Cheyenne Kabil, 18
“A lot of adults think we’re too young to know what we want or who we are, but knowing those things are not always dependent on age – a 40-year-old can struggle with them too. Yes, we are still exploring ourselves and our world, but people underestimate the complexities [of teenage life]. I often feel that my point of view will be disregarded because I’m ‘too young’. This is frustrating.
“People need to understand that teenagers, just like everyone else, are all unique. Every teenager matures at his or her own pace; the maturity of one should not be judged based on the maturity of another.”
Sandra Rafail, 17
“It’s accepted by most that teenagers base all decisions on impulse and pleasure without thought of consequences. I think the most common misconception of teenagers is the idea of recklessness, and lack of self-control. But labelling a whole generation as impulsive, moody, and self-absorbed in this way becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; the generation becomes these things, either to fulfil the role or to spite the older generation.
“People need to understand that positive reinforcement works best. Instead of making us feel reckless and useless, encourage us and use constructive criticism.”
Alex Djandji, 17
“A common misconception of teenagers is that we are egocentric and unorthodox when compared to other generations. I think [those views] are unfair because they are built on the experiences of select people. There are teenagers out there who fit this description, but there are also those who don’t. We’ve been exposed to such generalisations and for this reason we have come to accept them as truths. I would say this about people in general, but especially teenagers: don’t think that you know them before you develop a relationship with them. Everyone is different and has their own story, so you can’t really predict anything about their personality.”
Zach Jenio, 15
“There are lots of misconceptions about teens: lazy, rude, self-absorbed, and many more. Most of these, I hate to say, are true. Teenagers are at a stage where we think we’re right and above everyone else because we have some knowledge, when actually we know nothing.
“I think one perception that isn’t true is that teenagers aren’t passionate, just because there are certain things we don’t want to do. We are some of the most passionate people around... but we can’t be forced to do something we don’t like.”
Deena Habib, 18
“I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that ‘in the old days, kids used to listen to their parents’, whereas now, apparently, we couldn’t care less. But I think that’s unfair. We’re just figuring out who we are – what we like, what we believe in. Which is something really beautiful and necessary. And so, while it may seem selfish, I think it is unfair to judge teenagers for being self-absorbed and focusing on themselves. We need to get to know and love ourselves to work out our place in society.
“I definitely think being a teen means adults don’t take us seriously. For example, if a teen were to get a tattoo, for very meaningful, spiritual reasons, adults might think of it as rebellious or attention-seeking so they don’t give them a chance to explain what it means.
“We need encouragement without judgement, to figure out who we are.”
Sophia Uppal, 19
“I would say that teenagers today are accepting, thoughtful, inspired, inquisitive and ambitious. But at the same time, we are also anxious, confused, insecure and often depressed. Adolescence is a very stressful and complicated time and I think too often adolescents’ anxieties are dismissed without actually addressing their problems.
“Teenagers are moody because, for the first time in their lives, they are trying to navigate their autonomy, intimacy, sexuality and just who they are as a person. And often, while exploring these crucial things, their goals as teenagers will not match the goals of their parents and this will lead to conflict.
I think people often forget how it was being a teenager, when one small comment from a friend can ruin your whole week and a smile from your crush can make you feel like you’re on top of the world. In order to understand and communicate with teens better, I think adults should show a little more empathy and perhaps they’ll show a little back.”
How to raise a happy teenager
Listen and acknowledge
If there’s one thing all teens feel, it’s that adults don’t take them seriously. Take time to just listen to your teen, and acknowledge and celebrate their new areas of interest and achievements.
As Rae Simpson in Raising Teens says, “Most things about their world are changing – don’t let your love be one of them.”
Have regular family meals
There might be times when sitting with the family is the last thing your teen wants to do, but according to the well-publicised American National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent to Adult Health: “Having dinner together on a regular basis, is strongly related to whether teens engage in risky behaviour such as drinking, fighting or having sex at early ages.”
Just because your teen isn’t a child any more, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t need you. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that compared with peers whose parents are often absent throughout the day, teens whose parents are present when they go to bed, wake up, and come home from school are less likely to experience emotional distress.
Don’t worry if they keep secrets from you
A Cornell University study found that limiting what teens tell their parents is natural. “This is healthy in that it helps teens develop their personalities, gain some privacy, and develop strong relationships with their friends.”
Loosen up, but don’t let go
Teens need parents to uphold a clear but evolving set of boundaries, maintaining important family rules and values, but also encouraging increased competence and maturity, says a study by the Harvard School of Public Health.