Did you ever feel left out as a teenager? My teen years are long gone but I still vividly remember those days when I was struck by the FOMO curse and agonised silently about not being part of the cool crowd.
I am sure we all know the one. Invariably always full of those who from the outside in are going to all the parties, dating and having the most fun. The reality of course is that they are not, but at that moment in time it seems as if they are.
Fast forward several decades and even though the scenario may be the same, it is so much harder for our teens today. At least back in my day the fear of missing out was all in my head because I didn’t actually have any concrete proof – it was all hearsay. This generation of teens, however, is blighted by none other than the curse of social media. Despite our best efforts as parents to control what they do online, their free time is invariably consumed by catching up on what everyone else is doing and of course in the glorious world of snapchat, instagram and facebook there is nearly always someone else having a better time than them – or as I say, so it seems.
In my experience the FOMO curse seems to kick in at around 15/16 years old. The awkward years of puberty are still lurking over their shoulder and adulthood is just out of reach, but of course they feel ready to move on and embrace the next chapter and with it the life experiences that they feel will make them seem more grown-up, more cool.
In my opinion as a parent it is the worst time ever. The GCSE’s are around the corner and keeping them on the straight and narrow and focusing on getting those grades and not getting distracted by anything else is paramount, particularly a party filled with under age drinking and worse still the distractions of a relationship.
There are four years between my teens. My eldest is at university and home for the summer he managed to summon up the energy to effortlessly combine a hectic work and social life. This was not free of disagreements of course, after all his lifestyle as a fledgling young adult and ours as middle-aged working parents aren’t naturally compatible. The hardest fall out, however, was our youngest as she observed a lifestyle that is currently out of her reach and of course off limits, all of which simply exacerbated her impatience to shake off the shackles, grow up and be seen as not only as more than the little sister to her brother and his friends but also cool among her own peer group.
What can we do as parents to convince our teens that they are actually not missing out on anything at all and there is a still a long way to go for them to indulge in all things involved with growing up and moving onto the next stage?
- Get them to focus on the here and the now and live in the moment.
- Limit their time on social media.
- Encourage them to focus on what they know makes them happy rather than wishing for something unknown.
- Remind them that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere.
- Tell them that life is a process, filled with valuable experiences to help them progress to the next stage.
As a parent it is a hard period to observe and navigate but it did remind me of my own teen years, when as the eldest myself I started to spread my wings and left my younger sister behind with her braces and another night in with our parents. The only option really is to sit and wait it out. After all as I am fond of saying, savour every moment of your adolescence as there is plenty of time in life to be an adult and it isn’t always as good as you think.