Monday, November 29, 2010

Teen or Adult?

Hello All!!  It's been a very busy few weeks.  Everyday is a different day and everyday I seem to learn more from the young people with whom I have fairly regular contact.  I say it often and I will say it once more:  It's hard work being a teenager in these times.  The world is very busy.  The country is very busy.  Schools are very busy.  Parents are very busy.  With everyone being so busy, who is watching over and guiding our teenagers?  Are we, the adults, doing a "good enough" job of helping them become good decision-makers, good scholars, good, productive, healthy individuals, and good stewards of service to others?  What messages are we sending to our teens about what's really important in life?  Are we allowing them to be teenagers, those people in constant need of structure and guidance or are we pushing them too quickly, emotionally unprepared into the adult world?

That is a question I ask myself more than I feel I should. However, I speak with many teens who are left to make adult choices and decisions, sometimes leading to unwanted or predictable consequences. Consequences which too often are not positive for them.  Why do some parents leave their teenage children alone with unrelated adults for long periods of time?  Why do some parents leave their teenage children home alone for days at a time?  Why do some parents leave their teenage children, particularly females, in malls, street corners etc. with the "expectation" that their teen WOULD NEVER do something inappropriate or dangerous?  Why do some parents allow their teenage children to have their own computer in their room (password protected) with the door constantly closed, even when they are present in the room?  Why do some parents involve their teenage children in adult discussions with their friends?  Why do some parents involve their teenage children in the intricacies of their personal lives, particularly their romantic relationships?  Why do some parents share inappropriate information with their teenage children about the other parent, particularly in divorce or contentious situations? 

I ask these questions because I hear from teens often how they are put in adult situations, most often by their parents, when it is convenient for the parent.  However, these same parents become agitated and angry when these same teens project adult-like behavior when it is inconvenient or embarrassing for the parent.  This leads to what is referred to as "mixed messaging".  Parents, in particular, are guilty of this and their teens are left confused and unsure of their themselves and their decision-making.  In short, parents cannot give their children adult responsibilities when it is convenient for them and then become upset and punitive when that same child independently exhibits adult behavior at a time that is clearly inappropriate.  Teens have to remain teens at all times.  It's a stage in life.  A stage with its own set of learning curves.  Let's not take that away from our precious young people.  Too much responsibility too soon can be detrimental.  It takes away from what should be central in their lives:  school, education, their friends, and their interests.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's A Teen To Do?

It has been a busy school year.  School has been open for a little over two months and much has happened.  Some of it has been exciting and exhilerating and some has been disappointing and frustrating.  Given all of the experiences I have had with teens in the past few months, I continue to be amazed by their sense of responsibility, their sense of right and wrong and their desire to "do right" and make positive life choices. 
Sure, there have been some that have gotten distracted and made some unfortunate, negative choices, but the overwhelming majority are fantastic people to know.  They crave direction, structure and a listening ear.

I don't think teenagers receive enough credit for what they have to endure.  Parents who give mixed messages.  Teachers who don't always deliver good, interesting, engaging and motivating teaching.  School boards who make decisions based upon personalities, personal interests or money and not the best interests of students.  Friends who sometimes bully and pressure to make poor, negative choices.  Society who overloads them with images of promiscuity, body image, greed and violence.  What's a teen to do with all of this?  What direction should they take?  Who should they believe?  What should be important?

I tell the teens I encounter to talk about their feelings.  Talk about what is on their mind.  Talk about what is important to them.  Talk about the things that are exciting and confusing.  I encourage them to be creative, to ask questions, to explore the world outside of their world, to reject fear and embrace opportunity.  I encourage them to not miss this chance of achieving a solid education, a prerequisite for future sustainability.  What's a teen to do?  Such a good question that I get asked many times over.  It's hard walking the line of part adult, part child.  Part of the solution lies with the adults within their lives to give good example and unconditional regard for their well-being, physcially and emotionally.  It's hard being a teen.  More adults need to understand that.