“Just Wait Until You Get into the REAL World”
I get tired of hearing adults tell teens to “just wait until you get to the real world.” As if teens’ lives are perfect, problem- and stress-free. As a parent of a teen and two tweens, a high school teacher, and a former youth leader, I can say with confidence that the world teens today are living in is full of challenges that are far beyond what many of us have in our daily lives, our “real worlds.”
Teens may not have jobs, but they work 40+ hours a week. Especially the ones in AP or IB courses. Many of them are spending 3-4 hours or more on homework every night. They are also juggling part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and, beginning in 11th grade, college applications. They are spending Saturdays taking ACT and SAT tests, and many spend the weeks leading up to those tests in prep classes to help them improve their scores because getting accepted in the college of your choice is SO much harder now than it was even 15 years ago.
Teens also have to deal with issues in the home – being shuffled from one parent to the next, adjusting to step-siblings, moves, economic shifts. They also have interpersonal struggles. Just like adults have that annoying co-worker or that overly-demanding boss, students have frustrating classmates – some going beyond frustrating to bullying, another major issues teens are forced to deal with – and teachers who make them want to pull their hair out.
I have many students who get up at 5:00am and are on the go until they fall into bed at 11:00pm, only to wake the next day and start all over again. How many of US are that busy? That taxed? Add to that, the pressure to get better grades, do better in their sport or art, do more community service — all so they can get into college and do all this all over again for four more years.
So, adults, let’s go a little easier on the teens in our lives. Don’t condescend to them by making them think all the work, the pressure, the stress that they live with is easier than what they’ll face when they become adults. Instead, empathize with them, help them through these years, lighten their burden instead of adding to it. And don’t ever tell them to “just wait until you get into the real world.”