Step Into Their Shoes

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, or someone else who regularly interacts with teenagers, you know how frustrating these interactions can sometimes be. While this isn’t always the case, it often seems like many teens are indifferent about the important things, overly emotional about the unimportant things, and unpredictable in between. But instead of getting upset, take a moment to remember everything this age group is experiencing during this delicate but immensely important part of growing up.

What’s happening on the inside?
Overwhelming biological changes take their toll during these formative years, and the parts of the brain that deal with emotional reactions and rational decision-making undergo significant and rapid development. For these reasons, teenagers are often thought of as moody and are reprimanded for making questionable decisions. However, these moods and decisions are part of the maturity process. Try to remember that simple science is behind this behavior, even though it may not always feel so simple.

What’s happening on the outside?
You can’t see the biological gears turning inside of your teen, so instead, think of all the things they’re experiencing externally. They’re going through major milestones for the first time. Younger teens are about to enter high school, while older ones have college on the brain. In between are teens working hard to keep up with school and other activities, all while trying to understand their place in the world. They’re figuring out the qualities that make them who they are, and they’re starting to realize how they’re perceived by others. As adults, this might be second-nature knowledge, but every adult was once in the same predicament as these teens. Confronting change you can’t control is nerve-wracking and downright scary at times.

What’s happening on the internet?
Teenagers in today’s world face the same biological changes, and many of the same external changes, that their parents and grandparents faced before them. But today’s teens contend with a big difference: the internet. While peer pressure and bullying have existed for time immemorial, their effects are made saturated and prevalent thanks to modern technology. With social media, internet user boards, video streaming platforms, and more, teens are exposed to increased opportunities for judgment and social pressures. The ability to connect with people around the world can be fantastic because it allows for new perspectives and insights, but it also presents dangers to teens’ well-being and mindsets, which are already vulnerable. Be aware of what your teens are facing and be patient as they sort through the stimuli in their life.

Figuring out the best ways to spend time with the teenagers in your life can be tricky. Because social awareness is prominent in their minds, they may want to spend the majority of their free time with friends rather than family. Remind yourself why that is and try to be understanding. Don’t be disheartened if they want some space to do their own thing. They’re doing their best to figure out who they are and what role they should play in the world. You had to do the same, so let your teen know you’re there to support them.