Compassion for the teenage years


teenagers (Photo credit: Pierre Metivier)

After driving two teens to school and listening to the talk of bullying, teachers who misunderstand and who ‘judge too easily’, it reminds you of this messy thing called life.

There is often no worse time than when you are a teenager. Although you can’t tell a teenager, it will get better, because teens tend to live in the now. Plus I’m sure most of us can remember some ‘wise’ and older person telling us that school is the best times of our lives, with no responsibility, no bills to pay and being pampered by doting and indulging parents. I guess it all depends what you call a ‘good time’…I know my early teens were reasonably carefree and my later teens had some insecurities but muted with the freedom that comes with leaving secondary school, drinking, and partying, but my mid-teens were fraught with insecurity and hormones.

But the repercussion of having a free roof above your head and food on the table comes with expectations such as achieving high marks in school, pressure to succeed, and your freedom dictated by your parent’s house rules (not there is anything wrong with rules, as such). And of course parents only want their children to be happy and successful. But is it too much pressure, are we expecting too much? Are we giving our children room to breathe? Societal pressure can be overwhelming. And let’s face it life isn’t always a breeze, jobs are not plentiful, and society is quick to point the finger and criticise and judge both the teen and the parent.

Over the last year I’ve discovered people are quick to criticise your parenting skills or lack of apparent parenting skills, when really all you are doing is living on a prayer, hope and doing all you can for young people who know their rights and who are struggling to find themselves and their own fit. A favourite Peanuts comic strip below demonstrates how I can feel myself sometimes.


When you have a baby you soon realise everyone is an expert in child raising and knowing what is best for you and your baby, such as bottle versus breast feeding, when is the right time to introduce solids, and so on and so on…I’m now discovering having a teenager in the house receives the same attention and constant scrutiny by society.

On top of this it’s not just you, the parent, feeling the weight of judgement, so is the teenager, who is bombarded by ‘caring’ individuals asking them what they want to do with the rest of their life and offering up suggestions and often conflicting advice that come across more as orders to the teenager’s ears: “Have a gap year before university.” Or “No, don’t muck around, go straight to university.” But maybe the teenager isn’t even considering university! Plus teenagers are surrounded by multimedia offering a false reality of teenage or young adult life.

These thoughts race through my head while sitting at the traffic lights as I peer in to cars and the people inside them. Strangers busy living their lives. All of a sudden my heart opens up. It hits me that these strangers whizzing past are too living the life they may or may not have chosen and doing the best they can with what they have. Sometimes we are more, sometimes we are less, and sometimes we hide in a shell and wait for whatever we are feeling to glide over.

Let’s stop judging so quickly and believe in others, believe in our young people, and believe in hope and love because what else do we have?

And from the words of The Prophet, Kahill Gibran: “…Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…”


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