There is a general awareness that adults should get to know and watch out for all kiddos. I wish there was a similar awareness for teenagers – they need our acknowledgement and our support just as much as the little ones. I’ve seen many neighborhoods where adults who are walking around will say hello to children and other adults, but they will ignore or turn away from teenagers. I remember when I suddenly got old enough to start being recognized by adults again. (At first it was a bad recognition – they assumed that I was a teenage mother, the apparent scourge of everything good in this world.)
So I make an effort to learn the names of the teenagers in my neighborhood and to use them and say hello every time I see them, just as I do with the neighborhood children and adults. I hope this helps the teenagers feel that they belong here, that I recognize them as interesting people I would like to get to know. Because most them probably are – I know that the few I do know well are interesting and fun to be around.
So let’s start a movement here, today. Let’s start saying hello and introducing ourselves to each and every teenager we meet. Then let’s say hello and use their names every time we see them again. What does this have to do with sex? Hopefully it will create a network of adults who can answer questions, give advice, and most importantly notice if something is going wrong. Too many teenagers get lost because the support system that was there when they were children allow the teenagers to push them away. We shouldn’t pry, but we should continue to be present, to be available, to say hello, and to ask honest, interesting questions that have nothing to do with school.
We should continue to be a village for our teenagers.
A Presbyterian friend of mine who wrote her dissertation on youth church involvement found that even one adult smiling and saying “hello” on a regular basis can make the difference between a teen being involved in church and not attending.
Unrelatedly, is it a very common phenomenon for twentysomething mothers to be mistaken for teenagers? I thought it was hysterical when it happened to me, but of course it also exposes something ugly in society.
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