I would support that the cultural climate of today's teen (13-18 years old) is not as unique or dire as some of the analysis suggests. However, their challenges should not be overlooked. This group of teens are inundated with technology like never before, deal with a heightened level of social pressure, and often come from broken homes where they receive mixed messages from mom and dad. Many of the conversations I have with parents raising kids in this category come back to these issues:
- Balancing Lives of High Achievement
- Social Media and Hyper-connectedness
- Alcohol & Drug abuse
- Video Games
- Sexuality & Dating
- Boundaries & Family Rules
- Faith & Doubts
- Learning Challenges
- Depression & Grief
- Self Harm & Suicide
I had the opportunity to sit with a small group of 4 high school students during Point Break, a Campus Life event geared directly towards addressing these issues. Each one of these kids had first hand experience with the weight of this list on a regular basis. Heavy, painful, heart wrenching stories, one after another, echoed through their conversations as I helped to facilitate dialogue.
The ministry of Campus Life is in the game. They aren't sitting by idly as this new generation struggles with its present day realities. This group of people is 'others' focused, not for any personal gain of their own but truly and honestly for the benefit of the community. They plain and simply want to see students thrive.
I learned a lot by spending a day with the kids and Campus Life staff at Point Break. Here is my prescription for struggling parents who have kids in this age group. Keep in mind that my advice is based on spending tons of time with teens, but not having raised any of my own (yet). Someday I'll look back and let you know how well it's working in my own life. In no particular order...
- Ask: "How are you?" often and take time to listen.
- Remind them of your unconditional love and talk about what that means.
- You must let your kids learn by failing (once in a while, when they can most likely recover from the fall).
- Your kid's life is your kid's life (not yours). Do you know what their passions are? What makes them come fully alive?
- Trust is essential and gained by earning the right to be heard. They may hear you say one thing but then watch as you go out and live a life completely contradictory to your advice. Live with the same integrity and values that you wish to impart on them and demonstrate through your actions how good these are working for you. (side note, teens have a heightened BS meter and can tell when you're lying about that stuff)
- Apologize when you have messed up.
- Your house = your rules (only when communicated ahead of time and administered fairly). Seriously, I'm on your team with this. Kids who trash talk their parents should not get their cell phones and car insurance or gas paid for.
I want to know.
What are you struggling with?
What is working?
What is your secret to success?