What teens can teach their parents…yep really!
Combining her accomplishments as a teacher, coach, therapist, mentor, sacred space holder and her admiration for women everywhere, Niki Moss Simpson launched SHINE. SPARKLE. RADIATE in 2017. On 8th March this year Niki launched her first book as co-author of the best selling Pay It Forward series: Notes to My Younger Self. In an exclusive article for MumAbroad Life, Niki talks about what teens and can teach their parents.
As a parent you may never have considered what your teenage kids can teach you. You are naturally caught up in the responsibility and pressure of teaching them and encouraging them through the no mans land of the adolescent years to the perceived safety of adulthood. But consider this my fellow parents, at both a family level and a societal level, our teens really can teach us. Your teenager can make you a better person…if you let them. Just as your teen is learning from you, you can learn from your teen – all it takes is a genuine interest in your child and a willingness to admit that you may not know it all…
Within your family, your teens will definitely teach you PATIENCE. Ok so it will be as a result of trying your patience. They WILL push your buttons, test your limits, negotiate your rules, break them, become “deaf” to your clear “No” and find any manner of misunderstanding imaginable. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s exhausting. But wow, does it teach you to take that extra large breath and learn the valuable lesson of patience!
Moreover, and incredibly usefully, they will teach you to FIGHT FAIR as the constant, nerve jarring boundary pushing can quickly escalate to lost tempers and anger. Yikes! Now you’re done for as this response is generally counter-productive – it doesn’t resolve the issue and only escalates the argument. Instead, we parents must learn to listen, speak in a calm voice, discuss issues after the anger has subsided and enforce the consequences for misbehaviour. And all with a serene smile of course.
Logically, bless them, they will also teach us HOW TO LISTEN. Teens have lots of problems. A whole bunch of problems, whether they are things you’d recognise as a problem or not. Your teen is on a roller coaster of emotions and needs you to listen to them without judgment – not the kind of head-nodding, passive agreement that many parents engage in, but active listening. Ask open-ended questions, don’t interrupt or lecture, and validate the emotions your teen is experiencing.
Hand in hand with these useful teen handling skills goes FORGIVENESS and as a parent this is a biggie they can teach us. Your hormone and peer influenced teen is bound to make mistakes – maybe some big ones. Maybe lots. And because your parental love is strong and you intrinsically know they are doing the best they can, you will find a way to forgive them. This is one of life’s hardest and most important lessons, and your teenager is ideally qualified to help you learn it.
Finally, although I am sure you can think of lots more now we have the conversation open, teens can teach us to DISCONNECT and BE PRESENT. “Mum, can you put your phone down and look at me?” or “ you didn’t hear me mum, did you?”…when your kids say this, you know you’ve got a problem and you are not setting a good example either. My partial excuse is that I’m checking work-related emails, but we all know that’s crap. To hear your kid say, “I know you’re busy, but I’m trying to talk to you,” is a wakeup call. Oh the shame of it and I’m supposed to be the role model.
Teens are incredibly, knife stabblingly honest when it comes to TRENDS and FADS. Most teens are horribly embarrassed by how “uncool” their parents are. When they tell you that your outfit looks ridiculous or that they wouldn’t be caught dead in public with you, it may be time to update your look. If you can keep an open relationship with them they can also keep you in the loop on issues that concern you as a parent like cyberbullying, sexting, abuse of prescription drugs and more. They know far more than we think and far more than they want us to know they know.
In terms of being experts, no generation does TECH better than our teens. Today’s teens have been labeled the iGeneration, characterized “by their technology and media use, their love of electronic communication, and their need to multitask”. Teens have surpassed all other age groups in their use of connected devices (e.g., smartphone, Xbox, iPod, and laptop). While us oldies have adopted technology as a convenient new tool to make life easier, today’s teens have embraced it as a way of life. In most households, it’s the teenagers who know how to put technology to use. Teens are naturally adept at using computer interfaces and have a knack for troubleshooting (a skill that eludes many adults who freeze when confronted with a technology glitch). Perhaps the most important lesson teens can teach us is technical jargon. Teens speak the language of texting. It’s full of funky abbreviations and colloquialisms that will serve you well to learn. My son of 15 has 3 stock replies to my Whatsapp messages; IDK, KK and meuhhhhh.
Should I ask for more?
Outside the family unit, teens have much to teach society. They ask some of the most thought-provoking questions because they have UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES that many adults miss. They can come up with creative solutions and answers to complex problems. I strongly believe that we could come closer to solving so many of the problems facing our world if we approached issues with the open-mindedness, curiosity and unique perspectives that teens have. Most importantly, whilst us parents tend to err on the side of cynicism and pessimism, teens are, in general, optimistic about the future and have high ambitions to better the world.
Furthermore, they are fearless where we are blocked by fear. They are ACTIVISTS and they aren’t afraid to tackle some of the most controversial topics around, like gun control, climate change or LGBTQ+ rights. They put the spotlight on things that really matter to them. Teens these days are able to influence their elders. When a journalist asked Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who was pulling the strings behind her school strike last summer, she replied: “Some people claim that my parents have brainwashed me, but it was the opposite: I brainwashed my parents. I convinced them not to fly and to stop eating meat.” Greta said that her decision to picket the Swedish parliament in Stockholm last year was inspired by the March for our Lives gun control protests that began after the Parkland school shooting.
Teens can teach us to reassess our VALUES about money and fulfilling work. Interestingly, and in contrast to many parents and employers’ beliefs, for most teenagers, work seems to be more about fulfilment than money. In talking with teens today, I hear how happiness and fulfilment in their choice of career far outweighs their decisions than the monetary compensation. This is so refreshing to hear as many of us parents feel stuck in jobs because it provides us with a good income despite it not being our passion or mission in life.
Finally, teens can teach us WHAT THEY WORRY ABOUT. As parents we assume they worry about love, sex, relationships, a happy social life and friends. And they do to a certain extent. However, what really concerns our teens, instead, is something far darker. Anxiety and depression are by far their biggest worries and statistics show that their concern is legitimate. Mental health problems amongst the teen generation is definitely increasing. According to the World Health Organization, one in six people with mental health issues are aged 10–19 years.
- Mental health conditions account for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10–19 years.
- Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.
- Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19 year olds.
- The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
- Mental health promotion and prevention are key to helping adolescents thrive.
So, as a parent we too can learn from our teenagers.
They get such a bad press as self-absorbed, egocentric emotionally reactive, challenging zombies yet I hope you can now see them in a slightly more rose-coloured light. I do feel that this current generation have so much passion in their souls and I am excited to see what they are capable of.
Why don’t you sit down with a group of teens today, eavesdrop on their conversation or simply reply to my blog with your personal teen parenting anecdotes and thoughts?
Let’s get the conversation started…
You can contact Niki by email: firstname.lastname@example.org