A writing assignment for my students who are in my Intro To Psychology class brought me an avalanche of touching stories. I asked them to describe their middle and high school experiences, the good and the bad. They shared stories of friendships gone wrong, forays into partying, and issues they had with their parents. Their honesty and insight was moving, and they agreed to let me share some of their memories with you. I hope they will give you some understanding about your own teens, for the things maybe they don't share with you, but you wish you knew.
From a young woman:
" It all started when I was 13. I was bullied. Kids called me ugly, frizzy hair, gross, "emo" and made fun of what I wore. A boy I had a crush on found out I liked him, so during class one day he scrapped a chewed up pen cap across my wrist and asked me if I was used to that feeling for when I would cut myself at night. It gets me disgusted at the thought of all of this now, when I look back at it all because I wish I had stood up for myself instead of just standing hopeless. I am a confident, powerful young woman now and don't let anyone bring me down."
From a young man:
" My lightening rod (this is the part of puberty that is the hardest for a teen) was definitely the time during puberty when I developed acne on my back. I became so self-conscious by my back acne that I would never take my shirt off in public. It became so bad that that I would come home and hurry to take off my shirt so that I wouldn't see my back myself. Pool parties were the hardest for me to go to during high school. Seeing all my friends with no acne on their backs made me very shy and I was most afraid of girls seeing my back. I never want to relive that time in my life."
From young woman:
"Right off the bat my relationship with my parents changed. I became mad at them when they did nothing wrong, and I thought that they could do nothing but make my life miserable. I wanted nothing to do with my parents and I made that very clear to them. Looking back on it now it seems ridiculous because me and my parents are very close now."
From a young man:
When I started playing high school football I was not a good player by any means. After I started going to the gym and getting a girlfriend I found myself excelling. This is also the time when I started going to underage drinking parties. It was exciting to go and I was starting to be accepted by some of the older kids in the school. This wasn't easy on my parents however as I found myself getting in trouble with the police at these parties. One time I was put in handcuffs because the cops thought I supplied the party with booze, I was 16. Never the less, this added to my ego, I thought of myself as a little "bad ass" with a good girlfriend and good skills on the football field."
From a young woman who immigrated from Vietnam as a child:
"When I became a teenager, I seemed to enter my own world and began only to notice myself. I started enjoying different things that were definitely not at the top of my priority before. All I wanted to do was satisfy my own personal pleasure. From balancing school to spending time with my family, it all became a difficult task as I started to devote most of my time in meaningless things. I began to become very judgmental about my own personal looks, and people's opinions toward me, especially at school. Every little unimportant thing became the majority of my worries. If people looked at me a certain way, I would quickly conclude that they were talking about me, then I would see this as an excuse to change the way I looked. I would only buy a certain kind of clothes, and I lost a lot of weight to fit into the social norm of the school. My mood swings were so heightened that I began to distance myself from my family. It all seems exceptionally silly now. "
Pretty honest stuff. Self- consciousness is a powerful, overriding feeling during Adolescence as you can see from these excerpts. But what I hope you can also see is that it is time limited. These now 20 year olds can see that it was a part of their growing up process, that they have outgrown. I hope this gives you some comfort.