What do teenagers worry about?

Everyone’s different, and everyone has different things to focus on, dream about and worry about. It’s a human thing to be worrying, we all do it at some stage as we ponder what the future will bring. For some people excessive worry about lots of things brings an anxious pattern of thinking into their heads. We all probably know someone like that, right? And we also know that from time to time we can slip into that pattern of worry that really doesn’t take us anywhere constructive.

And for teenagers, it’s way worse. This stage of of life is challenging. When your body is changing, your hormones are crazy, your tastes are changing; suddenly you’re emerging as a person. Putting yourself out there in the world. Questioning things, trying to live up to expectations, fit in with your friends and figure out where your life is going to go. The pressure right there is huge. It’s a challenging time for teenagers and their families on many levels.

As a solo mum of three teenagers I hear my kids worrying about a range of issues. By no means are my kids the norm, but these are the things I hear them worrying about - sometimes to me, sometimes to their friends, and often amongst themselves.

Relationships: Friendships, and the high school drama triangles they seem to find themselves in. Navigating romantic relationships, and how to be a good partner without losing sight of yourself. And relationships with other adults in their lives that are outside of their family circle, like teachers, bosses and sports coaches.

The future: Climate change, will they have a planet to live on and how will their current lifestyle change because of it? Whats the point of studying for a future they don’t feel they have?

Finances: How will they be able to stand on their own 2 feet and also afford the things that have brought them security over the years - a house, a car, a tertiary education, money to spend for leisure activities.

Social Media: It’s in their lives so fully it’s almost impossible to take a break. Everyone is doing stuff that looks amazing and they’re missing out. And those damm drama triangles, often these get bigger on social media.

Grades: Are they taking the right subjects to support their future, how come school is so hard all of a sudden and what will happen if they fail something?

Sporting achievements: What used to come easily is now something that has to be worked hard at, that takes time and energy that could be spent studying or working.

Having one thing to worry about is enough, but I’ve just listed 6 things that I’m sure most parents of teens could relate to. Put them all into a combination and there’s a lot of stress in their systems, contributing to a lack of sleep, the urge to eat junk food or not eat at all and more zits.

The teenage years also brings with them an increase in expenses. Teens generally need more expensive toys, clothes, eat more food, require pricier sports gear, school fees & uniform cost more and not to mention the looming price of tertiary education that will be along soon. Usually by this stage families have both parents earning an income and parents who may have been quite available in the early years of parenting are now busy with activities that take them away from the home.

I certainly don’t have all the answers but I would say that the most effective thing I have done, and the one thing I work really hard at, is to maintain an open, unconditional relationship with them. I’m always talking to them, asking them about their day, biting my tongue when they tell me something I don’t want to hear and maintaining that unconditional love for them that I have had from the beginning. I might not like what they have to tell me, but by them telling me what’s going on I get the chance to coach them, to share their stories and to be their safe place. Sure, they’re not living their lives like I lived mine, but that’s part of parenting - my teenagers are their own people and my role is to support them to be their very best version.

We get so busy as parents juggling our many balls in the air that often we’re not really listening to our teens. Instead of deep and meaningful space given to them, it’s response listening: saying what you think is right at the time and making sure that everyone is moving along. Getting from A to B in life. That’s the day to day stuff and yes, there is a place for the quick listen in this fast paced world.

However, this I know to be true: time spent making deep connections with the people you love is never wasted time. So here’s a challenge for you this week, catch your teen in a conversation & get them to “Tell me some more about that …” and spend some time listening.