Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sweet 16? Not Always

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

For the past three Mondays, I have caught parts of a radio program broadcast on Ideas in the Afternoon, a current affairs program of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). The program was called "It's a Teen's World -- wired for sex, lies, and power trips," and it gave a disturbing and forthright view of teen life, by teens, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The implication is that many teens in North America (and perhaps around the world?) experience and exert similar pressures regarding sex and bullying -- which seem to go hand in hand for many.

Although my work is usually with adults, I feel it's important to point to this recent broadcast because of its implications for teens, their parents and for the adults those teens will become in a few short years. Sexual harassment, pressure, bullying and abuse have become commonplace, at least for many teens. The ineffectiveness of saying "no" is disturbing, especially in light of the education that many parents have had through the media and their own educations in the 70s, 80s and 90s. What is causing the apparently huge disconnect between these kids' current experiences and those of their parents? What is to be done to help teenagers find ways to openly and effectively deal with the huge pressures many of them live with?

Journalist Lynn Glazier has done an excellent job amplifying the voices of the young people who made this documentary with her. I strongly encourage you to listen to what they have to say. Click here to read about the three segments and to listen to them.

And then, whether you have teens in your life or not, give some thought to how you can help. Listen more carefully to teenagers. Find out from them what sort of help and support they need. Don't be naive, but also don't assume every adolescent deals with the sexual pressures portrayed in the documentary. Ask questions. Don't assume you know what their lives are like based on your own adolescent experiences. Don't assume you know what teens want. Listen to the answers. Find out if and how you can help...and then do those things. Keep at it for the long haul, as challenging as that might sound.

If kids and teens are going to have a chance to enjoy satisfying and successful adult relationships, they need to find ways to build respectful, fun and interesting relational foundations now.

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