However, I will share a few books that would be great summer reading for teens or parents. Perhaps even a family book club where you both read and discuss the same book.

One of my favorite books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen Covey. The book discusses values, principles, the personal mission statement and to always begin with the end in mind. I encourage you to read this book. It is one of those books that you can read and reread and learn something new or remind yourself to do better in some area of your life.


A book that all the members of my family have read is, Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! By Robert Kiyosaki. A great foundation book for beginning to improve your financial intelligence. This is great for teenagers to read as they begin to earn money or to start their first job out of college. Our copy is old and worn but a great way to start learning about money..


I really enjoy the author Philippa Gregory novels and her series about the Tudors of England. She mixes loose historical facts within her story to make her novels “believable” and entertaining. The first book in the series, The Lady of the Rivers. The intrigue of this novel encouraged me to read the series and it was entertaining and from a different era so I enjoyed it. Much like a more sinister Lady of Bridgerton series that we all watched on Netflix. So an escape from reality.
I always enjoy hearing when people reach out and share what they are reading. I enjoy reading new authors and learning new things. If you have a book I should read please share and I would enjoy the recommendation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the Transition.

Encourage and support your kids because children are apt to live up to what you believe of them. (Lady Bird Johnson)

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

As our teens graduate high school or college, we as parents need to give ourselves grace. We need to remind ourselves that we did a great job and that our teenagers are able to handle what the world has in store for them. But as a parent, we always want to be involved, provide our teens with advice. We want to “manage’ our teens in order to see that they succeed in our own vision. As a parent, I have to do this as well. Stop. Yes, stop. Enjoy the transition your teenager is going through. Encourage, love, mentor and coach them but do not manage, direct and push them in your own vision. Here is how you can help your teen.
Encourage your teen to bet on themself. Yes, your teen is incredible. Encourage them to discover their purpose and the passion that goes along with that purpose. Encourage your teen and your new college graduate to contribute to the conversation of our culture and time and to help shape the direction of our culture into what they hope to see in the future. If they need a resource to further develop their critical thinking and communication skills a life coach is the best resource. Allowing you to be the parent and enjoy the success and support the struggles they have as they navigate their new environment.
Encourage your teen to be kind, be generous, and to trust their inner voice. All of these traits will allow for your teen to be resilient, to grow their self esteem and self confidence. Do not underestimate the capability of your teen. Instead, be their biggest cheerleader as they grow into who they are. Remind your teen that hurdles and disappointment are part of the journey. The journey and learning that accompanies hurdles and disappointment are a way for them to gain experience, grow as a person and to develop skills they did not realize they had. As a parent, listen to your teen’s frustration around their hurdles and disappointment but do not solve it and do not allow them to be trapped into a victim role. Teach them that they are the author of their story, empowering your teen to become that author.
Of course there is always some sage old advice to share with your teen. Such as going to the bathroom when you can, not when you have to. You never know when a bathroom will not be handy. Be kind to the elderly, they were once you, young full of fire and ideals. Be generous with your time to others you can help. Call your parents, we miss you more than you will ever know. Always write thank you notes, the personal time it takes to write and send will never be forgotten. Lastly, always floss.

 

Teenage Transitions.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind (C.S. Lewis)

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

As our teenagers look to the future, from moving up to high school or graduating from high school or college, it is important to remember that this is a natural progression with some intense emotions as your teenager (and you as a parent) work through this period of growth and change. These moments of intense change are called transitions.


Teenagers and tweens go through a series of transitions. Transitions are a natural progression of youth and growth experiences as they mature into young adults and beyond. In fact, there are numerous transitions, from job loss to marriage, but the ones I want to focus on are those that are encountered by the clients I work with: teenagers. Youth experience an educational transition as they move from middle school to high school and again as they move to college.

A secondary transition that occurs alongside the educational transition is an identity transition. A life skills coach is an invaluable resource in helping teenagers navigate these transitions. The coach provides purpose, connections, empowerment, and successfully helps the teen navigate these transitions to create resilience and confidence as the young client grows in maturity. The life skills coach asks challenging questions, teaches them the tools to make personal choices and develop their autonomy. This coaching is not therapy. It is about helping youth to learn the skills they need to be successful and to help them gain confidence in their own capability to create their own solutions. It is important to remember a life coach is goal- and future-focused and not a therapist.


Each life transition disrupts established routines as new ones must be established. The life transition then shapes the long-term life trajectory of the youth. It is beneficial for youth to have a coach to share this journey and ensure that a positive outcome is found in each life transition. The two most common transitions for teenagers are education and identity.
Our youth experience an educational transition from middle school to high school and once again as they graduate high school and start college. This educational transition involves a move from one school to another, a larger school which includes a larger student body population, new learning environments, and change in academic expectations and social interactions. For our college graduates the population becomes their new work environment and learning the company policies, procedures and unwritten expectations. These changes, all of which are life transitions, will shape the youth’s trajectory. This educational transition along with biological and social changes can affect the teenager’s self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. Life and skills coaching can be utilized to create mental toughness by having the teenager participate in goal setting, defining their principles and values and creating a personal mission statement. As for the skills part, the life coach helps teach time management skills, organizational skills, and if needed, develop communication skills for self-advocacy which are often required in high school and a new work environment.


The life coach helps the teen achieve success by helping the student write SMART goals and the objectives to make the goal a reality. This helps to encourage autonomy and the teenagers will gain self-confidence and be able to create their level of success. The life coach is responsible for holding the teenager accountable to their goals and helping to realign a goal that has been difficult to obtain. During transitions it is important to work with the teenager and facilitate their comfort into the new environment and role to which they are adjusting and growing into.


As the teenager moves from middle school to high school and from college to the working world, friends are scattered and often the teenager has to forge new friendships. This disruption to the teenager’s social network impacts who they are and how they see themselves. The life coach in this role provides the reality that change is always occurring and helps the teenager gain mental toughness to deal with this transition. The life coach is helping the teen develop goals to help them establish a network of positive social connections and to monitor the progress of the attainment of these goals. A life coach can also be the “first responder” if this or any part of the transition is not going well and involve the correct mental health professionals to help navigate this process. It is a great benefit for teenagers to have a life coach during this transition because there is a consistent check-in of how they are progressing through this transition and, if required, professional intervention can be done early.


There are four distinct areas the life coach focuses on to help the success of these transitions. The first is empowerment. The coach facilitates the teenager’s empowerment and control over their transition. This is done by helping the youth find their intrinsic motivation which promotes their autonomy to make decisions guided by the challenging questions put forward by the life coach. Together the teenager and life coach are defining goals and objectives which encourages confidence and competence in the teenager. The teen will gain a sense of accomplishment that encourages and empowers the youth even more, resulting in positive risk-taking, assertive youth. Second is purpose. Purpose inhibits impulsive decisions and is guided by a mission statement, goals, and objectives. It creates focus for the teenager. By having the teenager create their mission statement, goals, and objectives, they are more reflective on their actions, which promotes self-awareness. The third is creating connections, specifically healthy relationships where the teenager feels safe and can express their creativity and thoughts with no judgments made on them. This encourages critical thinking, and prepares them for the adult world. The last concept is forward thinking toward the future. The life coach creates accountability and thereby ensures the teenager meets their goals. By meeting their goals, they gain confidence and will accept new challenges and be more willing to leave their comfort zone to experience the growth that success creates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senior Graduation.

Oh the places you will go (Dr. Suess)

 

– Desiree Panlilio

 

Big transitions – high school graduation and college graduation. As parents we are wrapping up a school year of our teenager saying, “This is the last time I will (fill in the blank).” Parents are also wrapping up a series of lasts, watching your teenager compete in their last sporting event or their last school performance in drama, band, or robotics competition. You have communicated with their teachers for the last time. That last empty space in the frame on the wall which you saved for the school photo from each year has been filled. Bought the last prom dress or rented that tux for the last time, called in their last absence, signed their last permission slip, and monitored the last semester of grades. Experiencing senior nights and senior gatherings all to remind both parent and teenager that some dramatic changes are about to unfold. Life will change, perspectives will be challenged, and the teenager will grow and mature.


With each milestone, your teenager moves closer to independence and less reliance on parents. For college parents, it is watching your college student slowly shift focus from college life and their social life to resume writing and job interviews. The carefree days of college are slowly coming to a close. It is easy as parents to think about the past, to remember that little person, dropping them off at preschool, watching them finish elementary school and participating in their first sporting or cultural event. A world of wonder and awe as the little person grows into an amazing adult right before our eyes. It is an exciting time but still as the end approaches we often focus on the last time.


I encourage parents to take another route. It is easy to focus on the series of lasts, but I encourage parents to focus on all the lovely firsts that also happened this year, as well as for those still to come. For the first time, parents send out graduation announcements for our children and plan a party to celebrate their academic accomplishment. For high school seniors it is having your teenager enroll in their first college and have their first roommate. Being able to register to vote and the responsibility that accompanies such a rite of passage. Your teenager will soon live away from home for the first time. As parents you will miss them like crazy and adjust to a new family dynamic and look forward to the sweet reunion over their first holiday break. Your teenager will make their first friends as an adult and meet new professors and experience a new culture. Your teenager will have a new intoxicating sense of freedom that will help to further their independence and growth into adults.


Or if your teenager is not going to college, they are taking that next step into the independent future that your teenager has designed for themself. To see your teenager walking forward into an amazing future with endless opportunity. Watching your teenager move out, find roommates and navigate the many challenges of the working world is full of firsts. Where as a parent we become a mentor, an opportunity to encourage and build on the strengths and foundation we spent years nurturing as parents.


For teenagers finishing college, it is finding that first job, the first apartment and understanding the world in which they are now entering. Making decisions about their career, meeting deadlines and building a foundation of their own and creating their own path. It is an exciting time full of challenges that lie beyond the academic world. As parents we get to watch to encourage and see that the foundation provided has created an amazing young adult.
After all, a “last” only means a new “first” is just around the bend. Your teenager will soon do many other things for the first time that will surprise you, enlighten you, mystify you, bring you joy and make you proud. It is realizing that as parents you did your best at providing a solid foundation built on principles and helped to establish the values that your teenager will hold onto and reshape as they gain knowledge and insight into the ever changing world. But hold fast that the principles and foundation you provided have not gone unnoticed, and will make you proud during countless opportunities as you watch your teenager continue to grow.


I encourage parents to enjoy the moment of the “last”, because this last is opening the door to an amazing first that as parents you get to watch and enjoy. Be excited for the new journey, the new challenges. Provide encouragement when a challenge comes up in their life, remind them of their past resilience and how they overcame a similar situation and that they have the tools to make the right decision. To continue to empower your teenager, to listen with the intent to understand and ask the questions to foster their independence and own critical thinking skills. Don’t be sad that something is over. Be glad that it has occurred and that the future is ahead and many lasts and firsts are still to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes my children think I’m getting on their back.
What they don’t realize is that often times
I’m the only one who has their back.
– Anonymous