My new adventure as a writer for the Christian ministry Counter Culture Mom has me in a bit of a pickle as I contemplate the differences between my teenage experience and the experiences of teenagers today.
As a middle-aged (#shockedface) woman, I should be the mother of teenagers or college students, but I’m not. The reason for that is another blog post. This new Counter Culture Mom audience, parents of teenagers and teenagers themselves, live in a world completely different from mine.
I want to rock this, but how do I do this well and without sounding out of touch?
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV)
Not so clueless
And so I pray and my Father in Heaven reminds me I am not as clueless as I think I am. As a therapist, I worked with teenagers often. Many of my clients came to therapy with messed up families, substance abuse issues and histories of trauma. I loved working with them.
It could be challenging getting them to talk, but I noticed they craved nonjudgmental adult relationships. When they figured out I was not going to tell them what to do, think, or feel, they opened up. I learned they were lonely, felt ignored, and the adults in their lives tended to view them as problems. I had a terrific time getting to know them and eventually, we did a little therapy too. Talking seemed to help the most.
We were curious about each other and that was enough.
That was a few years ago now, and therapy clients are not representative of the whole population. So, as out of touch as I feel with young’ uns who were born after I graduated high school, I do what I do: research and read.
R & R
I’m several books into my research now and I’ve noticed some patterns.
Parents are busy with work, household stuff, raising kids, socializing, and doing their thing. Kids are busy with school, homework, music lessons, sports, clubs, and doing their things.
Everyone is so blasted busy.
When do people just “be” together? Does anyone just hang out (in person) anymore or was that just a Gen X thing?
In her book about iGen, Dr. Jean Twenge lays out the data. The increase in screen-connectedness and social media-based relationships correlates with higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicide and loneliness in teens. This generation is the first to come of age with social media at the center of existence and they are spending more time with screens than with friends in person.
In “Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure,” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt share more data. They talk about today’s teens and college kids going to college with higher rates of anxiety and depression than ever before. Furthermore, they have a decreased capacity to solve problems on their own and prefer a mediator.
On the flip side, this young generation is a flood of creativity! I am continually amazed by how they navigate photos, videos, and tech so adeptly; it comes naturally to them. With their hard work and competitive spirit, many young people make more money through entrepreneurial ventures than I’ll ever see in my entire lifetime. And the level of acceptance they have for people who are different from them is truly inspirational.
When I was your age…
I find myself doing that thing. You know the thing.
“When I was a kid, we rode big wheels down hills without helmets and safety gear and landed in gravel.”
“When I was a kid, I rode my bike everywhere, because mom wasn’t a taxi service.”
“When I was a kid, I did my chores and shot outside for the whole day and argued with my parents about the true definition of sundown to determine when I had to be home.”
“I was babysitting starting at 13 so I could earn my own money otherwise I got nothing extra.”
“When I was a kid, my parents didn’t dream of helping me with my homework.”
All of that and I turned out fine-ish. Despite the positive aspects of Generation Z or iGen, the data suggests these kids have access to so much and they are still depressed? I realize the unfairness of generalization and I do not ask this question to pass judgment. However, I am curious and would like to know more.
Beauty from differences
As my husband and I were speedin’ in our new hot rod rockin’ out to Great White (they still make music!!!), it dawned on me that younger generations can learn a lot from us old (but not really that old) farts and we from them.
I remember listening to my dad’s stories about young adulthood in the 1970s. The contrasts between his youth and mine always struck me. I would never have done some of the stuff he did, like hitchhiking across the country following The Who and Led Zeppelin on tour.
Then again, he looked at my choices as if I were nuts too. But those conversations also gave us perspective and facilitated understanding. Those things don’t happen without connection that lasts more than 160 characters devoid of nonverbal signals.
One of the things I am looking forward to in my adventure with Counter Culture Mom is getting to know this generation and what it’s like being young in this culture during this time. There is much to learn from their experiences in this version of the world and much more I would like to share with them.
Like how the first incarnation of leg warmers was itchier than the current ones, and why didn’t jelly shoes come back?
Or the devastating effect of the friend who borrowed your favorite CD and scratched it so badly it won’t play in your Ford Tempo anymore.
Or what it was like going to college before computers and writing really long papers on a word processor with a four-line screen. That was super high tech at the time. But if you made a typo…
Or waiting anxiously in the university computer lab for someone to respond to an email. Yes, I said email. I skipped class several times because of it. It was very exciting at the time.
Oh, how times have changed!
Each generation manifests unique character and personalities according to its time in history. This has always fascinated me. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, in this new adventure with Counter Culture Mom, I look forward to contributing to a new generation by sharing the character of my own.