We hear so much about teen health gone wrong from the popular media that I am afraid we forget to acknowledge the majority of the adolescents who are doing well. Even on Teen Health 411 a quick scan will net topics such as HPV, herpes, eating disorders, suicide, and bullying - not a healthy portrait of the “typical American teen,” I dare say.
How often do you hear about a student doing well in school, playing a sport, being involved in music or community service, who is popular, healthy, gets along well with his or her family, and has nice friends. I am not talking about the athletes of the week, or the child prodigy violinists, or national award winners. I am talking about run-of-the-mill teenagers – the ones we see riding their bikes, walking their dogs, coaching little league, volunteering at the library or working at our local retail stores.
Not every teen is an eating disorder or reproductive health crisis waiting to happen. In my humble opinion, teens are truly remarkable, even magical human beings. They are in the prime of their biological health, have expanding cognitive abilities, as well as unending enthusiasm and passion about big issues including the environment, world peace, animal rights, and global health. Teens are multiple faceted human beings, and in the best of all worlds, they being guided by the adults in their lives toward productive and fulfilling careers, relationships, and roles in their communities.
Every successful teen deserves our respect, admiration, and support. I wish every one of them could be told how much we appreciate them for who they are and that we know they are more than the sum total of their hormones and risk behaviors. If you find yourself in the presence of a teenager today – say something nice about a skill they have or a personality trait that you admire. They may look at you a little oddly, but I bet they remember what you say, or even give you a smile – which makes you special, too.