You might wonder what your teenager is worried about these days. Of course it varies, but I’ll give you the run-down of the things I hear most often in my office when I’m doing therapy with teenagers.
1. Do my parents approve of what I’m doing? Your kid is concerned with what you think of them. They may act as though they couldn’t care less, but that’s not actually true.
2. What do my friends think of me? Adolescents are consumed with concerns about being liked and being accepted. While we know how little that will matter in the long run, their world begins and ends with Friday night. It’s difficult for them to see that being popular isn’t the end all be all.
3. How will I survive my schoolwork? The specific concern about this varies from teen to teen. Some worry about just passing a class. Others worry about getting everything done. Most of them do spend at least some amount of time telling me they are worried about how they will do in school.
4. Is my family okay? This is one of the most common concerns I hear about. Teenagers whose parents aren’t getting along, whose parents express concerns over money or a job, whose parents talk about an illness, etc., worry. Adolescents may act like you’re not their main concern, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. They worry about siblings and grandparents. They love their family. You give them security. If they sense you aren’t doing well, they feel unsettled.
5. Do I have a future? Teenagers get existential angst. We have told them their whole life how the world is their oyster. Consequently they have spent a lifetime knowing they have a zillion choices of how to spend their life. When it comes time to pick just one it feels very frightening. Closing the door on all the others is closing the door on many other things they’ve thought about doing. They also have to wrestle with how to overcome the challenges of “becoming” the thing they choose. For example, if they decide to be a doctor they have calculus, organic chemistry, microbiology, physiology and other very difficult classes to get high grades in…and then they have medical school.
Your teenager has A LOT to think about. We put tons of pressure on them to be successful. This isn’t a bad thing. We want them to know what they are capable of. But, as with all things, there are two sides to this. The first is that they have a better chance of doing well if they know what’s available. The second is that they worry about what you think, if you’re okay and if they measure up. They worry about measuring up with their peers too. Adolescence is a tough time in life when it comes to managing lots of pressure.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT