By Jessica Berlin
We are not millennials. I can’t emphasize that enough. We see the world differently than millennials. We see animosity between the older generation and millennials, and we don’t want any part of that.
We see the world’s problems too, but we have a more practical worldview than we get credit for. Just let us develop into our own generation and stop comparing us to the millennials.
I wish parents understood that we feel a lot of pressure. In wealthy and competitive areas like northern Virginia, where I live, grades are stressed to the point where many teenagers have depression or anxiety just thinking about school. Some might even consider ending their life over a few bad grades.
There’s also pressure to get into a good college, get scholarships, and get a good job without having too many student loans. This pressure is crippling and starts so early in high school that even freshmen are terrified of getting a C. For a teenager, stress is all-consuming.
I wish youth pastors didn’t feel the need to treat us like they are our best friends and act like we are the same age. It isn’t working when you try to be sooooo relatable. Talk to us as a friend, but you are older than us.
We are in a weird transition from childhood to adulthood, and the way you treat us affects the way we listen to you. There is a sweet spot between trying to relate to teenagers and trying to be like one.
Youth group lessons that only scratch the surface don’t work. Dive deeper and get kids engaged in a discussion. The best way to get kids to listen is to make them feel like they’re listened to.
Also, be aware that many teenagers feel like religion is oppressive, so focus on relationship over religion.
As for our supposed obsession with technology and social media, don’t make more of it than it is. Many adults complain that we always have our noses stuck in a phone. We grew up with this technology. For us, it’s not that strange.
We like having information at our fingertips. We love the instant connection with people. It’s the way we interact, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just different.
Short attention spans? Well, we do love more interactive and visual online experiences over reading articles. But again, it comes back to the fact that we’re so busy and stressed.
A tweet has a word limit and you cannot ramble; you have to get to your point quickly. Pictures do the same thing. An Instagram picture gives a teenager an update on how a friend is doing with only a few words.
The more efficient you get, the faster you can keep moving, and the more information you can take in. This generation likes to move fast.
Parents shouldn’t try to follow us on social media. Let us have our space. If you’re worried about what we’re posting, ask us for our password so you can check every now and then.
The worst thing you can do is be overly involved in our social media and make us feel uncomfortable or embarrassed enough to stop using it altogether.
Also, please check with us before posting things or pictures about us. We’re very self-conscious. It may seem silly, but a bad picture posted online is awful for the volatile self-esteem of a teenager.
To stay better connected, parents can just learn to talk to their teenagers. Become a safe space for us to talk freely about our day. The thing that most alienates us from our parents is if we feel like we have to hide something from them.
Finally, I think parents and leaders should focus on helping us find our identity and self-worth in Christ, not in the online opinion of others. This is so important.
I’m guilty of this when I focus on how many “likes” I get on Instagram, or what people think of me rather than what I think of me and my relationship with Jesus.
Jessica is active in her church and Young Life and was a freshman at North Carolina State when she wrote this piece.