What is it like to be a teen in today’s culture? I work with teens 6 days a week and I see and hear about every facet of their lives. Teens today are living with many pressures and distractions that were nonexistent not long ago. In Darke County the majority of teens are dealing with broken homes. It is very common for teens to tell me that their mom and dad are not only separated but at least one parent doesn’t care enough to be involved in their life anymore. Some of them don’t even know who their parent is. This causes the teen an immense amount of pain and turmoil. Some of them deal with the pain by making jokes about their absent dads and others usually say they can relate.
I was in an assembly at the high school last year where the speaker called on the teens to stand up if they have a single parent home, if they have parents struggling with addiction, if they have been abused, if they have had suicidal thoughts, and so on. The amount of kids who stood up for each of these things was truly heart breaking and eye opening. Many stood up to say they had witnessed their mom being beat up by a husband or boyfriend and they had gotten in the middle of the fight to defend her.
Many parents have their own emotional or mental issues they are struggling with and they are poor parents as a result. Many more parents are on drugs or dealing with alcoholism.
Teens are struggling with pressure of the digital age. They are under scrutiny at all times from a much larger group of people online than we interacted with as teens. Countless people can contact them at any moment through social media and criticize them and their appearance or their relationships. This causes a lot of stress and self doubt. Since it is easier to say something unkind online than in person, people often say much harsher things than they would if they were face-to-face.
At least among the teens I deal with, threats are common. Teens sometimes feel they are in danger of getting beaten up because of some problem relating to their friendships or their dating relationships. Fights are not uncommon in the high school.
Many kids are dealing with housing insecurity or worries about their families breaking up or their parents losing or not having a job. When they come to school it is difficult for them to focus because what they feel are more urgent issues are taking precedence over school work. Consequently, their grades fail.
Teens have a different view of authority than the previous generations. They often repeat the mantra to me “I will only respect someone who respects me.” They no longer believe a person deserves respect simply because they are an authority figure. They give respect to people who exhibit what they perceive to be fairness and caring to them.
How can adults reach out to teens in this generation? They are seeking adults who will take the time to be consistently concerned for them and exhibit patience with their varied moods and failures and cheer them on in their successes. It only takes someone to show interest and kindness. You don’t need to be versed in all the current trends. As you show unconditional love, mirroring the love of God for them, gradually they will warm to you sharing about the even greater love of God and eventually come to know Him for themselves.