A quick Google search asking for parental advice will gather thousands of results. I can imagine the mass of (often contradictory) information can leave you drowning in confusion. But what is it really like to live as a teenager today?
To legitimately answer that, you need to think of your own teenage years. If you are remembering them honestly, I am sure they were difficult. Working out who you are is rarely easy with the backdrop of peer pressure and physical changes.
Now think of how the modern teenager is more informed than ever by social media, instant news and YouTube. As always, peer pressure can drive your shifting identity. But now it’s not just your friend’s lives you aspire to, but celebrities too covered across your social media.
I struggle most with the quality of influences in our society. Facade is more valued than true character, handing young people unrealistic expectations. Case and point: one of the most popular books of the past few years was Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James. Most songs and music videos in the charts today are of a sexual and somewhat derogatory nature. The 21st Century hosts the most contradictory and tense society in history and millions of impressionable young people live right on the tipping point that separates the politically correct and the actually correct.
As a teenager, what do I need from you?
First, you must understand that we see the world in a very different way. It is not a place of nine to five jobs that entrap our imagination and cocoon our hopes and dreams; it is a playground where we hope to receive all that we desire to achieve.
I don’t believe there is much more you can provide for a young person than to do the simple things correctly. That means: love me, build up my confidence and give me an opportunity to personally shine. Leave me awe-stricken with love, dumbfounded with grace, empowered with encouragement and enlightened with advice.
How can you do that?
Christianity is no longer considered to be cool. Sorry, but you are an option amongst many, from New Age to atheist. In the face of new and ‘trendy’ beliefs, “old fashioned” better describes the public perception of a Christian.
Yet, there has always been something that drags me back to God. It wasn’t the Christian clichés, it was the presence of God. Whether at church or at home; in prayer, reflection, in worship or even when God miraculously illuminated my sporting activities (a story for another time maybe), God was mysteriously attractive to me.
My greatest and probably only criticism of youth work is the unwillingness to go deeper in faith. What I mean is sometimes I have witnessed sessions of youth groups where we have spent an hour playing a game that only relates to the Bible in the mind of the leader. Don’t stop playing games or having fun. Young people love that, but secretly we also really like being challenged. So make time to pray with us, challenge us with stories we wouldn't otherwise know, get us acting out our faith outside of our comfort zone.
My advice to you is to invite Jesus into your atmosphere as much as you can. Talk is cheap and sometimes perceived as judgemental, especially to a vulnerable young mind, but the presence of God is a comforting wave of supernatural love. In prayer and praise God's presence challenges all that seems important; and squashes it to actual size.