The World of Teens—What You Should Know, If You Don't Already
Their World Is Difficult
Teenagers could have roofs over their heads, full bellies, and loving parents and family members but still feel as though things are imploding around them.
They ache when their friends are hurting, and they feel pain acutely.
They sometimes feel driven to prove themselves, over and over again, and by the same token, they also feel that they're not being taken seriously.
It's a complicated world they live in, and it doesn't help in the slightest that the world has gotten increasingly more complex as they've grown up. They're living in a world driven by social media, and a world where they are inundated with a range of media messages daily. It's a troubling world that we all live in, and teenagers are often scrambling to somehow measure up while still trying to survive the stresses of their own lives.
I see this, daily. I see how kids are both wrapped in their own worlds and at the same time very much influenced by what's happening in their inner circles. The conflicts they go through are often quite significant to them, and it doesn't matter whether or not we as adults see them as significant; these problems are very real to them, and we need to support them through it, regardless of whether or not we believe it's a serious issue.
They are also incredibly bighearted, insecure, kind, loyal and easily hurt. They're often misunderstood, but a good many are also some of the nicest soon-to-be adults I've ever met.
If only they could see that, though.
Happy but There's a Lot Going On
"I Never Had These Problems..."
We try and tell our kids or teenagers we know that we never had these problems when we were younger, so they shouldn't either.
However, what we often forget in saying that is that our kids are living in an entirely different world now. Most of us could only have dreamed of wireless internet, or social media, or cell phones that were smaller than we could have possibly imagined when we were teenagers. Information is so incredibly accessible for our kids nowadays that we really can't appreciate just how stressful that can be - and how much more stressful it is when people can contact our kids with some not-so-nice messages at any time of the day or night.
We see these kids taking selfies, and Snapchatting with each other, and we think they're just goofing around. The problem is, this is only a "front"; they're still the same worried, sometimes insecure kids that we remember when they were little. The weight of the world can feel as though it has settled on their narrow shoulders, and it's a terrible place to be when you're in your teens.
That's if things are actually good at home.
Trouble At Home = Trouble Elsewhere
Kids are incredibly resilient, with increasingly stronger circles of support, but sometimes, there's only so much they can take before they snap.
Stress at home can take many forms. Whether it's parental expectations pushing teenagers too far, or parental addiction, parental neglect from one or both parents, abuse, or worse, teenagers today are dealing with very troubled times. Many parents are divorced; some have come out as feeling as though they belong to the LGBTQ spectrum in one respect or another; or others have snapped as a result of learning that their teenager or child has come out.
All of these different stresses take their toll, and depending on how the teenager has been taught to deal with their stress by either their parents or their peers, you're going to have a teenager on your hands who is masking their pain or a teenager who is trying to escape it. Neither alternative is particularly fun, as both are ways for teens to completely avoid dealing with whatever they have going on at home.
This is not to say that being a teenager is a completely miserable experience; far from it. We as adults, however, need to make more of an attempt to get past whatever walls and distractions the teens are throwing up in an effort to avoid dealing with whatever they have going on and strive for understanding rather than simply dismissing the issues as being non-issues, simply because they don't have a context they can connect to from their own youth.
This is their youth, not a rehashing of yours. The teens may look like you, but they have their own lives, and they are very complicated ones at times.
Try to understand what might be going on without making assumptions.
In the long run, your teenagers will thank you.