The Things Teenagers Worry About

Worrying is a universal currency that spans generations, but the world of teenage worry is relatively self-contained and probably no different to the one I inhabited as a teenager more than 30 years ago.

The teenage years are an emotional roller coaster, full of highs and lows which create a permanent sense of high drama and the perfect breeding ground for worry.  The truth is teenagers can be just as worried as adults sometimes but managing our teenagers' worry requires a different skill set.

I may have been there, I may have got the t-shirt, but that doesn't mean that I have all the answers and I need to be careful not to trivialise my teens' concerns with dismissive comments of assurance that they are worrying about nothing and everything will be fine.  That just doesn't wash.  Even if I have heard the same worry emerge from their mouths before, the important thing is always for them to feel that each and every time it is unique both to them and me.

So what are the main things that teenagers worry about?

  • School Work & Exams

Well it is no surprise at all that this is the primary source of worry for teenagers.  Now more than ever before our teens are under increasing pressure to secure those top pass grades, the A's and the A*'s in order to stand out in the crowd of high achievers.  Once they get to secondary school it is a cycle of constant assessments, all geared towards encouraging them to aim higher.  The pressure to succeed is monumental and as a parent you can do little to remove that pressure just alleviate it.

As well as the external pressures at school there are also the internal ones too.  No-one likes to be at the bottom of the class and this creates a level of competitiveness among the teens as they worry what each other will think if they don't do well.  With good grades comes success and with success comes admiration.  Whilst this can be productive in terms of encouraging them to work harder, it also results in more undue stress.

  • Friends

Without question friends are one, if not the most important elements of a teenager's life and have a significant impact upon their sense of self-worth.   The family takes more of a back seat as they strike out on the road to independence as a teenager and developing their own friendships as a result of emotional connections they have made on their own without parental input is a big part of this.

As well as making friends, with the secondary stage also comes the inevitable crises around falling out with friends and a teenagers' stress levels can be greatly affected by what's happening within their circle of friends.

I have written previously about my daughter's own traumatic toxic friendship scenario, but there is rarely a week goes by when she does not return from school with news of yet more "beef" (ie arguments) between various girl groups at her school, which can range from a minor disagreement to a full blown cat fight.

As a parent to both sexes, however, I have to say girls are definitely the worst in this regard.  If boys fall out they just draw a line under it, move on and never look back.  Not so with girls.  There are layers and layers of analysis and debate that go into every disagreement and lots of worry, tears and drama!

  • Peer Pressure & Opinion 

Unfortunately people are often judged on who their friends are but nowhere so much as at school.  In every secondary school there are different tribes or cliques and there is always a "cool" gang, generally made up of those who are not afraid to push the boundaries of authority, whether this is wearing make-up, hitching their skirt up, wearing trainers instead of school shoes or going to a party and drinking underage.

Their behaviour is attention seeking but to those teens on the outside they are brave and cool.  They are revered not because everyone else necessarily wants to do what they are doing but because they have the courage to do it and seemingly get away with it.

At my daughter's school the "cool" gang is referred to as the Queen Bees and there is a bizarre anxiousness among those on the outside as to what the Queen Bees might think of them.  No-one wants to be thought of as the geek after all.

As a result of situations like this, it is easy to see why some teens worried that they don't fit in may feel pressure to do things which are normally out of character, to secure a place with the "in crowd".  My son battled for a while with being part of the "in crowd" but his refusal to take up smoking resulted in him being ostracised.  It is a time when a teenager's self-confidence and strength of character is really tested.  As a parent there is little you can do other than hope they will stand true to the values you have instilled since birth.

  • Appearance 

Teens experience a whole range of different bodily changes, some of which can affect the way they look quite drastically like acne and this can cause a lot of worry.  I have written about how this has affected my teens previously and it is without doubt one of the most debilitating phases of growing up.  Even now with the worst behind them my teens are still very conscious of their skin and what others may think.

