The Seven Cries of Today's Teens
- Friday, April 25, 2003
Your teenager is crying out and desperately wants you to hear, so you can respond and make a new connection. What are these cries? According to author Timothy Smith, today's teens are crying out with seven specific needs: to be trusted, to be loved, to be safe, to have purpose, to be heard, to be valued and to be supported. Read on as he explains further.
A Cry For Trust
Millennials have a fairly clear idea of why they want in the future, but the don't know how to get there or who will help them. Most are open to a closer relationship with their parents, or a mentor, or both. They aren't as cynical as their Gen X brothers and sisters. They are willing to trust someone, but they aren't sure what that looks like. After all, trust is a critical element of marriage, and these are children of divorce. They are open to giving trust a chance, but they are looking for models of trust. They are ambitious enough to succeed, but they are confused about the meaning, purpose, and direction of life. They need trusted guides who know the way, but for many, no adults are around to protect them or show them the way.
A Cry For Love
We discovered that many teens do not feel loved even though their parents say I love you or give them hugs on a regular basis. In order to feel loved, they need to experience love in their love key (see pages 52-69 for a comprehensive explanation of love keys). Some of this does not seem logical to parents - and that is the point. Successfully relating to teenagers is not logic-based. You can't always think your way out of a problem with your teenager or reason your way into a close relationship. Sometimes with millennials, you are better to feel your way.
A Cry For Security
Immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I counseled many teens who were rattled by the trauma of what they saw on TV. In some cases, teens were more stressed than younger children. This could be because teens often believe the myth that they are immortal. When they saw reality TV of planes crashing into towers and people jumping from burning buildings, their I-will-always-be-safe world crumbled.
In spite of the recent terrorism and school shootings, most teens feel safe. Teens are looking for borders. Borders protect our teens and allow them to be relatively carefree as they pass through their last stage of childhood. Teenagers are frightened to live in a culture that doesn't protect them, hurries them into adulthood and adult-sized problems, and doesn't equip them to handle adult problems.
A Cry For Purpose
Our teens need to believe that life is meaningful and has a purpose. When teens feel that their lives are purposeful, they feel more capable and equipped to take on the demands of adolescence. Purposed is developed as teens discover the Three D's of Purpose:
Design - God made each of us according to His master plan.
Destiny - We discover our purpose in relationship to God.
Duty - Our purpose is further developed as we discover what we can offer in
service to God and others.
One cause of the lack of purpose is that many teens do not take time to reflect. Their active schedules and the clamor of the media crowd out time for serious reflection. As a result, teens make decisions with a mosaic morality - a little of this combined with a little of that. Millennials desire meaning and morals, but they don't often have the time, energy, and examples to build an integrated moral base. Since they make decisions based on ever-changing criteria, they are often disappointed with the results.
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