Every person will experinece some level of unhappiness in their lifetime. Unhappiness is often caused by disappointment – foiled expectations about how life “should be” and the mourning that takes place when your ideas about the future need to be re-evaluated.
It may seem like teens and young adults have all the time in the world to explore life, take wrong turns, and bounce back. However, young people can experience just as much unhappiness as adults. They often feel it for similar reasons, too.
Unhappiness, by definition, is not pleasant. However, it does not need to be a bad thing in the long run. Experiences of unhappiness are part of growing up. They can help young people build inner resources they need to flourish as resilient adults.
What types of lessons can the young learn from unhappiness?
And when should loved ones step in and intervene in a cycle of unhappiness?
Unhappiness Provides Teachable Moments for Young People
It has often been said that, when young people are bored, they learn to entertain themselves. The same process goes on when they are unhappy. Unhappiness – in reasonable quantities – is a problem-solving experience: It lets teens and young adults access their emotional resources.
Life lessons unhappiness can teach include:
Unhappiness often arises from external situations. Sometimes we have influence over these – for example, a bad grade might make a young person unhappy. This is an opportunity to look at what we have done in the past and find better ways of going forward. As kids grow, they find more and more situations are within their power to influence, so creativity is key.
Keeping Things in Perspective
What happens when a problem is something we can’t do anything about? Coping with limited options is another part of being human. When there is nothing to be done, young people need encouragement to manage unhappiness in healthy ways: Focusing on the positive, figuring out the best ways to use their energy, and understanding that change is a big part of life.
Naturally, teens and young adults need help from those they can rely on when they are dealing with tough problems. Over time, however, they are able to tackle bigger and bigger challenges on their own. Coming out of a bad situation better than you expected can help you feel better, even if things aren’t as you’d like. To reach that point, kids must know inside that “they can do it.”