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Teenagers Are Terrific

By Hedgehog.

“I think it a huge shame that your seminar title implies that teenagers are something negative - it’s hardly surprising they behave as though the world hates and fears them when we regard teenagers as something to be survived, rather than valued, nurtured and encouraged. OK, I know it’s meant as a bit of fun (or at least I hope it is!), but could you not have worked a bit harder at the title and come up with something like “Positive Parenting” or “Making the Most of Young People” or “Handling Hormones Helpfully” (I’m becoming a bit silly now, but you see what I’m trying to get at!)?

“Our own two children, now aged 25 and 22, gave us a few headaches as teenagers, it’s true, but we loved their rebelliousness and encouraged them in it, valuing every new insight they gained as they stumbled through the maze of hormones and temptations. We listened to their music, praised what we liked and criticised what we didn’t (they did the same to us!). We laughed at their jokes, often sitting up late into the night sharing a couple of bottles of wine and laughing until our sides ached. All in all, we loved being parents of teenagers for at least 95% of the time - it was one of the most exciting roller-coaster rides of our lives. One has abandoned church-going, but that in no way diminishes our love or damages our relationship - indeed, as a direct result, my wife and I have unintentionally become surrogate parents to part of the punk rock community in our area!

“It wasn’t always easy - our daughter is very feisty and our son very creative (sometimes alarmingly so) - but we never thought of them as something to be survived. As a result, they are now our closest friends. Our experience of teenagers is that they bring a wonderful range of new and wacky insights to our lives - I wouldn’t have been without them for anything.

“You say in your letter that we will be given ‘advice on how to begin to fight back’. That, in my view, would be a mistake. Far better to go with the flow, because these teenagers are creating a new world, quite unlike ours, but who is to say that it will be any worse? Is a world of drug dependency any worse than a world where most adults are hooked on soap operas, cigarettes and hedonism? Surely it’s just different, and we oldies are naturally, but irrationally, scared of anything which challenges our view of “how things should be”, so we feel we have to fight back.

“Yes, these modern teenagers sleep together, take drugs and drink too much. When I was their age, in the 1960s, my generation did exactly the same, and most of us now are perfectly responsible adults. A generation earlier, our parents were at war, drinking too much, smoking too much, sleeping around and killing enemies. Their parents were doing much the same a generation earlier, except that more of them were dying on the battlefields of the First World War. Go back another generation and you have all the debauchery and exploitation of late Victorian England, covered by a thin veneer of self-righteousness. Nothing really changes, does it?

“Far better in my view to walk with the youngsters through the mess that we have created for them to live in, and pray that they will find a better way than ours.

“Perhaps you should follow up later with another seminar, this time entitled, “Grown-ups - the Teenagers’ Survival Guide” or perhaps even “Lack of Respect from Grown-ups - The Teenagers’ Survival Guide”. Now that I’d love to attend!” :)

Interestingly, the organisation concerned have yet to reply to my letter. I wonder why?

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A lovable, but sometimes prickly fellow

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You are reading Teenagers Are Terrific by Hedgehog, part of Issue 24 of Ministry Today, published in February 2002.

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