What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew
There are 5 things teens wish their parents knew about them. I know because I just asked them this morning, and they were eager to tell me. As a substitute teacher, I speak with teens on a regular basis. (Oh, and I live with one…that definitely counts!)
I asked them what they would tell their parents if they could say anything to them. They couldn’t believe they had an opportunity to speak freely. The students were slow at first about trusting me. After a while, they realized I was not out to get them.
I have to say, they had excellent points! I received answers that were very insightful. The ages I surveyed ranged from about 13 years old-18 years old (8th-12th grade). Here are the 5 things teens wish their parents knew:
Teens wish their parents knew how difficult it is to navigate technology (social media) on a daily basis. The technology now is totally different compared to the last generation
The students didn’t think we, the parents, could understand the stress it is causing them socially since we didn’t experience it ourselves as a teen. Most of the kids I talked to were in agreement that they spend way too much time online worrying about what other people are doing and saying.
They feel angst about not being included in the latest social gathering or friend group. FOMO was a term they used quite a bit. (Fear Of Missing Out) At times, they felt they did not measure up to the people they followed online because, in their mind, they are not as smart, they are not as rich, or they are not as pretty/handsome as everyone else.
It didn’t matter that the pictures were strategically taken, doctored, or just fake. They said their brain still processed all the images as reality.
Most of them admitted that being on their phone was addictive. And the more they looked at other’s social media, the worse they felt about themselves. Almost everyone said they had dealt with some sort of depression due to social media either by comparing themselves to others or being bullied.
One person said that parents didn’t understand what it was like to be bullied online. The humiliation is magnified due to the public nature; it grinds deep into the soul. As a parent, I think we do understand to some extent what is going on with social media.
This is why we try to restrict it and set firm boundaries. It is a constant fight, in most households, to put the cell phone away. Many parents see how it is slowly poisoning their kids, sabotaging their self-esteem, and taking precious study time away from them.
Teens wish their parents knew how hard it is to carry the burden of performance and competition day after day. The competition academically as well as athletically is harder than the last generation
The students felt their parents were putting a lot of pressure on them to perform in high school because it is more difficult to get into a good college. There was a consensus among them that they have larger workloads and have more pressure than we had 25-30 years ago.
One student said she felt like her parents put grades before her mental health. She described the feeling as being trapped in a world she didn’t like nor did she create. All of the students said they wanted to be good students, but the pressure is intense. There is a weight on them that is heavy and some days seem unbearable.
Most of the students just wanted their parents to acknowledge the amount of work they do and to encourage them instead of being angry with them when they received a low grade. Every student did agree a zero was unacceptable, and hard work is important.
3. Double standards.
Teens wish their parents knew how frustrating it is to have a double standard. What they meant by “double standard” was their parents didn’t always practice what they preached. One student said, “ I will not trust an adult who can’t apologize to a kid.”
That really got my attention. This is where the discussion became heated. Suddenly, everyone had an opinion.
They were angry they had to apologize to their parents when in the wrong, but parents didn’t apologize back to them when in error. Teens know when we as parents behave badly. (yell, call names, retaliate, threaten, manipulate) They see it as a double standard when we won’t admit our own faults to them and take ownership of our bad behavior.
Yet they have to take ownership of theirs. Many parents see apologizing to their child as weak or they simply have too much pride to admit when wrong. I agree with the students. Parents DO need to apologize when wrong. It’s a great opportunity to show humility, character, and strength as a person. Not apologizing for bad behavior is just more bad behavior.
“Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
They were also pretty vocal about us answering our cell phone. (This complaint surprised me. I didn’t realize how irritated they were about this.) They felt they had to answer the phone when their parent called, but parents ignored their calls. I’m not sure who’s ignoring their calls. I think they don’t realize we have a life and aren’t always able to answer. Kinda like them!
Most believed we should not ask them to do something we aren’t willing to do ourselves. I think that is a pretty legitimate request.
Teens wish their parents knew how to listen. Listen to who they are, what they believe, and how they think. Even though they are young, they are still thinking about their world. Dr. Dobson gives some great tools for listening to your teen if you struggle in this area.
Mostly, they said they wanted us not to overreact if they don’t believe exactly what we believe. I think they were trying to express that they are growing and changing. Their opinions are evolving as they get more information and experience more of life. As a parent, I can see how we tend to not take our teen seriously.
Even though they are older, we see them as young because they still do some childish things. (tantrums, pouting, whining, giggling) It is easy to discount the fact they are capable of stringing some intelligent sentences together.
I think maybe what my students were trying to verbalize is that we need to realize they are transitioning between 2 worlds. The world of Sponge Bob and the world of CNN. (SB and CNN may be more alike than we think.) Often, these worlds collide in a day, and it can get a little messy.
They might be doing Calculus at 10 am and by 2 pm they are having a crying fit. Sometimes they just need an ear to listen to them about whatever is swirling in their brain. And for us to love them no matter how silly or crazy their feelings are at the time.
Teens wish their parents knew how genuinely grateful they are for everything. Sometimes teens don’t know how to express themselves, but they know they would never be where they are without all the love and support of their parents. And money…
They know their parents have sacrificed financially for them in many ways so they would have the opportunity to do something great.
The Seniors were especially thankful their parents had made them study, volunteer, take part in a sport, and invest time in their spiritual life. I found it rewarding that the Seniors are starting to see the big picture and understanding why they had to do certain things.
It was heartwarming they thought their mom and dads were actually pretty awesome for loving them enough to make them do the hard things in life.
Being a Teen Today
Being a teen today has its challenges, but, overall, I would say they have more access to knowledge and education than at any other time period in history. My hope is they will navigate through the land mines of youth and focus on the opportunities they have to be successful.
I have great hope for the students I surveyed. I believe they will one day be fantastic adults and make the world a better place.
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