Every parent can attest that each stage of raising a child has its own challenges. But perhaps one of the more complicated stages, and possibly even the dreaded one, is when the child reaches adolescence.
Though many parents may fondly remember their own “exciting” time of friends, early romance, and adventure, it is very different when one has to help their own teenager navigate around the various teenage problems of today’s time.
Facing Today’s Teenage Problems
Aside from the expected physical, mental, and emotional changes that their teen will need to adjust to, there are also other obstacles that today’s parents may not have had to deal with before (or if they did, at a lesser degree), making parenting teens more challenging.
Reliance on Social Media
One of the biggest differences between today’s teenage world is the reliance on social media. For teens, social media is a natural and necessary part of their life. Aside from keeping them in “close contact” with their friends, loved ones, and even teachers, social media informs them of the latest trends (e.g. fashion, music, movies) and current events.
Nevertheless, though these are positives, social media has its own dangers for teens.
Adolescence is the time for self-discovery. Teens start moving away from their childhood toys and fairy tales and begin planning something realistic for themselves.
In this stage, they become more aware of their family background, their socio-economic means, their talents, and their maturing bodies. Hence, part of this stage is the natural tendency to compare who they are against the changes occurring amongst their peers.
Social media, however, allows such comparison to occur at an unprecedented rate as people are able to easily upload the differing developments in their life – celebrations, vacations, new purchases, or updates on their romantic life.
In most of these posts, people are smiling and life is seemingly perfect. Sadly, many teens see these updates daily and then wrongly come to the conclusion that their life is not as good as others. This leads to much discontentment, affecting their self-confidence and self-worth.
Almost every adult can agree that the teenage years can really be a socially trying time. Gone are the early elementary years when kids tried to get along. As teens, alliances change and former friends may end up as rivals for popularity or romantic attention. To make things worse, bodily changes can make life even more difficult for those who are not as tall, strong, or good looking as everybody else, because those who are “different” are often singled out.
Social media aggravates this even more as bullying is no longer limited to the school grounds. Bullies can now target their hapless victims at any time of the day – directly or indirectly, openly or anonymously, and even with uploaded pictures or videos as “evidence.”
And because social media posts can easily be seen and shared, insulting and embarrassing posts spread quickly, hurting the person’s reputation even more. It’s no wonder why many blame cyberbullying for the increase in teenage suicides and suicidal attempts.
Online Pretenders and Predators
Aside from cyberbullying, another problem is that of online pretenders and predators. As a way to meet others, many create social media accounts in the hope of meeting others for friendship or love.
But because it is so easy to upload false information on the internet and hide behind the anonymity of the screen, many with bad intentions use social media sites to get what they want. While some of them are regular teenagers masquerading as someone else for their own perverted pleasure, others do so for more sinister reasons.
“Catfishing,” where someone pretends to be someone else to lure another into a romantic relationship, is something very prevalent today. Many teens end up “falling in love” only to find out that their online partner is not who they thought they were.
In fact, many pedophiles and those involved in the sex trade regularly parade as minors online in the hope of snaring unsuspecting children and teens. Aside from feeling betrayed, inappropriate photos may have been shared; money may have been given or extorted, or the victim may have been threatened or assaulted.
As the time for self-discovery, it is expected for teens to do a lot of soul searching, questioning much that was taught to them. This includes their view on school, work, family, faith, love, and morals.
As they interact more with their peers and gain further input from their teachers and the things they read, they begin to formulate their own view of the world. Although this process of self-discovery was something that parents did as well in the past, today’s time poses an even greater challenge as teens can easily access information anytime, anywhere.
To an extent, this can be good as teens are no longer bounded by where they are. They can aspire for something greater, choosing jobs that did not even exist in their parents’ time (e.g. mobile games app designer, professional vlogger).
Unfortunately, most teens are still too inexperienced to deal with the frightening amount of information the world is offering them. For example, premarital sex, something which was once taboo, has become acceptable in many societies.
In fact, some even espouse the “wisdom” of testing a couple’s sexual compatibility prior to making things permanent in marriage. There is also a gender crisis occurring among many teens as they are no longer sure if the body parts God gave them are correct.
Faith is coming under attack as well with different sectors sharing a multitude of ideas such as it is okay to mix beliefs; there is no hell; or that there is no God. All of these conflicting views cause the teen to doubt who they are and what they are meant to be, leading to anxiety or depression.
Many parents are very wary about the dangers of experimenting with alcohol or drugs as they themselves may have experienced it or witnessed it when they grew up. Hence, this is something most parents warn their teens about in the hope that this problem can be avoided.
