If you are the parent of a teenager, you’ve probably lectured them a few times about how hard the real world is.
We talk about how they get to sleep in until noon or stay up until 2 a.m. playing video games. We admonish them for eating Flaming Hot Cheetos instead of broccoli and about downing Mountain Dew instead of milk. We don’t approve of their choices—in clothing, in music, of vocabulary we don’t understand (can you say yeet?).
And let’s not even talk about their phone use.
“I had to walk uphill both ways to school in my day,” we tell them. “In two feet of snow.”
But we are eight days into this high school thing at my house, and if I’m being honest, their life is a lot harder than we give them credit for during these challenging times.
In fact, I’m not even sure if I could hack it.
When you are trying to manage the mood swings of teenagers day in and day out, sometimes you miss the nuances of what it is like to actually be a teenager in today’s world. Sure, they may not have dependents to care for or a mortgage payment to make each month, but the underlying biological, psychological and social challenges they face each day are real.
They get up before 6 a.m. to catch the bus just as the sun is rising. Some get up earlier for a sports practice or a rehearsal or to finish homework they just couldn’t get to the previous night. Sleep deprivation is a constant issue, and a huge culprit in why they are so surly—and sometimes downright mean. I’m guessing teenagers need about 26 hours in their day to complete all the things they need to finish.
When they get to school, most are crushed with academic expectations we never experienced, The pressure to take as many honors and AP classes to ensure they get into a desirable college starts the first day of freshman year, and anything less than a B is considered a failure by most.
While trying to manage their course load, they often have to find time for sports and performing arts and volunteering and building a positive social media presence because a solid resume is everything.
While trying to balance their academics, extracurriculars, and possibly a job, teens have to deal with other teens—an extremely unforgiving, relentless group of peers who want to fit in and stand out simultaneously.
And sometimes (cough, cough) parents can become slightly overzealous as well, and add to a teenager’s stress.
Throw in hormones, growth spurts, acne, social awkwardness, peer pressure, bullying, financial insecurity, and school safety concerns, it is no wonder why kids today are at an all-time risk for anxiety and depression.
When you look—I mean really look—at what teens face today, even the ones who look like they are disengaged and apathetic, it is amazing at how resilient and good-natured most of these young adults are.
We are only eight days into high school, and I am exhausted for my teenagers.
I might be envious of their energy, courage and fast-moving metabolism, but would I want to switch places with them?
No thanks, kids.
I’ll get the mortgage this month.