Being a teenager is full of ups and downs. The older you get, the more responsibility and expectations you have. Navigating relationships both in real life and online is complicated. Skills such as driving and holding down a job are hard to master. Plus, a teen’s body is still growing and fluctuating with hormones. That alone can make teens moody and clumsy.
Common contemporary teen issues.Living with all these changes and pressures can take a toll on a teen’s mental health. Depression and anxiety are on the rise in teens. Let’s talk about some teen issues that affect teens’ mental health and how the adults in their lives can provide help.
Teens today live a great deal of their lives online. Many of them have had parents sharing pictures and videos of them since they were born. Kids ranging from 13-18 haven’t known a world without the Internet. This has its pros and cons. On one hand, they know how to navigate the internet as a tool, but on the other hand, they may not know how to set boundaries.
Social media can look like a lot of fun, with the dances and outfit-of-the-day posts. However, the reality is that there is a lot of pressure to be a certain way, and social media is about perception more than reality so teens end up comparing themselves to filtered photos and highlight reels. This can create body image issues as well as discontentment until they have the item, clothes, or whatever else may be trending on social media.
Algorithms feed teens all kinds of people and ideas to follow. There can be a lot of bad advice that teens can get from social media, such as pseudo-psychology and inaccurate information. It is important to discuss with teens how to find reliable sources of information and learn that trends pass. Not everything needs to be bought or believed because it is popular right now.
Learning safe social media practices is also important. Both cyberbullying and predatory behavior happen online. Teaching your teen how to deal with cruelty, criticism, and creeps is important. Teens need to learn how to protect their identity, including not sharing their driver’s license or other personal information on social media. Their bodies and locations are to be kept discreet.
Safe social media practices for teens.
If you are a parent who is trying to help your teen with safe practices on social media, have regular discussions with your teen about reasonable expectations.
- Determine what social media applications are appropriate for your teen
- Set time limits such as 20 minutes a day on Instagram, TikTok, etc.
- Make social media accounts private and use all the privacy settings.
- Consider being on the same social media applications as your teen to be aware of what they see and do
- Encourage in-person relationships over online ones.
- Model healthy practices. Put your phone away during meals, set time limits for yourself, and focus on being present with people.
- Choose hobbies that don’t require a phone.
School takes up the bulk of a teenager’s life. From classes to homework, extracurriculars, and tests, a teen can develop a lot of issues from trying to meet the academic standards placed on him or her.
Standardized tests have become the way that schools prove their worth to the community. But if a teen has autism, ADHD, testing anxiety, or any other form of challenge academically, the tests are not an accurate reflection of his or her intelligence. Now he or she is in an environment where he or she is forced to prove his or her value as it impacts the whole. This can develop into issues with self-esteem and depression.
A teen’s worth should not derive from the ability (or lack thereof) to take a standardized test or their grades overall. It is important that your teen be allowed to succeed to the best of his or her ability. Parents should be supporting their teens, not pressuring them to measure up to a predetermined standard.
Parental pressures can take precedence in pushing toward certain goals (a specific college and/or career, a certain type of sport). The expectation that a teen will have a clear life path determined by age eighteen is expecting a level of self-awareness that many adults are not capable of achieving.
Further, grades, resumes, and college acceptances do not solely determine a teen’s success, but parents often make their teen feel as though this is the reality and project their own anxiety about their teen’s future onto their teen. Teenagers are still learning about themselves, still physically growing, and need guidance, not pressure.
Provide support, not pressure.
A parent’s role is to help a teen navigate the necessary decisions and responsibilities that their teen is facing.
- If your teen is struggling with grades, check in on why that may be.
- If your teen seems overwhelmed by the amount of stuff on his or her plate, help him or her decide if something can be removed.
- Ask open-ended questions about his or her future, dreams, hopes, and fears.
- Allow space for uncertainty.
- Give grace when mistakes are made, and advice for long-term success.
Peer pressure.Not all pressures come from the adults surrounding a teen. Peer pressure is as ancient as peer groups.
Sometimes a little pressure from peers can be a healthy thing. Maybe your teen was uninspired in history class but is paired with a partner who is passionate about the topic and getting a good grade. Perhaps your teen wants to push themselves in a sport to add value to their team. Positive peer pressure can inspire a teen to pursue healthy goals. Friends can provide a safe space for like-minded people sharing similar challenges and interests.
Negative peer pressure is the kind that forces people to do something they don’t want or that is unsafe, possibly even illegal. Teens who struggle with self-esteem will be far more vulnerable to negative peer pressures. The teenager who wants to be accepted by a group may do a great deal to change himself or herself to fit in. If the adults in a teenager’s life are critical and place a lot of pressure on him or her, the teenager will often seek out acceptance elsewhere.
Your teen’s friends.
When your teen is going through one of these teen issues or another type of struggle, there is a high chance that he or she will talk to his or her friends before he or she talks to an adult. Building a relationship with your teen’s friends can give you a lot of insight into your teen’s life. Here are a few ideas on how to do this:
- Have the friends over often to observe the interactions.
- Offer rides whenever you can and be a quiet driver while you let them talk.
- Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends.
What Do Teens Need from Adults?
Teens often need a lot more than adults think. As a teenager deals with issues of increasing maturity there is excitement about new things.
But new things often mean a teen has no experience to bolster his or her confidence.
He or she starts a new job and gets yelled at in the first week for making a mistake. He or she studies hard for a test only to fail. Friends say something critical about a favorite movie and suddenly your teen is questioning everything.
If you are parenting teens, your role has shifted from problem solver to active listener. A child needs help solving a problem, yet a teen needs support to solve problems. Teens may not ask for advice directly; they just want someone to hear their sides of the story.
In a world that constantly places pressure on teenagers, adults and parents who provide positive words and compassion will be a gift to a teen. Compliment them on looks and outfits, notice hard work and successes, and pay attention to the things that bring your teen joy. Reach out to your teen, just letting him or her know you are available.
Be patient through teen’s moods, attitudes, and trends and try not to take it personally. This too shall pass, including everything that feels major to your teen and minor to you, and everything about parenting a teen. It is just a season. With much patience, you will both come out the other side as better human beings.
Christian counseling for teen issues.
If you are currently parenting a teen, you may want to talk with a counselor about how best to navigate this season. If your teen is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other common teen issues, talking to a counselor can be helpful. Call today to set up an appointment.
“Friends”, Courtesy of Tim Mossholder, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Empty Classroom”, Courtesy of MChe Lee, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Social Media”, Courtesy of Georgia de Lotz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Woman Carrying Books”, Courtesy of Element5 Digital, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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