I confess that I’m guilty of accusing my teens of slacking off every now and then. I thought teen lives were pretty easy compared to mine. They didn’t have to worry about bills, meeting work targets, paying school fees and keeping a roof over their family’s head.
They only had to concern themselves with schoolwork which, in my opinion, was a piece of cake. My teenage son and daughter had to endure listening to me vent about my stress-filled life compared to theirs several times until they finally had enough.
One day, my oldest two children staged an intervention, sat me down and explained how wrong I actually was. That talk was an eye-opener. It turns out, teens these days are dealing with a whole lot of stuff that I never knew about.
Our teens deal constant change and depression.
Hormonal changes brought about by adolescence can make teens feel like their bodies have turned against them. My daughter, for instance, has to contend with periods, acne and a growth spurt just when she’s starting to become self-conscious about her appearance.
As if that’s not bad enough, thanks to social media, teens are now constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations they can never hope to meet. It’s no wonder depression and anxiety are on the rise.
Teens lack full autonomy over their lives.
I also came to realize that teenagers simply don’t have full control over their lives, yet this clashes with their increasing need for independence. Instead, they are told what to study, what schedule to keep and sometimes even their vacation and leisure time are planned out for them.
Unlike adults, teens don’t have the freedom to change their lives whenever they want to, and they still depend on adults to meet most of their needs, something that rankles their growing independence.
They face an increasingly uncertain future.
Growing up, most of us took it for granted that we’d get some form of higher education then land jobs when we were ready. Our teens aren’t that lucky. Living in an increasingly automated world means that the job market is constantly changing and new careers keep cropping up, but the old “good jobs” are disappearing.
Additionally, teens are under increasing pressure to choose the right college and pick the right majors that will propel them into prosperous careers. All this is a lot to deal with for teens who are just beginning to find their place in the world.
After having this chat with my teens, I realized how much they really had going on in their lives. It’s funny how I never noticed this before, in spite of living with them and encouraging open communication. I also realized that my complaints about them having it easy were actually invalidating their struggles, so I changed my tune.
Nowadays, instead of comparing my life to my teens’, I take time to talk with them to find out what issues they are facing, and how I can be a more supportive father.
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