Teens to Parents: “Things are different now. Please don’t compare us to you.”
As adults who survived high school, we know we thought this same thing when we were in the trenches of hormones and calculus. However, my students overwhelmingly agreed that from what they hear from their parents about growing up, things are very different. Some examples that support this are the classes. The classes we offer in American high schools are often accelerated versions of what we all took as high schoolers. Kids are taking math classes two years ahead of where we were at their age. They have advanced placement classes as freshmen, and the 4.0 system isn’t even a measurement for many of my students. They are high performing, and they are tired. Don’t get me wrong, I believe this challenge is so good for them. I think they are asking for a little recognition for the work that they do. We work diligently to set them up for success, and they are doing a great job in this area.
They added communication as another area that isn’t the same. We thirty-plus parents called our friends on a landline all night long, stopping up the phones for our parents whose friends could only receive busy signals on the other end. The times I’ve seen these kiddos answer the phone can be counted on two hands. They don’t communicate like that unless they have to. I’ve noticed teens don’t even text anymore. Many use SnapChat and other social media to communicate. It’s like a different language for many of us, but it is their preferred language. They are communicating with their people, just like we did, but it looks different because it’s been twenty years or so since we were in their shoes. Things were bound to change, right?
“Sometimes we just want to talk without it turning into a lesson.”
When my student said this, I felt my face redden with guilt. When I talk to my 14-year-old, it oftentimes turns into a lesson. Whether it starts out innocent or not, I know that’s how our conversations end many times. If I can—for a second—put myself in their shoes, I can admit that it would be exhausting talking to someone who was going to try to “teach me” something each time. This student went on to say,
I just want to talk with them. You know, like equals sometimes.
Most adults complain that they get little to no information from their teens, and I’m beginning to think this might be the reason. It was refreshing to hear that they wanted to talk to their parents, they just didn’t want to be tricked by an ulterior motive. Yes, we need to pass down advice, but I think it’s a great idea to temper that side of ourselves with the human one. I bet we get more out of our teens if they understand that sometimes we’re just there to be a sounding board.
“We don’t know everything, but the things we don’t know, we want to find out on our own.”
Some things don’t change. I remember feeling this sort of rebellion as a child. As a parent, I want to protect my kids from themselves and from outcomes I know come from certain decisions. However, part of paving their own way means making mistakes and learning from them. This advice from a teen resonated with me as I work to find a balance between being there for my kids and letting them learn to survive in this world. It’s not a bad reminder that some things don’t change. I remember how naive I was at this time in my life, but inside I was screaming to pave my own path. Every once in a while, it may help to loosen the reigns and trust our kids. We’ve given them so much to work with, now it might benefit them in the long run (and our worried minds) to trust them to try out some of these life skills we’ve passed down.
The messages I received from these teens were valuable. Yes, we are their protectors, their examples, and their disciplinarians, but it’s refreshing to know what they want to talk, that they want us to understand, and that they feel confident enough in their skin to figure some things out on their own. We’re raising a good generation, parents, and that is exciting.