Teenagers or Young Adults?
When our younger boy was 7 he came home from his German school with a new science textbook. We sat down together to look through it. On the inside cover was the picture of a family: father, mother, son and daughter, all completely naked with full front view!
“Well,” I said to my wife, “We need to step up to the plate here!”
Turning to the boys I said, “If you have any questions about anything in this book, or anything else, for that matter, you can ask us. We won’t be angry about any question you have.”
The next morning our 7 year old came down to breakfast and asked me, “Tell me, dad, how was it the first night when you were married?”
“It was great!” I replied.
“Aren’t you going to give me any details?” he asked?
“When the time comes we’ll talk about it,” I said. Satisfied, he went to get his breakfast. He had given me a test, and I’d passed!
From that time on the boys came to us with all kinds of questions, things they heard at school, on the street, from the TV. Among many other things, we talked about sex, masturbation, Playboy and marriage. The boys later said that this openness to talk about anything and everything was what helped them the most as they entered their teen years.
When the boys were 9 and 11 we read Dr. Dobson’s book Preparing for Adolesence. One of the best parts of this book was his talking about how teen-agers felt and how that did not reflect reality. When the boys entered their teens and began to have negative feelings (“no one understands me”), we would say, “And what did Dr. Dobson say about that?”
The boys would reply, “He said we didn’t have to get stuck in those feelings.”
“Ok, let’s not do that. Let’s talk about how you feel,” I would offer—and we spent a lot of time taking walks and talking.
As a result of this approach, the boys never became teenagers, instead they became young adults, responsible, communicative, open.
Later in thinking about it, I realized that before 1946 there were basically no teenagers. Most young people had to start working early to help their families, so instead of becoming teens, they became young adults.
However, with the growth of affluence after the war, the high school sports/cheerleader culture developed as students no longer had to work so much. And adolescence was prolonged as more and more went to college. It became considered normal for teens to be disrespectful, distant and uninvolved with adults. However, that does not have to be accepted, as we saw with our boys. Taking the time for communication and mentoring helped them be reasonably respectful, engaged young adults. Life certainly is much easier living with young adults rather than teenagers.