Every generation of parents wonders, ”Why do my kids seem so different? I didn’t act like this.” Teens are affected by the culture in which they are raised. We’ve certainly got some unique influences today. But we think teens now aren’t that much different from the previous generations. It’s just that the challenges they face and the norms they follow are distinct.
Political turmoil, “alternative truths,” pervasive technology, economic instability, and mass shootings have redefined truth, friendship, and security for teens in the U.S.
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that shootings, separation and deportation of migrant families and sexual harassment and assault are significant stressors in teens’ lives. They are more likely than previous generations to report that their mental health is fair or poor.
Technology has had a huge influence. The Pew Research Center reports that although 95% of teens access social media, 24% describe its impact as mostly negative. While social media such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, connects teens to others and helps them discover information and find news, it also opens them to bullying, limits in-person contact, provides unrealistic views of others’ lives, distracts them, and exposes them to peer pressure.
Partnering to face the challenges
Your teen needs to develop resilience to deal with challenges they face. Often that takes parental guidance and creativity.
Don’t let it go. Watch for withdrawal from friends and social activities, a drop in academic performance, a change in friends, a lot more alone time, weight gain, deep sadness, anger or violence, or unwavering focus on a recent traumatic event.
Talk about it. Know what is going on, and seek outside help when needed. Listen to your teen and encourage a calm, rational discussion. The ability to express in a thoughtful, logical, calm way helps your teen share feelings, resist pressure, and not bend to the will of the loudest or strongest person in the group.
Be a good role model. Don’t judge. Listen carefully. Respect your teen’s thoughts and feelings.
Show your love. Be there for your teen, leave no doubt about your support. Have a regular time when you talk or hang out. Whether it’s coffee together, getting ice cream, watching a ballgame, going to the golf course, or fishing, make it regular and dependable. It’s so easy to get caught up in life and work and lose the connection.
Connect. Look your teen in the eye. When it’s your turn to talk, think of something from your own experience that would be meaningful. Sometimes this is the key to a good conversion, finding that the old man had a similar challenge.
Set rules. Allow your teen to help participate in setting the rules, developing guidelines, and creating expectations. Kids follow better when they are involved.
Broaden your teen’s horizons. Introduce new activities, new social circles
Teach responsibility. Recognize your teen’s role in caring for the household. Assign tasks to be fulfilled and recognize when they are.
Give your teen space. Allow the time needed to reflect on an issue, express a feeling, develop a response. Don’t hound but do stay in connection.