Teen Culture – Helping Our Teens Thrive p.3

We know more about the brain, counseling techniques, and psychology than we ever have.  We are more affluent, taken care of and provided for than any time in history and yet we are more stressed and anxious than ever before.  Research has shown that affluent communities have “significantly higher rates of depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and addiction, anxiety disorders, cutting, and other self-destructive behaviors than all other groups of teenagers.”[1] 

You would think the opposite would be true; the more money and resources you had at your disposal the better equipped you would be.  Adolescent psychology expert Madeline Levine says “the root of these problems is that affluent teens display a disturbing lack of independence and are therefore quite fragile in the face of relative minor adversity.”[2] 

Parents have hovered over their kids, written their college essays, micromanaged their life, stepped in to help deal with conflict, and therefore have stunted the self-sufficiency of their teen.  Teens don’t know how to deal with life because they have not been equipped to do so. 

Parents think they are being helpful, they think they are giving their kid a leg up in life but they are actually cutting their kids legs right out from under them.  (Fantastic video on over-parenting)  Instead kids need to learn to problem and conflict solve; they need to learn how to be creative and independent.

Busyness has also added to the stress of teens.  Teens are having more demands placed on them.  They are the 5 “S”: 

Sports

School

Social Media

Streaming TV

Supplemental Income

We can look at these areas and see how over time more emphasis has been put on each of these areas.  They have gotten out of control.  The first two sports and school have gotten so competitive that they have become non-stop, never ending activities. 

Sports have transitioned from one sport equals one season to that sport being all year round, including 2 a day practices and no time for vacation during the summer.  School has become so competitive.  It has been held up, wrongly, as the end all be all of who is going to be successful in life.  School says you need to take all the hard classes, do hours upon hours of homework every night so you can get into the right colleges.  We have our teens hopping from one activity to the next.  It has become performance driven living.  To be good you must do good.  That is an unhealthy view of yourself and what success in life looks like.

Adding on top of those, social media and streaming TV such as Netflix has become addictive drugs that have made zombies out of teens.  Teens don’t know what they want to do when they grow up because they don’t do anything now.  They just binge watch Netflix and snapchat each other.  They lose sleep, stay at a heightened sense of anxiety, and aren’t able to unwind and decompress because they are always connected.  Teen culture says to be accepted you have to be connected

Teen culture is like Bird murmurations (look it up, it’s a thing, and it’s awesome).  Bird murmurations are these huge flock of birds that fly together in groups of hundreds to thousands of birds at a time.  They are this huge oval shape and they all seem to move in unison.  What’s amazing about them is they are able make sudden movements together perfectly.  This is our teens, they are so desperate to fit in they want to be in step in unison with every other teen. Mostly, teens don’t want to stand out, they just want to fit in.  That is why they feel like they have to be connected so they know which direction everyone is moving, they don’t want to miss out.

So what do we do?  We need to find and recruit adults into their life that will speak truth and life into our teens.  “Part of a community’s role in identity formation and self-discovery is to name, or label, what that community… sees as the emerging self of the child.  This naming has great power-power that can be either productive in affirming a child’s growing sense of self or destructive in negatively determining his or her identity.”[3]  Recruit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other church members and tell them you respect them.  Tell them you believe they can make a positive difference in the life of your child.  Ask them to be a part of your child’s life and to be intentional in affirming your child and pointing them to Jesus.  This might mean they take your child on special trips to the zoo, write letters of affirmation, come by on special occasions to encourage.  It can mean any of a hundred different things, but we need adults that will walk with teens, encourage them, and love them. 


[1] Hurt 2.0, 180.

[2] Hurt 2.0, 180.

[3] Hurt 2.0, 170.

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