Body image is also a big issue, for boys it is all about being strong and ripped and for girls the emphasis is on being pin thin, a concept I explored recently in my post Challenging the Perception of Pretty.

It affects boys and girls in different ways but the fact remains that appearance is important.  We all worry at some point in our lives about how we appear to others but for teenagers more than most it is a big deal. Teenagers are all about  working out who they are and what they want to be and how they present themselves to the outside world is a large part of that. No-one wants to be the odd one out or god forbid laughed at for wearing the wrong thing.  As ridiculous as it might seem, in teenager world how you look speaks volumes.

  • Family

An unsettled home environment is very stressful and having experienced the breakdown of  a marriage firsthand I am only too aware how destructive that can be for a child of any age, but teenagers more than most are highly tuned to changes in the household status quo and to conflict.

Life is not perfect and there will be moments of unrest in everyone's life but as a parent it is our job to recognise the impact our actions may have upon our teens and to alleviate any worry they may have by protecting them from exposure to our own periods of angst as much as possible.  For our worried teenagers the family unit provides them with a safe haven and respite from their anxieties.

In my relatively limited experience of 18 years as a mother to two teenagers I have found myself faced with a range of scenarios I went through myself, yet whilst my worries may have been the same, there is no doubt that there are far more external pressures in this world our teenagers are in than the one I grew up in, that only serve to exacerbate the worry they feel.

Parenting teenagers is stressful and joyful in equal measure and as parents we worry for them.  Mac at Reflections From Me wrote a great post about Letting go of worry which reminded me that sometimes we do need to learn how to manage worry and let it go as many of the things we worry about just don't happen.  That is a tough message for our worried teens to digest but they can benefit from our guidance to minimise any growing anxiety.

Like many other parents I don't have all the answers but I have certainly gained from sharing my experiences and taking advice from others.  Just as I say to my teens, talking about life's stresses and knowing you are not alone makes a huge difference, after all a problem shared is a problem halved.

 

ReflectionsfrommeMotherhood: The Real Deal Diary of an imperfect mum

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59 Comments

  1. March 15, 2017 / 8:07 pm

    I’m just so out of my depth with the whole thing. My eldest is only 12 and already the crazy comments I’m hearing from her about her size, eyebrows, makeup etc is doing my nut in. I can’t look back and say ‘oh I went through it, it’ll all be fine’ because I didn’t go through normal adolescence at all due to a strict upbringing. At least I know my kids know they can come and talk to me which is more than I was able to do with my own parents! #coolmumclub

    • March 15, 2017 / 10:49 pm

      As long as they know they can talk to you and they are you are already more than half way there. Oh and you have a great sense of humour and that so helps too! You need to exercise a degree of levity amidst all the serious parenting stuff. #coolmumclub

  2. March 13, 2017 / 10:44 pm

    I’m glad that you recognise that there are plenty of things that teenagers worry about. I know some people just disregard it, because they’re not adults and it’s not like they have the worry of having to earn money to keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. There are a lot of concerns though, which you’ve done a very good job of covering! In addition to this, relationships or the lack of was a big worry to me (little did I know I’d meet my husband at 16 and everything would be wonderful. If only I hadn’t wasted time over those first 3 years of my teens worrying about a relationship when I was essentially a child!) #CoolMumClub
    Laura – Autumn’s Mummy recently posted…I hated my daughter’s nameMy Profile

    • March 14, 2017 / 9:42 am

      Laura that is wonderful that you met your husband so young and that you are bringing up a family together. Everyone’s life takes a different course and that is what makes this world so interesting. Thanks for your very astute comments too. #Coolmumclub

  3. March 13, 2017 / 7:29 pm

    Thrown in autism and increased anxiety along with puberty and you can see how much fun I’ll be having in the coming years 😉

    Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    • March 14, 2017 / 9:46 am

      I am sure like all of us you will get through it with the support of those around you and a big smile. I love your your reviews – great idea – thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. March 13, 2017 / 7:24 pm

    Great post and all so true! Totally agree with the friendship bit & school. Girls are a nightmare and there’s always a drama. A very good friend of mine literally counted every day down when her 2 were at Secondary she loathed every day with a passion!

