In December, Time magazine announced its “Person of the Year,” Greta Thunberg. The announcement was accompanied by a mock-up of the cover, and what caught my eye was not the imposing picture but was the subtitle, “The Power of Youth.” Oftentimes we spend so much time thinking, worrying, and even obsessing over the schedules and challenges of adolescence that we forget about the transformative power of this time in a young person’s life.
In adolescence, youth are deepening passions, discovering their voices, and finding their why. They are building complex reasoning skills, challenging authority, and establishing independence. Today’s teens are drinking less, smoking less, and overall taking less risks than previous generations.1 They are starting movements, advocating for their own safety, and changing the conversation on the world stage. Greta Thunberg is not the only model of the power of youth—from the Parkland students who built advocacy out of tragedy, to teen walkouts organized to advocate for better pay for teachers, gun violence, and global warming, to BBYO’s own teens who take on Stand UP causes and leadership positions because they want to make BBYO and the world a better place. In the media and in our everyday lives we are seeing teens realize and harness their power and ability to make change.
There are real challenges that come with this period in a teen’s life, and we know that there are real struggles for our teens today. Seven-in-ten teens say that anxiety and depression are major problems among their peers.2 Use of marijuana and vaping, both nicotine and marijuana, has increased significantly over the last few years.3 Despite all of this, a majority of teens still make it through adolescence with little difficulty, and learn and grow from the stress and challenges they face. Our role as mentors, educators, and parents is to help steward them through this immensely powerful and daunting time in their lives.
It is our role to help them to build their resilience and provide safe spaces to explore their identity and passions. To support and empower them as they change their appearance, try on different opinions, and develop their sense of self. To comfort and guide them through the challenges, and to help them to grow and learn from failure.
It is normal to worry about our teens; however, when I look at the cover of Time and see the teens in BBYO, I cannot help but be inspired for the future. There is passion to make the world better and to make change. They are fighting to have their voices heard and to assert their growth and independence. As a new year begins, I hope that among the worry, we can all find time to see the strength and power in our teens.
Have questions or want to talk more? As always, we are here for you. Reach out to us, Drew or Ari, at [email protected] and [email protected].
1 “Today’s Teens _____ Less Than You Did,” accessed on December 19,2019. https://www.vox.com/a/teens#year/1972
2 “The concerns and challenges of being a U.S. teen: what the data show,” accessed on December 19, 2019. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/26/the-concerns-and-challenges-of-being-a-u-s-teen-what-the-data-show/