What happens to our children between the ages of 10 and 20? No matter how close parents are to their children prior to these years, and how close they are once the child becomes an adult, this is the decade of hell. I've spent some time with a few teens recently in different environments and this has been on my mind. This is my little advocacy for teens, I suppose.
Teenagers are at this awkward stage where they feel like they are adults but society isn’t ready to treat them like adults. I did some incredibly stupid and risky things as a teen (which I won’t write here for fear my mother will read this and have a heart attack) but overall I was a pretty responsible teen and I attribute that in large part to the independence I was allowed, and the faith my parents had in my ability to handle that independence. I’m not sure all teens are so lucky.
I was at the Teen Open Mic night at my library the evening of The Day of Silence, a day in which many teens show their feelings against gay-bullying by wearing a rainbow ribbon and not speaking all day. Teachers are encouraged to respect this and not call on them in class that day. I was really impressed to see how many teens were wearing ribbons around town that day. These teens were using their silence as their voice, but how many teenagers feel they have no voice and just need someone to hear them?
Many parents seem to forget what it was like to be a teenager. Teen’s feelings are discounted and dismissed as hormonally driven foolishness. The thing to remember here is whether they are hormonally driven or not, they are feelings important to that teen. You may think it’s silly that your teen is so upset about a Facebook post a friend made, but that teen doesn’t have to worry about bills and bosses and the housing market. Their social lives are their entire world, and that needs to be respected. Discounting their emotions simply creates the wall that so many parents later complain about.
Don’t get me wrong, when a teenager is bouncing around me hyped up on Red Bull and crinkling a potato chip bag I often want to tune them out, too. I know teenagers aren’t always easy to handle, but I think it is still important to listen to them, and more importantly to have some faith in them.
Side note: Check out the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in Tennessee… I don’t even know where to begin on it at this point, but I wanted to mention it.
Don't Say Gay Bill