    • March 14, 2017 / 9:39 am

      Oh Sharon your poor friend! I have one about to finish secondary school and it has been a relatively stress free experience. My daughter is in the relatively early stages, she is happy with her lot so to speak but as you say there is always a drama – it is a girls school so bound to be a hotbed of angst really. x

  5. March 13, 2017 / 5:51 pm

    If only they didn’t have to go through this stage! But then they wouldn’t learn to become fabulous adults would they. I remember it all so well. That needing to fit it, the cool gang, pressure to conform and being pushed out. If only they could realise that when you get to our age none of it matters. I couldn’t be less bothered about fitting in now or being in the cool gang! We have been so blessed up until now to have been surrounded by lovely girls. A few dodgy parents but hey you can’t have it all ways! I know this will change as the huge secondary school approaches and I hope I do as well as you seem to have done. So far we have a very rounded kid. Great post #TweensTeensBeyond
    Nicky Kentisbeer recently posted…I’m Now In The Study With A PaintbrushMy Profile

  6. March 12, 2017 / 2:15 pm

    This is such an insightful post. My kids aren’t quite teens yet, but I feel some of these issues brewing already, especially with friendships and appearance. I’ve never read anything so refreshing, which makes me feel I can do this!! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • March 12, 2017 / 3:17 pm

      Oh thank you! I am so glad I have managed to make someone feel positive about teens and the teenage years! Result! Thank you so much for joining us for our first link-up. #TweensTeensBeyond

  7. March 11, 2017 / 5:20 pm

    I feel for our kids as there seems to be far more pressures and things for them to worry about in this world of social media. It also depends on their personality doesn’t it, as I have 3 very different children, two of whom don’t really seem to worry about much at all – long may it continue, I agree we must really make our children feel that they are being listened to properly, so that they want to share any worries that they have. #tweensteensandbeyond

    • March 12, 2017 / 12:46 pm

      I envy those with a carefree attitude, it must be fabulous to have that in your house to help balance out any stresses that do appear. Thanks for commenting and for joining our first link-up. #TweensTeensBeyond

  8. March 10, 2017 / 4:26 pm

    I think the not trivialising things is important for me to remember and apply. Just because I know that “this too shall pass” doesn’t make it any less of a thing for my teen, who doesn’t know that yet!
    Such a helpful post! Thank you!

    • March 12, 2017 / 12:45 pm

      It is so easy for us all to do that though and I am definitely guilty of it sometimes. I am reminded of it a lot today as my daughter has her drama exam this afternoon and has said “I am worried mum” so many times over the last few days. Each time I treat it like I have never heard her say those words before! Thanks for commenting.

  9. March 10, 2017 / 12:29 pm

    I loved how you talked about not trivialising the problem or dismissing it. It is so important that our children feel not only heard but listened to! Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉
    An imperfect mum (Catie) recently posted…Friday Focus: Spring is comingMy Profile

    • March 10, 2017 / 12:56 pm

      Yes I totally agree Catie, listening is a such a big part of parenting and it is so easy to overlook that. Thanks for commenting #ablogginggoodtime

  10. March 10, 2017 / 10:14 am

    What a brilliant summary Jo, you have got all the bases covered here. I’ve got three girls and I know exactly what you mean about the emotional complexity of their relationships. I have learned to try and keep out of the dramas as much as I can these days! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • March 10, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      Yes I don’t know why girls have to be quite so hysterical and emotional but they are. My poor husband really gets it sometimes if he doesn’t understand, lucky for him he just has the one daughter! #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. March 10, 2017 / 3:53 am

    Wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more that there is way too much stress on young people today. There are too many standardized tests in high school and intense pressure to get top grades. Today I saw one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve cried on and off all day. A young woman barely out of her teens (only 20 years old) jumped from a highway bridge near my town this morning and was hit by a car and died. I got there right after it happened. I was only a few feet away from her in my car. She was laying facedown on the pavement with cars swerving around her. I kept wondering what happened to this poor girl to push her to such a point of utter despair. I keep wondering what would have happened if I had gotten there earlier. Could I have taken her hand and talked her down? I’m sure I would have tried. We all need to hug our kids today and tell them how much we love them. #mg
    Over the Hill Mom recently posted…Are Repairs Throwing a Wrench in Your Plans?My Profile

    • March 10, 2017 / 12:53 pm

      Oh Debbie, that is so tragic and a deeply traumatic thing to have witnessed. It is heartbreaking to think that someone so young would think she has no-one to turn to and must resort to such drastic action. One of my biggest fears would be that my teens felt they could not turn to me in an hour of need. Thank you so much for your comment and I hope you recover from the shock. #mg

  12. March 9, 2017 / 9:27 pm

    I’m already worried about the worrying, and I have a good ten years or so to go until this stage! There is so much pressure on teenagers, I have seen it first hand with my teenage siblings and it can really affect their mental health if it gets out of hand. Such a great and helpful post to any parent of teens.
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub
    MMT recently posted…#coolmumclub Linky week 59My Profile

    • March 10, 2017 / 1:04 pm

      Yes it is so important to handle the worry correctly and carefully from the outset so that it doesn’t develop into anything greater. It is all about putting it in perspective. Thanks for commenting. #coolmumclub

  13. March 9, 2017 / 9:08 pm

    My eldest is thirteen next and month and I agree with all of this. I hate that he worries about these things but I also know that at the same age, so did I. It’s just harder now with social media and the internet and so much pressure!! #coolmumclub
    five little doves recently posted…Why we chose not to announce our pregnancyMy Profile

    • March 10, 2017 / 1:03 pm

      It seems like history just has a habit of repeating itself, but as I said for them at the time that one worry is monumental and mustn’t be dismissed or trivialised. It is tough this parenting malarkey sometimes. Thanks for commenting. #coolmumclub

    • March 10, 2017 / 1:00 pm

      It would be wonderful if we could just make all these worries go away wouldn’t it but listening and guiding is all part of the job of motherhood. Thanks for commenting. #coolmumclub

  14. March 9, 2017 / 4:45 pm

    I think the best piece of advice to give anyone with teens is to listen to them, and more importantly let them know that you’re prepared to listen to them. My eldest spills everything out to me, my youngest spills out very little. But he knows I’m there to listen if he decides he wants to change that. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • March 10, 2017 / 1:06 pm

      Absolutely listening is the key to most things with everybody but particularly with teens. Thanks for commenting. #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. March 9, 2017 / 3:25 pm

    I am already not looking forward to the teenage years (she’s 3 months so I have a little while haha) and reading this reminded me of the reasons why. I struggled as a teen trying desperately to fit in and I think I could have used a bit more support at home – so I’m going to use this to keep in mind how I can help her when she’s older. Great insight, thank you #coolmumclub

    • March 10, 2017 / 1:08 pm

      It is interesting how our own childhood/teenhood experiences shape us isn’t it and teach us how we might approach things differently. The teenage years are definitely there to be treasured. Thanks for your lovely comment. #coolmumclub

  16. March 9, 2017 / 7:06 am

    This is a valuable post as a mother to twin tweens. There are a still a few years till they hit their teens but I already see the obsession with friends and peer pressure. I am going to need a double dose of patience to handle their worries.
    Obsessivemom recently posted…No space for vanityMy Profile

    • March 9, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      Thank you for your comment, I am glad you found it useful. Twins! You will indeed have your hands full but it must keep you on your toes for sure! x

