The “Teen Ages” are such an intense and powerful phase of our lives.
It’s definitely a period of profound metamorphosis - not only on the physical level but in every aspects of our humanity. Teen Years are the passage between childhood and adulthood. It can be quite traumatic and dramatic at times. It can also be ecstatic, great fun or deeply boring...All of the above in a same day! Things that happen while in that "cauldron of bubbling hormones" have a definite and basic influence on who we become as “grown ups”. We all well know, from our personal experience, this to be true…isn’t that so?
This said, what do we do, as a society, to help our teenagers benefit the most while going through this rite of passage? Very little I dare say. We seem to brace ourselves and wait till the “troubled years” pass. I think that this is a terrible lost opportunity for teens and for us, as a society.
I remember being surprised when I first learned that the “teenage” concept was an invention of the western world. “Teenagers” as we know it is not even 100 years old. The evolution of the industrial society, the growth of the middle class, the instauration of universal schooling and other such things has removed a whole segment of the population from society. Teenagers live in a gated environment: in their fenced in schools, youth centers, sports program...
Come to think of it, in society’s eyes, teenagers only exist as problems to be solved (ei. school drop outs, depression, etc.). Other than their status as students or family members “normal” teens do not exist. Most are caught in between childhood and adulthood in this waiting room…making time, awaiting “adult life” (whatever that means today). No wonder many pass the time as heroic Avatars in virtual words…witch for them seems much more exciting than the “real” world. Sadly, when they come of age…many major life cards have been dealt.
Our notion of “teenagers” may have been good back when life was pre define…go to school, get a job and retire. The then teenagers had to learn basic rules and knowledge and enjoy themselves! But I think we need to re-think that paradigm now that our western way of life has moved on to something else.
The state of the environment and of the economy makes it impossible for anybody to plan ahead with any certainty for more than a couple of years. To soar in this new world, we need our kids to be, more than ever, creative, confident, self directed, passionate, compassionate and responsible. And God knows the world needs this!
For this to happen, we need to “redesign” and rewire, as a society, our relationship with teenagers.
We can do this by facilitating their integration in our communities; help them develop early on the skills and the values necessary for them to become agents of change and renewal.
Here are some ideas to that effect we could promote:
• Break the barrier: encourage significant relationships between teenagers and adults from all walks of life in your community.
• Infiltrate the territory: create openness in community organisation to involve teenagers..
• Voice it out: encourage teens to express their needs and dreams and with that in hand, get them involve in the political process.
• Get down to business: Introduce teenagers to the economy early on;
• Get down to basics: Discuss with them values that in your eyes are important for them to possess and find concrete ways for them to hone them.
• Make waves: Initiate teens in the exercise of collective power.
Realizing such activities is a a lot easier than we can think because they all tap in the teenagers need to be taken seriously, to belong, to be valued, to have power and to succeed.
The short and long term rewards for us, would be incommensurable.