Let’s just deal in facts for a moment. Want an eye-opening experience? Read the article, “The Truth About Trouble Teens” By Amy Morin, LCSW. Here a just a few of the hard facts:
In The Next 24 Hours in the United States: 1,439 Teens will attempt suicide. 2,795 Teenage girls will become pregnant. 15,006 Teens will use drugs for the first time. 3,506 Teens will run away. 2 adolescents will be murdered.
Every 4 minutes a youth is arrested for an alcohol-related crime.
Every 7 minutes a youth is arrested for a drug crime.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.
More teens and young adults die from suicide than from heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, pneumonia, influenza, cancer, and lung disease combined.
I would never go back to this season of life. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!
Sure, some of the problems are not new. Of course, we had plenty of hard things when I was a teen in the 90’s. But there is one thing that is new. In my day, the world did not have immediate access to me and I did not have immediate access to the world.
Just this morning, I was having the daily drive-to-school conversation with my youngest. I discovered something in my pre-coffee news scrolling that I wanted her to know about before she arrived at school. I braced my word choice and tone for the least amount of stress induction and I began, “I want you to know…” She stopped me three sentences in with, “Oh, I already knew that, Mom.” She read the news herself. She saw the Instagram comments. She knew more than I did. I did not get to prepare her heart. I did not get to shape her first knowledge. That is the world we live in.
There will be those that tell me that my 7th grader should not have Instagram. Sure. That is the choice we have made as a family. She does not Tweet. She does not have Facebook. She doesn’t even have Musically or Snapchat. But the truth is that she would have seen this piece of information when she logged on to her school issued laptop during her first period class. Our kids have the world at their phone, laptop and iPad fueled fingertips. This is our reality.
And with this reality, comes the immense responsibility as parents to be aware, informed and willing to partner with our kids as they learn to navigate the challenges of immediate information access and social media nonsense. Most importantly for our family, managing the impact that these societal changes make on stress and expectations is paramount. Sure, I am glad that my teenage experiences are not recorded for all to see in words and pictures, but recognizing the psychological impact of this reality has shaped our family choices.
Here are a few of the things we have done to shape our household culture:
- We actively monitor all downloads, texts and social media. We over-manage in the middle school years, even using outside parent monitoring software to make sure we are not missing anything.
- We read through our kid’s feeds and talk about who they are following and how they are interacting.
- We major on the majors. What bands our kids are listening to or what sitcom they are checking out matters less to us than the friends they spend the night with and the activities they want to participate in. If their favorite music uses colorful language, I assure you they hear worse in the junior high hallway today. Side note, if they like BAD music, that is an entirely different conversation.
- We play games together. One of the hardest things for our kids today is to look people in the eye and have a conversation. Enjoying a spirited game of dominoes or cards or Ticket to Ride is a non-threatening way to have conversation. Add in some smack talk or slightly off-color humor for a quality blushing good time.
- And the inverse is true – we go on car rides. Have a hard topic to talk about? Take your kid for ice cream or coffee. They don’t have to look you in the eye and they are a captive audience.
- Talk about your teen’s life, not about the life that you want your teen to have. Ask about the things they like. Talk about the things they are reading about. Even if your kiddo hates reading, they are reading something. Why else are they staring at their phone?
- Have designated phone free zones. These may be different for different kids. One of ours no longer takes her phone in her room. The other is regularly asked to deposit hers with me for restriction. Grounding one of my girls from the phone would be a non-issue for her. For the other one, taking away the phone is like cutting off a limb.
I love teenagers. I know. I know. I would MUCH rather have a 15 year-old in my home than a 4 year-old. I’m so weird. But I don’t always enjoy teenage issues, mainly because they make me oh, so aware than my girls are not babies. They are becoming adults and with that comes adult conversations and challenges and disagreements. I cannot control them or make choices for them. They are independent and bold and brave and amazing.
Because I want you to get to see just how great this generation is, I am tee-ing up some fun for Thursday’s post. So AJ, take us into the mind of today’s teenager with:
- What’s the hardest thing about being a teenager in 2018?
- If you could tell adults one insight to your generation, what would it be?
- What’s your relationship to your cell phone?
- Is there such thing a “normal” teenager?
- Why do so many parents and kids have such a hard time in these years?