  17. March 9, 2017 / 1:04 am

    Thank you so much for the lovely comments about my letting go post. I am so glad you found it resonated with you and helped you. As you know I will soon be a mummy to a teen, she will be 13 in May, and started high school in February this year. So far she is doing really well both socially and academically, but she has noticed some girls being mean to others and that upsets her. She has such a sensitive nature and worries a lot for other people so I hope she doesn’t get too stressed about it all. She also has high hopes of being a Vet so I know in years to come she will put pressure on herself for great marks, it scares me! We are extremely close so I am hoping the bond we have will mean she can keep the communication open as she grows. I know my mum and I were close but still I found it hard to share things with her as a teen, so we will see. I love your posts and find them so helpful. Thank you for sharing this with #mg Have a beautiful week xx
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…Are you living fearlessly authentic? #mg Link UpMy Profile

    • March 9, 2017 / 2:58 pm

      There are so many extra pressures with secondary school that is not surprising our tweens and teens experience some stress but with supportive parents it is at least more manageable. It is great that you have such a close tie with your daughter, that will definitely count for a lot going forward. Your instagram posts of all your pets is a clue that you are an animal loving family! It is great that she knows so clearly what she want to do with her future. Thank you for dropping by and commenting. #mg

  18. March 8, 2017 / 10:50 am

    Great post! I know both my teens worry about all of these. I love one paragraph of this post as it’s something I really believe and honestly sometimes need a reminder of and that is …
    I may have been there, I may have got the t-shirt, but that doesn’t mean that I have all the answers and I need to be careful not to trivialise my teens’ concerns with dismissive comments of assurance that they are worrying about nothing and everything will be fine. That just doesn’t wash. Even if I have heard the same worry emerge from their mouths before, the important thing is always for them to feel that each and every time it is unique both to them and me.
    #TeensTweensBeyond

    • March 8, 2017 / 10:11 pm

      Oh thank you Sharon I am glad it resonated! It is great to have you on board for the first linky – do keep coming back. #TweensTeensBeyond

  19. March 8, 2017 / 6:21 am

    Thanks very much for this! I was aware of all these worries in theory, but they haven’t reached our house yet! I have two teenagers, aged 15 and 13 (so still a long way to go!), and they’re both boys. None of this applies to them! Boys just seem to be a lot easier going. However, my daughter is nearly 11, so I’m sure this stuff will be on my radar at some point.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…Buying my daughter’s birthday presentsMy Profile

    • March 8, 2017 / 10:03 am

      Yes boys are definitely a lot more laid back for sure, but my eldest definitely does his fair share of worrying – normally around exam time. Thanks for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  20. March 8, 2017 / 2:34 am

    so many pressures. Ours has really struggled with anxiety issues since starting high school. Great post, I wish it was easier to get them to realize that so little of what they are worrying about is going to matter to them in the future #tweens/teens
    jeremy@thirstydaddy recently posted…A Parent’s Very First JobMy Profile

    • March 8, 2017 / 10:02 am

      High school is when the pressure seems to really hit and even though my eldest is about to finish and I have been through the same anxieties with him, I forgot with my youngest what a big step up it is. I hope the anxiety levels start to even out in your house soon. Thanks for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  21. March 7, 2017 / 5:41 pm

    Since worrying seems to be my main job as a mother, I spend an awful lot of time obsessing about the stress that my daughter faces in this strange, rapid-fire world we live in. Mainly I worry about the school situation and whether the system that we are in isn’t just a recipe for a generation of mental ill-health. We tend to respond to this by trying to be mindful of the fact that life doesn’t fit into neat little boxes, especially those devised by the Minister for Education and the National Curriculum. Sometimes life happens in spite of these!
    Nice post. Enjoyable read!

    • March 8, 2017 / 10:12 am

      Alisa, you are so right worrying is a big part of the mother job too isn’t it? I worry constantly whilst simultaneously trying to persuade my teens not to. Thanks for your comment and for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  22. March 7, 2017 / 2:29 pm

    I find as long as I’m there at the end of the day for my teen to vent off to the stresses soon fade away. I’m lucky in some respects, Hollie is a strong confident teen, her views of the world are strong and she has great morals when it comes to equality. Never takes anyone on face value and I’m very proud of that ! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • March 7, 2017 / 4:12 pm

