By Teresa Mercer, LCSW, LCAC, January 2, 2018 –
As a social worker and therapist, I have the pleasure working with teens. I have worked in a variety of settings with them: inpatient, outpatient, substance abuse treatment, in-home therapy and currently a school setting.
Although they all have their own unique personalities and styles, teens are all similar in several ways. They all experience moods but are not always sure how to express their feelings. They are all attempting to figure out life and how they might fit in.
They all seem to fight for their independence while sometimes rebelling against our suggestions and advice. They all want to feel safe, loved and needed. They all want to be heard, even if we don’t agree. They all want to be respected.
Through my years in working with them, I’ve heard the same concerns from many of them. It doesn’t matter where they live, which school they attend, their socio-economic status, their grades, etc. Most have expressed they do not feel understood by their parents, guardians, or most adults in general.
They complain that they are treated like children. They are upset that some adults think they are irresponsible and not “ready for the real world.” They are tired of having their ideas and thoughts not heard or appreciated, and yet they are expected to be responsible.
Now I do know adolescents can be challenging. Some of the things they choose to do are beyond words. Many times while talking with them I ask them to explain their thought process, because I really need to understand what made them choose to do or NOT do something!
However, they are still a fascinating population to work with and I love every day I am with them.
I decided to collect responses from a number of teens. My intention is to let adults know that our youth do give some thought to their decisions, they are aware of what’s important and they are capable of making good choices.
But most importantly, the group in this survey wants us to understand some things about them.
Below are the 3 questions I asked and a sampling of their answers.
- What are one or two things you would really like for your parents/guardians or other adults to understand about you?
- School is stressful and they really do try their best.
- They have busy schedules with sports, other activities and school.
- Talk with them and listen to them instead of lecturing and/or yelling.
- Sometimes expectations are overwhelming. Please be understanding when they can’t meet all the expectations.
- Sometimes what they want for their life is different from what their parents want for them.
- School and friends are important to them.
- Pay more attention to their sad moods.
- Understand they need privacy and time to themselves.
- Realize they get just as stressed out as adults do.
- They are capable of making good decisions.
- Don’t compare them to siblings.
- What is one thing you would like to see different in the United States, such as what would make our lives better (this includes everyone, not just you or your family) or make the country better?
- Teens overwhelming said more kindness, acceptance, tolerance and understanding of people (too much hatred in the world).
- What is one thing your family can start or stop doing that would improve family connectedness? If your family is already doing things that are going well, please share.
- Eating a meal together
- More activities/outings
- Less arguing
- More talking things out
- Having less electronics at the table when eating
Whether or not you live with a teenager, I hope this brings some understanding. Sometimes we can get so busy with life that we don’t acknowledge teens for “being teens” with ideas, perspectives, thoughts and feelings.