The Language of Teenagers

And about the teenagers screaming and freaking out at climate marches. Anybody who teaches, works or lives with teenagers needs to watch these videos.

Because that’s how teenagers feel all the time.

Not because of climate or guns or whatever but because of the major hormonal and psychological transformation they are experiencing. I felt exactly like that screaming, sputtering girl who went viral when I was her age. Nobody allowed me to freak out openly, and that’s unfortunate for me. But that’s exactly how I felt.

Now, a small translation from the peculiar language of teenagers everywhere.

When a teenager says, “I’m not going to have children!”, that’s actually a good sign. It’s a way of making an apology to the parents. The message is, “I see what you are going through with me, and I realize it’s really hard. So hard, in fact, that I wouldn’t want to go through it.”

When a teenager says, “Our parents did everything wrong, they messed up completely,” this is the number one symptom of the teenager entering into the last major stage of separation from the parents. This is how a child becomes an adult. It’s a crucial, short stage that needs to be celebrated because a teenager who doesn’t think that parents are completely wrong about everything will have very miserable twenties and thirties.

When a teenager says, “The world is ending,” that’s quite literally true because the whole world of childhood, which is the only word a teenager knows, is, indeed, coming to an end. And what’s coming is new and extremely terrifying.

When a teenager screams, “I hate you!” it means, “I hate how much you mean to me and how hard it is for me not to be in thrall to your intellectual and emotional authority.”

When a teenager screams, “Leave me alone!”, it means, “It’s time for me to become my own person, and it’s scary and lonely.”

I hope I don’t have to explain why teenagers don’t want parents to touch them.

So when adults say, “poor kids! They are driven to anxiety by all this climate talk!”, they are fundamentally wrong. Anxiety is what is already there. And it’s a great thing that kids get a chance to scream it out and not self-harm instead.

Of course, as with every physiological event, there is a lot of individual difference. Some people’s hormones release faster and some slower. Consequently, some teenagers feel this a lot more intensely than others. It’s not about the quality of parenting or anything external. It’s pure physiology. So please don’t tell me you never experienced so it doesn’t exist. I’ve never had a migraine but it doesn’t mean people who say they have are liars.

It’s like toddlers and tantrums. Toddlers are forming their own subjectivity, and it’s hard, so they freak out. The difference is that with toddlers, parents can help make the process of digesting emotions easier. But with teenagers, the whole point is to create a distance from the parents.

Physiology exists, you know. We are not just brains that move around and process everything intellectually.

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