      Wow she sounds like a very confident young lady and a force to be reckoned with. That is fantastic. Like you I make a point of being there at the end of the day and our family mealtimes are when everyone gets to share and offload any stresses. Thanks so much for linking up. #TweensTeensBeyond

  23. March 7, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    New studies seem to be coming out weekly, showing that teens’ stress levels are rising. I’m not surprised when I see the way they work their social media accounts, but when I say this to my daughters, they shrug and say it’s not stressful being constantly on line because that is normal to them. You highlight some really good areas where teens can struggle. We’ve been fairly lucky with friendship groups so far, but when daughter 2 hit a problem last year with her friendship group, it was incredibly stressful. Girls are a nightmare in this regard. I have one doing A levels and one doing GCSE’s this year, so stress levels are going to rocket any time soon. Wish me luck! Alison x #TweensTeensBeyond
    Alison (MadHouseMum) recently posted…Women on fleekMy Profile

    • March 7, 2017 / 4:17 pm

      Oh Alison one doing A’levels is enough, you will need a strong constitution and nerves of steel to get through A’s and GCSE’s simultaneously. My youngest in Year 9 has started some of the GCSE syllabus already and is stressing now 3 years too early – I am glad she will be home alone revising for those when her time comes, as can imagine it will be a tough. Thanks for joining us the first linky. #TweensTeensBeyond

  24. March 7, 2017 / 11:21 am

    Oh the worry of being a teen – you’re so right about the friendship issue being one of the biggest concerns for teens – I find that when the friendship group is settled with my girls they definitely more settled in themselves. It’s important that the lines of communication are kept open at all times and the rock of the family unit is crucial, I find, in keeping that balance of everything being OK. Raising teens has most definitely been the most challenging and emotional of all the stages so far but, as you say, so joyful – what a rollercoaster?! Great linky! #TweensTeensBeyond
    justsayingmum recently posted…This Social Media World I’m InMy Profile

    • March 7, 2017 / 4:21 pm

      It seems that it is the same small group of worries. I agree on the friendship issue, even if my own are unsettled at any point my world feels out of kilter so with teens it is easy to understand how it disturbs them so much. My daughter just reads so much into every scenario, that is what I find so intriguing whereas my son just brushes things off – although he does love a good gossip over dinner about all the girl feuds at her school. Thanks for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  25. Daydreamer Mum
    March 7, 2017 / 11:07 am

    This is a great post. I just hope I am a listening ear, even if they don’t listen to my advice!! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • March 7, 2017 / 4:14 pm

      Yes I agree, sometimes I am sure my advice falls on deaf ears but at least we have thrashed it out and discussed it and sometimes that can make a huge difference on its own. Thanks for linking up. #TweensTeensBeyond

  26. Nige
    March 7, 2017 / 10:32 am

    I agree it’s no different to when I was teenager same worries to a point but today add in social media and think sometimes the worry for teenagers is tougher having had 5 children three in the teenage years I agree girls it’s harder without a doubt super post thanks for hosting #tweensteensbeyond

    • March 7, 2017 / 4:25 pm

      Oh Nigel you are a voice of experience for sure, I will be looking to you for some advice as my daughter is only on the beginning of her teenage journey and already it is a lot more dramatic than with my son! Thanks so much for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  27. March 7, 2017 / 10:24 am

    I can totally relate to this, currently going through the ‘Friends’ and ‘Appearance’ talks. Really well written, thank you 🙂 Natalie x

    • March 7, 2017 / 4:26 pm

      Oh I empathise those are without doubt the two toughest areas to tackle for sure as they are wrapped up in so much emotion. Thanks for joining us for the first linky. #TweensTeensBeyond

  28. March 7, 2017 / 12:18 am

    This is so true. I have looked back at my teenage years and wished I hadn’t worried so much—it seems so pointless now. But I guess it is part of life, and hopefully you guide them through it!!
    jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • March 7, 2017 / 8:53 am

      Well as they say the things you worry about the most never seem to happen and that is just as true when you are older as well as a teenager. Thanks for commenting. Jo x

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