As an Egyptian teen, I’ve witnessed firsthand what it’s like to feel like your thoughts – negative, positive, or self-destructive even – are not as important or relevant as “adults’ feelings and thoughts”.
This is because it has been known and normalised that teenagers’ thoughts, emotions, and attitudes are not valid.
By “not valid” I mean not taken seriously or believed. Most parents, especially Arabs, believe that their kids are just “growing up”.
They think whatever they feel is just a phase that will pass like it’s nothing.
Newsflash for you: Teenager’s current emotions and thoughts are not a phase!
Let’s get real about this. We are all constantly changing. No one stays the same. That still doesn’t change the fact that having your feelings and thoughts acknowledged is a crucial part of our youth.
Relevant or not, constant or not, your thoughts and feelings should be taken seriously, no matter what!
Teenagers go through a lot of development and self-searching that we all know about. It’s easy to confuse that with not taking them seriously when they go through something particularly intense for them.
We haven’t yet mastered control, and we don’t know much about “slowing down”. So when an adult tells us “get over it”, “stop overreacting”, or “stop being so emotional”, we don’t know how to do that.
Adults have to understand that they have accepted the fact that life is just going to keep coming at them, and that’s the way it is. Teenagers still haven’t understood that.
Adults have had more time and experience to manage their emotions and thoughts. Now, it seems unfair to expect that from a teen who’s half your age with minimum experience.
Adults probably have had their fair share of failed romantic experiences, so they learned and healed from them. Teens have probably had one or two romantic experiences, and they have learned nothing.
For what they know love to be, this is it. Stop making them feel stupid for believing it.
Invalidating teenagers’ feelings can and will be harmful in the long term.
You are teaching them that they are pathetic and weak for feeling something intensely that you may find trivial.
This will affect the way they think and behave. They will do the exact same thing with friends, partners, and even their future children.
It is a toxic cycle that no one is daring to break.
Most parents’ excuse will be “my parents did the same thing with me, and I turned out fine.” NO, YOU DID NOT.
You are carrying on toxic behaviour. This ain’t fine. It’s the opposite.
To all newly becoming parents, here are a few helpful tips:
1- Listen to your kids.
2- Acknowledge their feelings.
3- Let them feel safe talking to you.
4- Be there for them.
5- Don’t make them feel weak or pathetic for feeling strongly.
6- Therapy is not shameful. PLEASE.
7- Be the adult role-model they need to become a better version of themselves.
And to my fellow teens, we see you, and you are doing so well!
Being a teenager is not easy. You will feel utterly alone sometimes, and that’s going to suck. But remember, you are never alone.
Things might be overwhelming, and perhaps you will feel like no one will understand. That’s all okay. It will get easier, and know someone is always willing to listen.