The youth of today: you hear many a baby boomer complaining about this group. After all, everything was better in the past. And the teenagers were also a lot more decent. But is that really so? Are the teenagers of today really different from those of the previous decades? And if so, where does this happen? Four experiential experts give their opinion.
That the current generation of teenagers grows up in a special time, there is no doubt about that. Several studies show that adolescents today suffer more from stress complaints than fifteen years ago, for example.
Children coach Marie-José (43) has a possible explanation for this: "Today we live in a very performance-oriented society. Our children have to meet requirements that can hardly be met. In addition, they must increasingly choose what they want to do later. Which training do they follow? What will be their position on the labor market? In the past, children did not have to deal with it much later. You put a lot of pressure on the current generation of young teenagers. "
Children are given less time to be children
Nelleke (52), orthopedagogue and mother of two adolescent sons, agrees. "Children are given less time to be children than they used to. This can indeed be expressed in stress complaints and even a burn-out. "
What does Nelleke recommend herself from her profession as a remedial educationalist? "Give your child enough time and space to develop. But few children in group 8 already know what they want to become later. That is not a disaster at all. They have the time to make that decision their whole high school time. In addition, there are countless young people who first start one or more studies to not finish them and still choose something else. These are very good learning experiences and contribute to the development and independence of your child. "
Smartphones & social media
Smartphones and social media can also have a negative effect on the development of adolescents. Nelleke explains this further: "Of course the internet is very useful for our children. They learn a lot, information from all over the world is within reach. We did not have that before. But by letting our teenagers sit behind screens without limit, you create many other problems. It is not good for their eyes, their development and, in the long run, not for their physical health. Children and adolescents also need to get plenty of outside air and physical exercise. "
Every generation has its own challenges
Also youth coach Maaike van 't Klooster, herself mother of two children aged 3 and 11, sees advantages and disadvantages in the use of social media. "I think that every generation of teenagers has its own challenges. A big theme for teenagers is self-control and with the arrival of the internet, and especially smartphones, an extra challenge has been added in my opinion. Of course the internet has an advantage: all information is available and is up for grabs. And that immediately creates a risk. The Internet is an unlimited environment in which everything can be discovered: from self-discovery, to a view of the world, to sex (in all forms). And because the internet is now inextricably linked to the mobile (smartphone) phones, this is also available at all times and it is automatically expected that everyone is always available.
A great life
In addition, there is little protection for this generation in this area: anything that is somewhat entertaining, hurtful, laughable or shocking ends up online without censorship. Adolescents generally do not have the ability to see the consequences of these choices in the longer term. Combine that with social media where it almost seems that everyone always has a great life, then you can think that the (performance) pressure among adolescents has increased. The result is, among other things, anxiety, insecurity, depression, burnout, cyberbullying, underachievement, low self-esteem, lack of motivation. Although those themes used to play, the difference in performance pressure is actually noticeable. "
Tamara (34), mother of a daughter of 12, also sees the necessary problems in the social media era. "My daughter has an Instagram account. Actually I think she is too young for that, but yes, all her classmates have it too. I found it difficult to refuse her. On Instagram my daughter is exposed to all kinds of perfect pictures. Fitness models with their so-called 'killer bodies' are not the reality. But a girl of 12 believes that if she is sufficiently exposed to it. In this way girls in that already vulnerable age get a very distorted picture. "
Indeed, scientific research shows that the self-image of children and teenagers can be negatively influenced by the perfect images presented to them on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. For example, children become more critical of their own appearance. Some teenagers are so extreme with their appearance through the use of social media that it is at the expense of their social contacts and school achievements.
Stay in conversation with your adolescent
Also child coach Marie-Jose warns against this phenomenon. "I also see this in my practice. Distraught parents who report with an adolescent with a very low self-esteem. I certainly see a correlation between this problem and the excessive use of social media. "
What would she advise parents? "Keep monitoring what your child does online. Also stay in conversation with your adolescent, do not tell us everything that he or she sees online matches reality. Explain that everyone on social media shows their best "I", the best version of themselves. Countless filters and photo editing programs do not make it better. As a parent you may also make best demands on the time your child spends on social media. "
But what is true about the comments of some baby boomers about the youth of today? Are teenagers now really different from teenagers in the past? Yes, says Tamara. "I am not even that old yet, but when I was young I addressed all adults with 'you' as standard. I now see that much less. "
Children coach Marie-José does not agree with this. "I do not think that today's adolescents are less polite than those in the past. I do think that they will get into trouble faster because of all the stimuli they are exposed to in the current fast society. Performance pressure, social media, excessive screen time. Of course, none of them contributes positively to the development of your adolescent. "
To the question whether adolescents of today come more often in contact with the law, youth coach Maaike van 't Klooster gives a clear answer: "If you take the figures from the CBS, there is a decrease in juvenile crime (2000-2017). I am convinced that young people used to encounter the same problems, crossed borders or needed extra care. "
Finally, we asked two of the experts who participated in this article, what they want to give parents of teenagers.
Marie-José: "Give your adolescent the time and space to develop themselves, but also set clear boundaries. I feel that parents find it difficult these days. It is not bad to be strict for your child. That does not mean, however, that you have to hand out penalties every once in a while. Reward positive behavior and try to ignore negative behavior. And above all: stay in conversation with your adolescent. Talk, talk, talk. In the end, that is still paying off! "
They need stumbling blocks
Also youth coach Maaike has a wonderful advice for parent of teenagers: "As parents we are inclined to remove as many stumbling blocks as possible. Yet adolescents need stumbling blocks to learn from. Children do not learn because they are told what is not allowed, they learn by experiencing it themselves. And if they do not get the space to also experience disappointing experiences, encounter setbacks, they miss the chance to strengthen themselves and the possibility to solve problems themselves. These experiences appeal to their skills, creativity, perseverance and self-insight. And those are things that you only learn by experiencing.
Awkward expression of underlying need
What we as parents can do? To have an eye for what lies behind the behavior of an adolescent. The behavior is only an inconvenient expression of an underlying need. That's where the core is. When we learn to listen to what is not said, we can guide the adolescent with respect and understanding instead of sending them. Many of the problems or problem behavior can thus be approached with different angles. A teenager then feels heard, acknowledged and respected which forms the basis for open communication. So be an OEN (Open, Honest and Curious), use LSD (Listen, Summarize, Interrogate) with ANNA (Always Inquire, Never Assume), leave OMA at home (Views, Opinions, Opinions) and spread NIVEA (Do not fill in for another ). Finally: Adolescents are still children who need especially love, attention, limits, space and recognition. "