“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Those opening words of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities could be used to describe most people’s teenaged years as well as the culture in which we live. Combine the two, and you have a recipe for major mood swings, amazing opportunities, and complicated choices. This exciting yet confusing time of life is something your teen needs you to help navigate.
While your own adolescence can certainly aid you in identifying with some of your teen’s age-specific struggles, realizing the unique issues our culture presents can be helpful, as well. Unlike the world in which you lived during the years of your own coming-of-age, today’s teens are faced with unique quandaries. In many ways, they live in a completely different world.
It’s a Small but Big World
Once upon a time, when teens lived in a quiet suburb, small town, or rural area, they were isolated – and insulated – from the scary stuff that’s out there. Drug use, pornography, and some of the most unseemly aspects of popular culture were typically reserved for city kids; they were the only ones truly at-risk, because they were the only ones exposed to such ideas or opportunities. The increasing globalization brought on largely by technology has completely changed much of that. Globalization does bring many positives, though, alongside the negatives. Distance learning and in-depth research help level the academic playing field for those with limited local educational options. Modern transportation and normative relocation provide benefits but can also lead to stress. Option-overload can add a lot of anxiety when it comes time to consider higher learning and career.
It’s an Ever-Changing World
Some say that technology updates every two months. With all the media attention, we all know when each new gadget rolls along, and it’s literally impossible to keep up. This kind of rapid changeover is also affecting generational shifts, which are occurring more rapidly. (Consider how much technology changed Americans’ everyday way of life from 1940 to 1970 and then from 1970-2000—or even from 2000 to 2010.) For teens, being current is huge, and feeling like they’re already behind and “old fashioned” can make them feel old far before their time. Add to that the same kind of stress we all feel when we get new software at work, and you have young people who can easily feel overwhelmed and behind the times.
It’s an Insecure World
The post-9/11 world is something fairly new to most adults, but for today’s teens, it’s all they know. The undulating threat of terrorism and easy access to streaming video of volatile situations across the globe make the only world they’ve ever known a very unstable place. Any stability and constancy in life that remains after hormonal and life situation changes are factored in (along with constant technology upgrades) can easily be compromised in a moment.
The insecure, ever-changing big world in which today’s teens live leaves them greatly in need of parental empathy and guidance, even when they tell you they don’t need help.