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Teenagers: What problems?

By Jeremy Castle


    I travel quite a lot for my work and often meet young people. Recently I was in Belarus and talking to children and young people in schools and pedagogical institutes and one question that always comes up is: “Are teenagers a problem in your country?”

    Actually there are two questions. The second one is: “Do teenagers have problems in your country?” With both these questions we have the familiar linking of the words “teenagers” and  “problems” and this set me thinking why the two words are so inextricably linked. Why, for instance, should teenagers be more of a problem than, say, middle-aged or babies? And why should they have the prerogative on having problems? Let’s see if we can come up with some answers and the best way to do that is to ask questions.

What is a teenager?

    Officially, of course, a teenager is anyone aged from thirteen to nineteen inclusive but most people would probably think first of the younger age group and exclude 18 and 19-year-olds. After all, once you reach eighteen you can vote, get married without your parents’ permission and join the army, so it seems logical that you are considered as an adult rather than a child. At the other end of the scale, children are growing up and developing more quickly and these days 11 and 12-year-olds would like to include themselves in the “teenager” group. In actual fact they have their own group title now – “Pre-teens” or sometimes “Between-agers”.

    Without getting hung up on actual ages, perhaps what we really mean by “teenagers” are people who are in the stage of their life when they are developing from children into adults. This is really a 20th century idea because in the old days children used to grow up much more quickly, with boys working full-time at the age of eleven or twelve and girls either working or helping out with younger children. In many parts of the world this is still the case.

Are teenagers a problem?

    Parents and grandparents always seem to start from the premise that teenagers are in a special category when it comes to defining the human race. According to “the older generation” teenagers are lazy, they wear ridiculous clothes and are appallingly rude to their betters and elders; they find it impossible to be polite, helpful, constructive, caring or hard-working. What’s more, they spend all their time listening to awful music (“It isn’t music, it’s just a collection of horrendous noises!”) and gawping at unsuitable films. And all they ever think about is parties, drugs and sex. Well, that’s how the story goes! But is it anywhere near the truth?

    Actually, it seems to me to be quite the opposite of the truth. Teenagers spend a lot of time thinking about their work (studies), their families and friends and their hobbies. Sure, there are certain preoccupations such as clothes, money, how to behave in a certain situation, their bodies.

    But isn’t it the same for most people? So what about the myth that all teenagers are rude, selfish, lazy and greedy? As far as I’m concerned, it’s nonsense. The vast majority of young people I meet are polite, friendly, open, interested and hard-working.

  Do teenagers have problems?

    You might as well ask: “Do hens lay eggs?” Teenagers are human, so of course they have problems. And the problems aren’t very different from anyone else’s.

    What is going to happen at work / school tomorrow?
    Why does Dad like my sister better than me?
    Am I too fat / skinny / tall / short etc.?
    Does my boyfriend / girlfriend really like me?
    How can I afford to buy …….?
    Am I stupid?

 There isn’t anyone alive in the world who hasn’t posed these questions. We usually do it when we turn out the light and lie down in bed at night and the answers aren’t very satisfactory!

   It’s true, of course, that sometimes teenagers have special problems. It is a difficult time because it is a period of transformation. It isn’t quite as bad as a chrysalis changing into a butterfly but it may seem like it – or even the other way round! It isn’t easy to grow up and the physical and emotional changes are often confusing and worrying. But it’s my impression that most young people cope rather well.



betters and elders – older people who are (or should be!) wiser
caring – заботливый
what’s more – более того
horrendous – terrible, extremely bad
to gawp at – to look at something in a foolish way
preoccupations – things that you think about more than anything else
to behave – вести себя
myth – миф
rude – грубый
selfish – эгоистичный
greedy – жадный
as far as I’m concerned – in my opinion
nonsense – ерунда, чепуха
skinny – thin
to afford – позволять себе
to pose – ставить (вопрос)
chrysalis – куколка ( насекомых)
impression – впечатление
to cope with – справляться с

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