Teenagers make adults anxious.
When we look at them, we see that they are fidgety. They are sweaty. They don't sit still and they fiddle with things. They sometimes seem to have little sense of what is going on outside of their immediate vicinity.
Adults make teenagers anxious.
When they look at us, they see that we have no friends, no passions, and we are always stressed out. We sometimes are so concerned with monitoring everything else that we seem to have little sense of what is going on in our immediate vicinity.
Teens are about energy and movement. They have emotions to express that are very important to them. They want to live, and sometimes adults seem to be doing anything but living. Adults are often about maintaining the status quo. We want children to "Liten!" "Behave!" "Be still!" and "Stop talking!" We want them to soothe our fears that they will turn out rotten. We want to know that they will not get themselves in trouble. We want assurance that they will not embarrass us.
The sum of all of these anxieties is that we are prevented from being present with teens. Most teens experience adults as either absent or lecturing. What if we were able to completely set aside our agenda and simply be with young people? How would we treat teens if we weren't trying to convince them of something or impart some lesson or ingrain in them some morsel of our wisdom? The truth is, teens learn from adults' example far more than their words anyway! What would it be like if we just made ourselves available to sit and listen?
Consider this quote from a youth volunteer:
"When I first started working with youth, I felt I had to ask them a lot of questions, make jokes and make them feel good. Now I plop down next to them and sigh and ask, "How are you?" Whether theri response is just a word or a five minute dialogue, I can sit with them knowing my full attention to them in that five seconds or five minutes is enough."
Our teens are not fully mature. They need adults to help them through the maturation process. However, we need to deprogram ourselves from thinking of them as projects that need managing rather than people who need our company and sometimes, our undivided attention.
Next week, I'll share some thoughts on being present with God. Before we can truly be present with anyone else, it is important to open ourselves up to him.