I must confess. I myself was once . . .16. Shameful, I know. But all of us 17+ people were 16 years of age once. It’s true. So I know the age pretty well. At least I know 16 year olds in “Black American women who live in the deep South” terms.
Actually, I don’t believe that 16 year olds across the globe are very different from each other. They all go through their times of despair and wondering why they are in this world. They all have the same angst about being an adult/child in a world where they are treated like they are younger than they feel. Most of them all finish puberty and start to really find themselves.
What they think about Themselves:
They have angst. The angst comes from not being comfortable in their own skin but pretending to be. They’re not sure if they are good enough to even be in the world but they want you to get the impression that they are.
Teens in general need reassurance about themselves. Whether they are a football star or the class dork, they are looking for people who are like themselves so they can have others who support them. They need to be reassured that they aren’t as bad a person as they think they are.
16 year olds are just reaching the point where they have to decide who they are as a person, as an adult. They’ve made the friends they’re going to make, they’ve made the decisions about what they do for fun and what they really like or hate about their lives. Now they’re ready to show themselves to the world. And as all people who have things to show to the world, they have to be confident about who they are so that they can avoid getting hurt if people don’t accept them.
This is the ultimate year of acceptance. They cannot fail their mission. They have to make a stamp on the world because they are their own person now. If they want to be a singer, they have to say it out loud and hope that no one will discourage them. If they want to be a football star, they better start now. If they want to be a professor, their attitude and grades have change. But of all these things, the most important part is that someone who they love accepts it and wants them to succeed. Confidence is key.
What they think about their Parents:
Contrary to popular belief, 16 year olds do not hate their parents. 15 year olds do. But really, it’s all in the generation gap. No matter what era we’re in, the gap between the up and coming men and women of today with the people who came 20 years before them is inevitable. They have more energy, they are just learning about the world and thinking of ways to change it, they are still looking to express who they are as people for the first time.
The two generations have different wars, fashions, ideas, hair styles, even language. Nothing can change the fact that some people are born at a different time than others. All you can do is to recognize that fact and accept it.
The parents are, of course, the complete opposite of the energized, troubled youth unless they’re going through a midlife crisis. Parents have already been through this state of confusion and wonder. The problem is they have forgotten about it and probably figured that since they are adults, they can handle anything that is thrown at them. What they don’t realize is that those 16 year olds are adults as well in their own rite.
What they think about their Friends:
16 year olds rely on their friends to support them and love while at the same time finding flaws with them to make themselves look better. It’s true. People at that age are finding out that to be noticed, someone else has to look worse. The competitive spirit in academia, sports, music, personality and looks really starts to come alive at this age. They have to set the stage for the rest of their lives at this moment and if they are better than the people who hang around them in some way, they will always feel that they can do something worthwhile.
The friends of a 16 year old are the same way. They pick people they like to hang around but they also people who seem less gifted in a certain area than they are. In this area they can shine. Some people even unconsciously pick friends who are less pretty than they are so they can stand out. Everyone does it. Someone has to be teased about something and who better than your friends to make themselves feel better about life by making you feel sad about how much you suck?
What they think about their Significant Others:
These are people who ultimately decide how happy a 16 year old is. They can build self-confidence like no other person at that age and they can also take it away worse than anyone else. This person affirms that there is something good inside of a person who is asking that question with angst to everyone they know. And when a break-up ensues, the only choices given for the reason of departure are either “I’m not good enough” or “They’re crazy”.
The significant other is looking for affirmation as well. If they are the same age, they want to share the feelings and emotions that are bottled up inside them as well as making sure that they are good enough to be loved.
What they think about Authority figures:
Teachers, principals, police officers, and adults in general will deal with some unruly 16 year olds on a daily basis. They have their driver’s license, they think they’re smarter than you, they are an adult too, they don’t like you condescending to them.
Teens can be a hassle when dealing with authority because they, at this point in their lives, hate for anyone to tell them what to do or give them any advice. They don’t want to seem like that child you once knew who couldn’t do anything for themselves. Lashing out at authority is a defense mechanism so they can make sure you know they aren’t little kids anymore.
Unfortunately for the authority figures, you still have to treat them like they are 16. They are reckless people, all of them. No matter how nice of a persona 16 year old is, they won’t have the maturity to make the right decisions about their lives. Now, not all adults have the maturity to make the right decisions about their lives either, but at least adults have experience in the world.
It’s the experience of the world that makes someone mature and most 16 year olds don’t have that yet. For those that do, my hat’s off to you. And for those people who have to deal with the typical 16 year old, don’t give up. They’re still trying to learn about themselves and this world. They’ll figure it out soon, I promise, most likely next year.
In the end, teenagers need confidence and acceptance more than anything else. Having one makes headway for the other one to come in. As long as they have a support system, a body of people who love and help them, they can be a little easier to understand and get along with.