In today’s society teens can, more than ever, become engulfed in an aura of self-doubt and insecurities caused by this generation’s social media frenzy. Consequently, young millennials have developed a defence mechanism to avoid any intrusion into their personal life, through guarding any life issues with secrets and barriers. For parents, breaking down those walls and continuing the open relationship they had when their kids were younger feels an impossible task. Particularly when, for most teenagers, reminiscing about their life troubles with their parents becomes more of a chore than a bonding experience.
To help provide insight, we spoke to five teenage girls, aged between fourteen and sixteen, and asked them what they wished their parents knew or understood when it came to teen troubles. The overriding three trends were similar to generations passed—the stress of school, friends and appearance. However, the digital age has brought with it new pressures that make those trends far more difficult to navigate.
Social media is something that parents never had when they were growing up, so understanding its implications in the school yard is something difficult to grasp for many Gen X and Gen Ys. As one interviewee said, “Times aren’t like they used to be, insults are no longer scribbled in the school girl’s bathroom, yet whispered behind people’s backs, managing to follow them home through the use of social media. Understandably help is found if anything spirals out of control, but with the technical advantages of the Internet over the past 25 years, would our parents understand our problems not having experienced it themselves?”
As a result of this, many teens feel very protective over disclosure of personal information. Another interviewee supports this statement claiming, “The bitchy comments and overall insults aren’t anything surprising and come expected with any new status or image posted. Usually I avoid sharing this information with my parents to prevent them questioning my whole background story. I wish they just listened to what I was telling them and give me advice on the matter without placing their nose in all my other business.”
Each young adult interviewed held a similar mindset toward their issues regarding communication with their parents. The most frequent request was for the teen to share selected information and be able to focus on one topic without their parent speculating about other issues they may be encountering. “One problem at a time.”
School is another contributor towards the stress levels of teenage kids, with one adolescent sharing their personal schoolyard struggles. “Anxiety and stress is a given when it comes to high school, If not from the general pressure of receiving a report card that satisfies your parents, then from the unrealistic expectation that comes with looking presentable one hundred percent of the time.” The era of the ‘selfie’ has created a generation of teens more obsessed with looks and appearance than ever before, and they are all feeling the pressure. Another student continues to say, “School shouldn’t be a place of judgement, we are all there for the same reason with graduating being the main goal. All the extra bickering, insults and appearance shaming seems to come with the high school experience and it’s unnecessary but normal. Which is why each bad experience we encounter, isn’t one we want to return home and share.” The advice from all five teenagers interviewed was: “Don’t take it personally when we don’t tell you everything.”
From those early baby days, parents are used to being the centre of a child’s world, and vice versa. And thankfully teens don’t want you to disappear completely! But being there in the background seems to be what the interviewees really want from their parents. “If there is any information you want to know regarding your teens personal life, try not to ask questions directly based on the issue. This feels as if you’re intruding into our personal details and expecting an answer by singling us out… the outcome of which is usually a change of topic and a defensive teenager!”
To avoid being shot down in flames, don’t place your teen in the wrong, or suggest they are the root of the problem. Listen to their side of the story first before asking additional questions. When wanting to know any extra information, adopt a casual approach to the situation. Start up a genuine conversation first and ease into the matter. This is a more effective way of sparking an honest conversation and avoiding a barrier being built between you and your teenager.
With all this said, one-on-one time with your teen never goes out of fashion. Lunch dates, shopping and days at the beach are still moments that teenagers of this generation treasure immensely.
Alyssa Davis is a current Year 10 student at Maroochydore High school undertaking advanced English and Media Studies. Her love towards writing was sparked at a young age and has since become a platform where the younger generation are given a voice. Alyssa hopes to pursue a career in print journalism and inspire others to follow their dreams.