Though this stage of life may be a distant memory for you personally, it is important to be empathetic to your kids as they navigate through this often confusing and emotionally-charged period of their lives and face some of the common challenges of teenagers.
Being a teenager has always been pretty tough, of that there is no doubt! However, hitting the high school years is full of challenges for teenagers — with social media, image-obsessed modern culture, and complex friendship and relationship dynamics and pressures, it really is a minefield out there!
So, with all that in mind, parents of teenagers certainly need some additional support when it comes to dealing with their kids effectively and in a way that is going to nurture and support them through these often troubling days.
Facing Common Challenges of Teenagers
Tackling issues head on is one of the first things you commit to doing. However, you must be aware of what you are dealing with. So let’s take a look at some of the key obstacles and challenges of teenagers today, and explore how parents can assist their kids in successfully working through them!
Social media struggles
Over the past decade, social media has proliferated across the teenage demographic. Nowadays, it is extremely rare to come across a teen who has withdrawn themselves from Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. As such, the pressures to present a certain image have spiraled out of control.
The purpose of social media is to connect people with each other. Instagram, for example, gives us a view into the lives of others and offers the opportunity to share significant experiences with loved ones. However, it can also cause fierce comparison and body image issues.
With celebrities garnering several million followers and uploading a stream of glamorous selfies, it only follows that impressionable young teenagers will attempt to emulate their icons and, inevitably, feel inferior as a result.
Social media is very rarely an accurate representation of the person’s real life, and yet, teenagers may fall victim to thinking that they must live up to a particular image or look. This striving can cause deeply-rooted issues.
In addition, social media perpetuates another unpleasant issue — cyber bullying. With private messages open, and with anyone open to comment on your appearance, bullying is a common and corrosive issue among this age group.
As with any of these social tools, they can be both a blessing and a curse. The key for parents is to ensure that there is no secrecy about what is going on within their social media accounts. Keep the lines of communication open and ensure that your child feels comfortable to disclose any strange or nasty things taking place on their social media profiles.
It is not uncommon for teenagers to experiment with various substances during their high school years. While this can be a serious concern, it is important to highlight that this usage may be for a number of different reasons, such as peer pressure, curiosity, or even as a way of self-medicating an undiagnosed mental health condition like depression.
While minor usage might be harmless, with the wide variety of dangerous drugs available today, it is important to keep a handle on what your teenager is getting up to. Anyone, no matter how young, is at risk of falling into addiction after experimenting with drugs.
In addition, due to the fact that a teenager’s brain has not fully developed, addiction and the impact of psychoactive substances can be extremely harmful and detrimental to healthy growth and cognitive development.
Drugs that are often prevalent among teenagers include marijuana, alcohol, nicotine (cigarettes, e-cigarettes/vapes, cigars), synthetic marijuana (sometimes known as Spice), prescription drugs, hallucinogens, and inhalants.
All of these, if taken regularly, can drastically alter the mental state of teenagers and may hamper their school work, impede their relationship building and even get them into legal trouble. Due to the serious nature of drug and alcohol abuse, it is of vital importance that you talk openly with your teenager about how they can, with confidence, say “no” to these harmful substances.
The adolescent years can be extremely confusing, as you are met with deep questions over purpose and identity. What are you going to do after finishing school? Who are the friends that will stick by you? What is the true meaning of your life?
Obviously, these are expansive questions that need a great amount of thought. However, as is often the case among teenagers, it can be common to see a “mask” being worn as a protection against this scary and uncertain outside world. With all that teenagers face, and with peer pressure and social judgement a perpetual threat, it is incredibly difficult for young people to show their true colors. Instead, hiding behind a mask and taking on a particular persona becomes very common.
With so much energy being spent on keeping up appearances, teenagers can experience deep exhaustion from attempting to present as a particular type of person. There is so much pressure on kids these days, with competitive sports teams, social media comparisons and often wildly unrealistic academic expectations.
It can be absolutely overwhelming, and parents must be constantly aware of the mental state of their teen as a result. It is important that parents reassure their kids that while striving for excellence can be a wonderful thing, it is not the ultimate goal. Parents must ensure that their teenagers know that first and foremost, and ahead of all the academic and sporting targets and pressures, they are simply loved unconditionally.
As kids grow into teenagers, the whole area of sex becomes an issue that must be approached with sensitivity and caution. Naturally, they will be curious about this significant part of the human experience. As such, parents should always ensure that their teenager feels comfortable talking about the subject as they see fit.
Dating and all that this entails may also become a significant factor in your teenager’s life. Again, it is important to show unwavering support in the face of many questions your child may have regarding the emotional aspects of entering into a romantic relationship with another person.
Of course, in a Christian home, it is important to open up discussion over abstinence and sex before marriage. In addition, and in light of social media pressures, it is crucial to address issues of photo sharing and inappropriate messaging.
Teens should feel empowered to say “no,” and parents must play a pivotal role in making sure that their children know this. Too often, sexual encounters become common among teenagers and are put forward as a social norm.
It is important that parents make it clear to their kids that they are not “weird” if they choose to abstain from sexual activity – in fact, it is quite the opposite! Teenagers who show restraint from getting involved in potentially harmful behavior are wise beyond their years, are saving much future heartbreak, and must be encouraged.
Too often, sexual relations among teenagers are related to low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth. Youngsters regularly enter into a sexual relationship because they believe this will help them feel as if they truly belong.
This is a tragic thing that must be addressed with your teenager. Above all, ensure that your child knows that they are loved unconditionally and that they are not to feel any pressure to get involved in anything of a sexual nature with their peers.
Christian Counseling for Teens
As you can see, teenagers today face a plethora of complex issues, both relational and emotional. Parenting at this stage, therefore, is never going to be easy. It is of vital importance that parents remember to encourage and validate their teen. Of course, there will be times where correction and discipline are essential, but this must be administered alongside an outward expression of love and care.
If your teenager feels empowered to make good decisions that might even make them unpopular among some of their friends, they will set themselves in good stead for the future.
While not every conversation will be easy and comfortable, it is crucial that you create a home environment for your child that is safe, secure and open — make sure they know that your door is always open and that they can talk to you about absolutely anything.
Of course, this isn’t always possible, and sometimes you will need assistance in dealing effectively with the emotional complexities that your teenager might be facing.
If this is the case, a trained professional may be of huge help in opening up the lines of communication between you and your child. They will be able to assist you in developing a safe space for your son or daughter to open up about their feelings, process emotions, and navigate the way ahead through these common challenges of teenagers.
Lastly, if your teenager is going through a particularly difficult time, make sure that you remind them that it will not last forever. There is always a hope and a future for them. Of this, you can be sure.
“Friends in a Field”, Courtesy of Melissa Askew, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Marijuana”, Courtesy of Rick Proctor, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Angst”, Courtesy of Graham Wizardo, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Strong,” courtesy of Christopher Campbell, unsplash.com, CC0 License