While child psychology has shown that teenagers are at the stage in their development where they may feel invincible or fearless, we also know that teenagers have some very real, very legitimate fears. As parents, we can’t always protect our kids, but perhaps if we can better understand what teens fear most in the complicated world of 2019, we can arm them with a stronger sense of self that will serve them into adulthood. So what are the 10 things teens fear most?
1. Peer Pressure/Not Fitting In
One of the most difficult parts of adolescence is navigating the complex social life as a teenager. Teens can often feel peer pressured into engaging in more adult behaviors like experimenting with sex and drugs. In a survey from Stage of Life, 40% of teens reported fearing peer pressure. The angst of not fitting in could easily lead to feelings of increased anxiety and depression. Roberto Rodriguez, 17, reveals that his biggest fear in life is “honestly, the feeling of being left out, like, by my friends”.
While some teens become sexually active, others are afraid to. Unfortunately, sex education is woefully inadequate in the US. Parents need to be available to discuss sex with their teenager, because talking about or the act of sex often makes them feel embarrassed or ashamed. Teens who manage to avoid sex typically do so out of a fear of parental, peer, cultural, or religious disapproval. It’s a difficult subject for many parents to broach, but if you learn how to talk with your teen about sex, it will ensure that if they do become sexually active, they’ll be safe and comfortable when it happens.
Whether it’s tests, auditions, dating, or life in general, teens fear failure. Many simply don’t want to disappoint their parents, friends, teachers, or themselves. Fear of failure is a pervasive emotion for teenagers
4. Climate Change
This year at DAVOS, Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg pleaded her generation’s worry over the plight of climate change to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Teens all over the world fear the inevitable effects of climate change going into the third decade of the century. Recent studies show that in the UK and other parts of Europe, teens fear climate change as much as they do terrorism. American teens share those fears since they will be expected to solve the crisis.
5. Money (Poverty)
For most people, the economic climate of 2019 is precarious at best. Teens, even those who aren’t in the workforce, have seen and felt the effects of the rising costs of living coupled with stagnant wages. Many of them have witnessed it with their parents. Financial issues can be a huge trigger for a lot of people’s anxiety and depression. 56.4% of teens surveyed by Stage of Life expressed that trying to earn enough money for themselves or their families is high on their list of fears. Some teens worry about poverty, and rightfully so, given the nearly 2 million homeless youth in the US. Parents and teens should take steps to learn more about financial anxiety and how to better cope with it.
6. The Future/Growing Up
Today’s teens worry about a lot more than the hottest new song or going to prom. Aside from real quagmires like climate change and social revolution, teens fear an uncertain future. They’re still dreaming of college, life after graduation and their career paths but they fear what’s beyond the comfort of their teenage years. Adulting is hard, and they know it. If you can recall being a teenager yourself, allay their fears with some parental words of wisdom.
Bullying is no longer limited to schoolyard scuffles. Now, contemporary teens must worry about bullying in the real world and online. A 2018 Pew Research study found that 59% of US teens have been bullied or harassed online. Cyberbullying has become a growing problem due
8. Lost Identity
Teenagers are generally in a hurry to grow up. On the cusp of adulthood, they tend to struggle with finding themselves during this formative time. From what we know about the teenage brain, teens lose their pre-adolescent self, so they’re in desperate need of a new identity. How many of us knew exactly who we were at 15? While many of our personality traits don’t fully evolve until later as adults, many teens are torn between knowing who they want to be and finding who they really are, including exploring their gender identity and/or sexuality.
These are dangerous times we live in. There has been an increase in bullying, assaults, school shootings, and other violent acts perpetrated across the US in recent years, and teens are afraid. These teens shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when just getting an education is difficult enough. So, as parents become increasingly concerned for their teens’ safety and politicians endlessly debate America’s ongoing gun problem, teens are fed up and they may have a solution.
If there’s one fear that teens can agree on, it’s being
Dealing With Teens’ Fears
Whatever your teen’s fears are, they can be overcome. If you listen to what they’re afraid of, validate their fears (don’t dismiss them or you risk losing their trust), and come up with a solution together, they’ll be more apt to talk to you in the future when they need your parental guidance.
What do you think of this list? What are some of your teens’ fears? What are some of your fears for your teens? We want to include parents and teens alike in this conversation to learn even more about what teens fear most in 2019. See you in the comments.