I get sick of hearing people saying stuff like ‘teenagers today, terrible, not like we used to be / when we were young … bla bla bla’ If you say it, you sound old & out of touch. Press the search key in your mind & try to remember what it was like. It wasn’t easy then, it’s even less easy now.
As a teenager you are changing from a kid to an adult. Your body is changing & you are starting to question everything. You don’t have life experience & you are totally winging it. Adults need to be more understanding!
A teenagers job is to test the limits & find out what their boundaries are. If they are lucky they will have a loving supportive home. If they are lucky they will have a family who sticks by them through the mistakes they will inevitably make. If not, how hard it must be.
Every teenager I meet & talk to has a good side, is interesting & wants to be listened to & respected. Every young person has a unique story.
I remember vividly being a teenager. I remember feeling awkward at times, like I didn’t fit in. Like no one liked me. I remember changing high schools twice (3 high schools in total) and learning how you have to make an effort to make friends, it wasn’t easy. I remember wanting to do naughty stuff. I wanted to do things I wasn’t allowed to do, if it was sneaky, it was fun. I smoked from when I was about 13. I came from a family who hated smoking. I hated smoking until then, even I couldn’t believe I was doing it. But I did it anyway, and it is addictive, I began to like it. I liked sneaking a smoke on the oval at school with my friends. I liked wagging school. I liked sneaking out at night. I was curious about drinking, cannabis & sex. I experimented – to a point. I am lucky the consequences didn’t alter my life.
All of us take chances and have been in risky situations. Many of us are lucky we didn’t pay the price for our risks. Some do. I remember this when I meet kids who have met the serious consequences of their actions & I don’t judge them. I want to talk to them. I want to support & help them.
Even the best behaved teenagers will end up rebelling at some point, even if it’s not until their late teens or early 20’s. So if you have an early starter like I was, chances are, hopefully, they will get through it quicker also, so take heart. They will be over it, whist others are just beginning.
I want to be a positive person in the lives of young people. I feel strongly for kids who have had difficult home lives. Who may have a family member in jail, have grown up with violence or continual unemployment of their parents. Those who aren’t able to live with their families. All of this impacts a young person hugely. What a young person has had modelled to them, what they have grown up with, influences them, how can it not. How hard it must be to change the direction & chose an alternate path to your family. Many will, many won’t.
Teenagers are interesting. They have opinions, values & like to talk. Most teenagers are open when the feel respected & comfortable with the person they are talking to. I will talk to teenagers about anything, no topic off limits.
I want to always be in touch with teenagers. I myself will have one in a couple of years. I’m not suggesting it’s easy. I realise it will be different with my own child as there is so much more emotion involved. But what I try to do with her is listen to her every day – heaps. No topic off limit with her. I’m very open with her. I want to know who her friends are & what she cares about. I want to do stuff with her as much as possible. We are incredibly close. I know it will be hard when she wants to branch away but I will still be there & I will keep the boundaries in place & keep talking to her. And I will pray for her safety & protection.
Talk to teenagers, don’t be scared of them, they are searching for good people, for happiness & fun too. Help them find that.
I base this on 7 years youth work & 11 years in the Community Service Sector, as well as my own 7 years as a teen. I have just returned to work on a casual basis after 1 year maternity leave & it has reminded me why I like youth.