After the marches this weekend, I heard a lot of people comment about how impressed they are with the poise of today’s teens. Today’s teen is articulate, passionate and unafraid to speak out. As a generation, Generation Z shows a lot of promising traits.
When I hear people my age talk like this, they also usually add a statement like: “I certainly wasn’t like that at 17.”
I agree. I could not imagine getting on a podium in front of a sea of people and speaking truth to power. I was a normal teen–bored, opinionated and rebellious. When I spoke out, my voice was heard only by those around me.
I didn’t have social media that I could use as a platform for personal expression. I couldn’t connect with strangers all over the country. I wasn’t bombarded with information 24/7.
I didn’t fear for my safety generally, and the notion of a school shooting was absurd.
Caregiving vs. Coaching Today’s Teen
Hearing people reflect on the difference between today’s teens and us reminds me again of the significance of our generation gap. We are now two generations away from our kids.
In the past, it was enough for parent to be a caregiver. This meant keeping kids safe and providing for them as best we could. The rest would be learned through experience.
But the challenges we learned from are ones today’s teens face at a younger age. They are growing up faster, in a world that is more complex and dynamic than ours was.
As a result, we need to parent them differently than we were parented.
Teens can’t and won’t ask for the help of the adults around them. (In this way, they are normal teens!) Though they are more articulate, they aren’t equipped with the tools to manage their stresses, anxieties, and desires.
I love all the attention teens are getting these days, both when they are shining and when they are struggling. It suggests that being a teen is both exciting and overwhelming. Maybe that’s always been true, but when we were kids, less was at stake. Still, I trust that we, the adults raised in simpler times, have the wisdom and the tools to coach them into their greatness.
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