Being a young person in this world, the time between childhood and adulthood, can be a tumultuous time. The transition from child to young adult brings many physiological, emotional and social changes all happening whilst trying to understand how to navigate a world full of mixed messages and inconsistencies. As a teenager, there can be the feeling of a lack of support or inspiring role models which can lead to a questioning of who we are, how we fit in, and what kind of world we are inheriting.
When we are teenagers we start to explore our independence and test boundaries, family life and patterns get reviewed and we realise adults no longer hold all of the answers. We often feel more drawn to our friends or we can become quite isolated, as family and those in authority don’t meet us for who we are and don’t seem to understand what is important to us.
This time of life can be one of discovery and joy as we step out into the world as an adult, exploring who we are and what the world has to offer. There can be a sense that the world is our oyster and we can do anything. There is an openness and enthusiasm for life.
Young people have a fresh take on life that is both inspiring and offers a new lens through which to view the world. We are at the forefront of life and where society is. We see things for how they are and there is an honesty in how we view the world. With this can come great wisdom. We often don’t hold back in expressing what we are seeing and feeling but sometimes we can do this in a clumsy way as we are all learning. Clumsy or challenging, our contribution is important.
Of course, one of the biggest processes that we all go through in our teenage years is the emerging of our sexuality. Boys and girls transition into adulthood, into becoming men and women, and the complexities of courtship, intimacy and sexual relations all come to the fore during this time. For some this is a process of finding their confidence, defining their identity and ‘growing up’. For others this can be a time of insecurity, confusion or isolation. Young people grow up in a complicated adult world, where social media and peer pressure push and pull us in all directions. At a time when our bodies are changing, our relationships developing and our senses expanding this can be overwhelming. For some, there is also the question of sexual orientation, with all its stigma and expectations. How we traverse through sexuality as young people usually sets up a foundation for our adult life. Pretending or feeling compelled to be someone we are not, being absorbed in ourselves or in competitiveness with others cannot lay a solid foundation whereas truth, openness and honesty can.
Our responsibility to young people may need to be reviewed as there appears to be a chasm between the stereotyped difficult and sullen teenager and their parents/adults who can often feel confused and helpless. How can this evolve into a place of mutual understanding and respect?
At this time, more than ever, could it be that teenagers need adults and caregivers to provide a loving, solid and consistent foundation at home where adults are super present, maintain clear and consistent
boundaries whilst allowing the space for teenagers to explore
life and make their own choices.
Maybe it is time our expectations of our teenagers change to offer more understanding rather than simply writing them off as being hormonal or difficult to deal with. Perhaps they are deeply craving responsibility yet we often provide a world for them that presumes they are not yet capable.