By Seraphima, age 14
I feel this generation of teens are jaded, slipping, and reaching to great lengths for their own control. If it’s uncomfortable, their impulse is to avoid. If it doesn’t stimulate– avoid. Might it make me look vulnerable, ugly, incompetent– avoid. There’s a habituated response of avoidance toward anything that brings up the deep belly of truth, or an honest look, or that which might require them to do hard work. They are overwhelmed and coping. They are brilliant and drowning.
Is this true for all teens? Nope, not even close. There are always exceptions. Yet, as someone who is carefully tracking a generous handful of teens from a diversity of geographical locations and walks of life, I’m noticing trends that can’t be ignored. There is a general feel from this generation of a push-back against all there is to do, as well as against the adults and the larger systems that are crumbling. The teen notion of “I know better,” has reached a certain crescendo. The age-old typical teenage rebelliousness is now coupled with a unique power this generation has been born with so as to deal with a rapidly changing world. Needless to say, this creates a tincture that is difficult to parent and to lead.
Who can blame them? Look at the world they are inheriting. Notice the collective constructs that aren’t designed to see them for who they are, or the way we as a culture push forward without stopping, insisting that it will all pay off in the end… to what end?
Who knows what the world will look like in 20 years, and yet we ask our kids to show up for math, history, and economics… without adequately equipping them for a world in revolution. What if we taught them skills for conflict resolution? How to hear diverse opinions without becoming positioned? What if we taught them to value their own emotional literacy? Their innate connection to Earth and her cycles?
Education is stuck in a time period when bread cost 35 cents. It needs to change.
Our children are canaries in the coal mine. We are the frogs in boiling water. Blinders on, we keep all systems chugging along. Do the essay. Get the grades. Continue the dream of excess. And in the meantime, our kids find endless ways to numb.
We are human animals on a living planet who have separated ourselves from ourselves. We’ve become fragmented. It’s easier for us to drop into the media on our phones than approach the complexity of our inner landscapes. We addictively look outside ourselves, while expecting our kids to know what’s true for them and how to navigate.
What I notice consistently is how difficult it is for a teen person to tell me how they feel. They either don’t want to go there or they haven’t checked.
“I’m fine,” they say. It’s painfully loaded. Their fine is so far from fine.
It takes trust, non-judgment, and safety to explore this inner landscape with them. Any agenda we might carry, even for their healing, has to be laid at the door. Their healing might be our intention and deepest heart’s calling for them, but we must set it on the altar of their unique destiny and path. It’s not ours to impose. We must skillfully tune into what is theirs, what is ours, and how best to guide them by offering to sit at their table with them. By asking them, inviting them, remaining curious, and honoring their expression.
The renaissance will be that you, the parents of this generation of teens, will be pushed into a rite-of-passage with them. You will be asked to come to the edge of all you have held as a good parent and to lay that down and be honest with the moment your child is in. They will require you to trade in your ideas of what you think “you should do” for your deeper intuitive knowing. This will require you to heal the places within yourself that your children trigger, or at least to take a real honest look, so that you can be with them clearly. They will need to watch you sacrifice your impulsive reactivity for your deeper knowing and trust in them and life. You’ll need to listen and ask questions and guide from the heart.
Today’s teens are finely tuned to feel when anyone is coming with an agenda or a fear about what they are doing. They will sense you like a hawk, and defend against you like a gargoyle at the gate of their inner world. You won’t be allowed all the way in, but in order to be allowed close enough to make a difference, you’ll need to drop everything you thought you knew and enter into the world of beginner’s mind. You’ll need to rediscover who this person is, separate from you, so that they can be truly seen by you.
This is the time to call in the Village. Stewarding a teenager's passage into adulthood isn’t meant to be only a parent’s job, nor can it be. Your teen pushes against you to individuate and to discover themselves distinctly in the world. Bring in the mentor, the auntie, the uncle, or another parent who they connect with– to help hold, listen, and reflect.
You’re not meant to do this alone.
Today’s teens are innately equipped for the new world that lies ahead. We need to find the balance between trusting the greater design without abandoning them to figure it out all by themselves.
The task at hand then? It’s to come home to ourselves, in this moment. To find the Pause and tend to our own wounding. To take the next step without needing to know the next 50 ahead. To trust the intuitive place of deep listening, and then to respond. We can’t know what is ahead, but by slowing and dropping down to heart level, we will keep the connection with our youth and usher in the new dawn.