She asked me for some ideas on how she could understand and work with her young people because nothing she was doing seemed to have any effect.
The following is what I shared with her.
Teens Live in a Different Universe
In order to understand teenage behaviour, it is important to understand that teens live in a different universe from adults. It’s not that their reality is less valid, it’s just different. In fact one of the main problems that adults have in relating to teens is thinking that the adult perspective is more valid more real than the teens. Believe me the teen can feel that the moment you open your mouth, even just in how you look at them! They know.
The Teenage years are a difficult transition stage from childhood into adulthood. This transition causes a lot of pain and confusion. Something deep is being lost and left behind. Something unknown and scary is being introduced, almost forced upon them.
We are Born Spiritually Open
Children come into the world in a very open spiritual state.
They see adults and don’t understand why we act the way we do.
We seem disconnected and closed, compared to the innocent and fresh mind of the newborn and the toddler. We have no imagination, a limited ability to play and we take things way too seriously.
You know what I’m talking about.
Then, as they grow, they have to choose either to be ostracized by the people in their lives or to conform. The vast, vast, vast majority of young people choose to conform. This is because we expect a certain standard of behavior from them and if they don’t meet that standard they receive some sort of correction. It might be disapproval, it might be a Lesson, it might be punishment or even a spanking.
We Learn To Deny Who We Are
I’m talking about very young children.
They learn that if they want the approval and love of their parents and the adults in their lives they have to behave in a certain way. Most often those expected behaviours are not their natural inclinations. So from the earliest ages we learn to deny who we are.
It is a rare child that can hang on to their authentic self as they leave toddler-hood and enter the tween years.
When children start to become teenagers, they are really leaving the innocent and pure childhood behind.
This is a very painful loss.
They may not know what’s happening, but they feel it, and it hurts!
A large part of the teen angst we witness is the spirit rebelling against this loss. The spirit knows that it is being buried, and may remain buried for a long long time!!
It rebels against this with all its might!!
This is not “just a phase” it’s a spiritual transition.
So the destruction, anger, crazy clothes (from an adult perspective), rudeness, Self-destructive behaviour and other teen characteristics are a last ditch effort of the spirit to assert itself against the tyranny of social conformity!!
I can distinctly remember this feeling from when I was a teen. I was blessed with some awareness of these causes when I was that age, but I acted out anyway. I could feel that none of the adults in my life understood what I was feeling. I felt that they were always minimizing the importance of my thoughts and the depth of my feelings.
How lovely it would have been to my conflicted mind and heart if someone had said “I understand what you’re going through. Your feelings are natural and I know you’re doing your best. I accept and love you exactly as you are.”
One Kind Word Can Make a Difference
When I see teens acting out, I say a silent prayer
that they will meet an adult that can understand what they are going through and validate the struggle of this transition from child to adult.
One word, one act of validation from an unexpected source can make a huge difference in the quality of that transition. Young people need compassion and guidance as they make the necessary transition from being children to adults. There isn’t much care given to this in our society. In fact I would like to see it not just validated, but celebrated and honoured!
My saying is:
“I don’t believe kids are acting out, I believe they are reaching out.”
I cry out for the world to understand and embrace the struggle teens are going through.
I long for more adults to respect the perspective of young people as equally valid.
I hope this opens some door of insight into the seeming madness of teen insanity and how you might be able to be of some assistance to them.
One day soon I’ll post the story of how I encountered a young teen who had been expelled for taking a knife to school and threatening a teacher with it. It took a very short time before they were telling me about their pain and struggles and how they used that experience as a way to cope.