Despite such warnings, substance abuse is still very much rampant today with teens gaining access to them in many ways. Alcohol and narcotics are often present in both house parties and celebrations at clubs.
Teens can get their hands on such things when on vacation across the border or even at their very own schools. To make things worse, many in the entertainment industry seemingly portray the use of such things as “normal” and part of growing up, influencing teens to at least try it once during their high school or college years.
Such experimentation, however, can be very dangerous. Some people have been known to die because of an allergic reaction, an overdose, or a substance-related accident even after one try. As for others, experimentation leads to substance abuse and then addiction, making things difficult for themselves and their families.
The Allure of Sex
Even before, teenage sex has always been a concern for parents. Raging hormones make it difficult for teens to remember the wisdom and caution taught to them. Today, however, access to technology and shifting norms make sex more alluring than ever.
Even as kids, many of today’s teens have already been exposed to sexy images seen in TV shows, movies, or even their favorite cartoons. Many popular songs also promote the enjoyment of dating and making love. So it really does not take much to get teens interested in the idea of romance and sex.
But with ready access to the internet, they are easily able to view nude pictures and videos and read lewd stories – things that were harder to access in their parents’ time. Technology also allows them to engage in cybersex or other sexually-related activities which further intensify their curiosity and desire for the real thing.
Shifting norms have also complicated things. As mentioned earlier, premarital sex is now encouraged in many areas. Those with gender issues are also contemplating sexual encounters to confirm their “true identities.” Casual sex with strangers or even with friends is also something prevalent in teenage social circles with teens believing that they are simply having fun while they are young.
Sadly, this corrupted view of sex is causing much harm. Teenage pregnancy is one major consequence that can derail a teen’s future. Sexually transmitted diseases have also been spreading at alarming rates due to the youth’s engagement in casual sex. This intense focus on sex has also led to increased incidents of sexual abuse and assault in homes and in public areas that teens like to go, making parents even more worried than before.
How Parents Can Help
Raising children is really a tough job, especially once they reach their teenage years. Because of the family’s growing needs, parents often feel the pressure of sustaining family life (e.g. utilities, educational funds, allowances, vacations, and medical emergencies), maintaining their own leisurely pursuits, and monitoring the kids. But if they do not want things to go awfully wrong for their teens, it is imperative that they invest that extra time and effort.
Have Open Conversations
As teens are generally more independent than the younger children, it is often very tempting for parents to just leave them alone, provided that grades are maintained and laws are not broken. But teens want to be heard and wish to be loved. Conversing with them about their interests and problems in life will make them feel important. This also includes discussing family decisions so that they know they are part of the solution, not the problem.
It is during these conversations that parents can insert their own words of wisdom and personal stories of mistakes so that the teens do not feel that they are alone in feeling different. Personal stories of romantic mishaps and the importance of accepting and loving themselves can do wonders to ensure teens think twice about casual sex, alcohol, and drugs. Such sharing will also help them in their own validation of their identity as parents can help differentiate truths and fallacies.
This is also a great time to share insights about the dangers of social media – how they should be wary of strangers contacting them and how they should be cautious about sharing private information. Teens must also be taught to critically think about what is posted online. They should not readily absorb negative comments or become envious right away about other people’s life posts.
At this stage, lecturing and shouting can only do so much, teens will better respond to parents who treat them with respect and show interest in their complex life.
Seeking Christian Teen Counseling
Despite efforts by parents, some teens may still willfully ignore the “good advice” given or they may already be in big trouble (e.g. failing grades, addictions). In such instances, professional teen couneling should be sought.
In teen counseling, the young person will get to air their side to a neutral party and receive unbiased advice. Sometimes this is what is needed to get through to them as they may believe that their family just does not understand. A trained counselor can also help them overcome their addictions, anxiety, or depression before something worse happens.
However, whenever possible, it is best to seek the help of a Christian counselor. Similar to secular therapy, the same counseling techniques will be applied to help the teen get back on track. But more importantly, the faith-based counselor will introduce them to the love, mercy, and wisdom of God through prayer and meditation on Scripture.
When the teen discovers how precious they are in God’s eyes, they may finally understand that their self-worth is not based on their bank account or the number of “likes” they get per post, but on the blood of their Savior who they have come to know and trust. With such understanding, they will be able to better navigate their way in this world despite all of the new obstacles around.
If your teen is struggling and you do not know what to do, seek the help of a Christian counselor. Life’s problems will be easier for them to overcome when their hearts are aligned with His.
“Ladies”, Courtesy of Jessica Wilson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Social Media”, Courtesy of Marjan Grabowski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Teen Smoker”, Courtesy of Ivandrei Pretorius, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Friends,” courtesy of pixabay.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License