The life of a teenager has become more complex and vulnerable over the past 10-15 years. This reality is based largely due to illegal drugs and social media. Illegal drugs are much more accessible and teenagers are prime candidates for drug dealers, especially in suburbia. Further, one of four families in Allegheny County is affected by addiction. And, the earlier a child is exposed to these substances (even from well-meaning parents) the higher the likelihood of addiction issues for a teen.
Social media has also created another intense vulnerability for teenagers. They can access whatever they want even through their cell phones. This has lead to increased exposure to pornography and also early access to purchase whatever they desire, including unhealthy products.
Social media has also been used to bully and destroy reputations by starting false rumors that create horrible emotional hurt, pain, and depression. The teen mind is very vulnerable to experimentation and now it has access to an entire market of danger, both physical and emotional.
As a result the life of a parent has also necessarily changed considerably over these same past 10- 15 years. Parents of teens need to be more aware of all the possible dangers and complexities their son or daughter may be involved through the excitement of experimentation.
The importance of consistent communication with one’s teenager is clearly needed to create an ongoing conversation about their daily life and involvements. Teens can be very private and block communication through avoidance, being overly active, spending too much time in their room, always being on devices, etc. Parents need to burst through these avoidance patterns and talk face to face at regular intervals. A teen can quickly get into some serious and dangerous situations.
In my discussion with several teens, I asked them to share some of the signs that parents should be aware of that would be clues to a teen who may be in trouble.
Here is what my teen friends said:
- Has your teen’s friend group changed?
- Is your teen becoming more argumentative?
- Has your teen become more isolated?
- Is your teen lying more? Covering up an inward troubled mind by saying “I’m ”
- Is he overly protective of his space, hiding stuff?
- Is your teen becoming apathetic?
- Are your teen’s grades becoming considerably worse?
- Is your teen lying to friends as well as parents?
- Is he more sneaky and vague?
- Is your teen pushing away the people who care about him?
- Has your teen lost some or a lot of the motivation for good grades, involvement in activities (band, sports, clubs, etc.)?
- Is your teen spending time at home when no one else is around?
- Does your teen appear to be depressed and carry sadness?
Teens are sharp and my teenage friends fit that bill. Parents are sharp but can become too busy with other responsibilities along with at- tending to a number of children and having many daily tasks.
In the end, it is always about relationships. Teens need their par- ents. Parents need to be there for and with their teens. Teenagers can be difficult but they can also be a great deal of fun. We need to help them enjoy their lives and their family relationships. Teens need a listening ear to help them process the daily bombarding of complex and potentially dangerous decisions. Having two ears is always a reminder that listening is more important than talking to your teen.
May God bless you and give you His wisdom and discernment as you love your teenager.
(Thanks to my anonymous teen friends for your input in creating this article.)