The young man in this film, Chase (played by Chris Massoglia), had just met a new girl at school named Grace (short for Gracia played by Moriah Peters). He wants to ask her out, but feels frustrated because he had never had a date with a girl before. Nervous and afraid, he decided to ask for some advice from one of his teachers who welcomed him into the room to talk. The advice this gentleman shared is not what most teens would expect these days, but it is solid and very practical.
Chase is unsure of himself. But with a little encouragement and an assurance that the best way to approach a girl is with no pressure, he makes up his mind to call Grace and just ask to meet her for a soft drink at a local diner. Later we learn that the teacher Chase had approached is a man of high moral standards and who professes to be a Christian. No matter his religious beliefs, he offers honest advice—a necessary model for anyone to follow when offering advice to a teen. Teenagers want to believe that they are more grown up than they really are. They will often act without thinking things through or considering the consequences.
This situation is normal—and it has been this way for nearly a hundred years in the USA. Prior to the Depression of 1929, only a select few youth avoided having to go to work before the age 16. They would either work for their parents in the family business, on the farm, or in a local factory. Since the Great Depression adults have wanted to protect their children from the horrors of the real world by allowing them more time to “grow up.”
Over the past thirty-five years, I spent my days, and sometimes nights, working with college students as a professor. Over and over, I saw young men and women with little or nothing to occupy their minds other than wanting to be “grown up.” I often heard phrases such as “my parents won’t let me (fill in the blank),” “My parents are trying to hold me back from (fill in the blank),” and “I want to (fill in the blank); I don’t need to go to college for that!”
The message seemed to be the same: These wonderful people felt grown up and wanted to take their place in society. At the same time, each of them lacked the maturity to handle living on their own and working a full-time job. It seemed that none of them had the experience or parental guidance on how to be on their own. So, they seemed caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place reminding me of the old adage about women: you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. They couldn’t live with parents nor could they live with out them.
Teens want to be adults. Teens are feeling the sexual pull of an adult. Teens think they aren’t able to contribute. Teens often believe they are floundering in the dark instead of starting their life. This may seem odd, but I thought the same way when I was a teen in the 1960’s. I joined the military reserves hoping to feel I was a part of something bigger. Yet, while attending college at the same time, I gave into the temptation most college students feel: If I can’t be an adult, then I’ll be a kid and just have fun. As a result, it took me five years to graduate college rather than four. And then when I received my commission through Army ROTC, I was fighting in Vietnam less then ten months later. I experienced a true shock into reality.
The best thing that a teen can discover or obtain during these tumultuous years is at least one “counselor.” What I mean here is an older person with whom the teen can identify. This could be a parent, of course. But often, the parents are the ones who are keeping the teen from becoming what he or she wants to be. So, most teens just plug along on their own failing time and again. For me, I had an an English teacher who believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my studies in college at the same time my guidance counselor told me I would never make it in college.
I found in my experience that many teens can tell if an adult is not being straight with them. It’s better to honest with teens from the outset. But, telling the truth is not the only issue, the teen needs to know that the adult has the best interest of the teen at heart. Teens are often on the receiving end of manipulation by adults and other teens. They learn about that early. When an adult offers advice that says to the teen “just be cool and take it one day at a time; don’t rush,” that will sound much more believable and acceptable than something like, “you shouldn’t be doing that,” or “why do you want to waste your time with her,” etc. Those types of responses tend to sound hollow and self-serving.
When I entered college, several professors saw some potential in me and offered their help. Here I have to admit that my mom was always there for me. We would sit at the breakfast table in the kitchen and talk for hours at a time. If you have a teen in your life, you might want to take that young person very seriously and give them the respect they may not deserve but desperately need. Treat them as people with brains who can think for themselves. Then make your advice more in the lines of “perhaps you might want to consider this” as opposed to “here’s what you should do.” And remember, that if they don’t take your advice, it’s not about you, it’s all about them. They need to make decisions for themselves and learn to live with the consequences.