Under the Magnifiying Glass: Understanding and Supporting our Youth

As our children transition to adulthood, they go through this foreign, tumultuous time called the teenage years. Okay, I’m kidding – sort of. Adolescents can be a difficult time. Our bodies are growing and changing, we are trying to figure out who we are and what we stand for, we start to get our fist glimpse of autonomy. As kids go through the teenage years, one thing is for certain – the world is about them. Called adolescent egocentrism, it is part of growth and development as youth become focused on themselves. Essentially, we all become a bit selfish through the teenage years.

Adolescent egocentrism gives teenagers the impression that there is a magnifying glass peering down on them. This is what leads to kids staying home from school because they have a pimple – they are worried everyone will be staring at them. Teens make everything about them; they are the stars of their own show. While adolescent egocentrism is nothing new, our teens today are affected by it in a different way. Most of our youth do not know a world without the internet and without social media. Social media is a magnifying glass. Every move teens make is being documented and recorded. Every positive move is given praise and “likes,” every misstep is kept on record, not easily deleted or forgotten.

For parents, teachers, aunts, and just the general public, it can be hard to understand and support our youth because it is difficult to relate. For us adults, we maybe don’t know what it is like to grow up documenting everything on Instagram, but we can relate to how painful it is when a friends shows off a picture we don’t like. We maybe can’t understand what it’s like to have a public breakup, but we all know and heartbreak that comes from ending a first love or crush. I think sometimes as caregivers we may want to swoop in and fix or solve issues for our young people, when sometimes the best fix is simply to listen. While teenagers may sometimes seem like a species from another planet, if we sit and listen we can often relate and find shared experiences. Who knows, maybe the teen in your life may even want to hear about your experience…..okay that might be a stretch.

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