This writer has a home outside of Philadelphia that was once owned by a motion picture director of minor note named Irvin “Shorty” Yeaworth. Yeaworth became known for producing the early sci-fi hit the “Blob” in 1958 but two years earlier he produced a movie about how confusing life was for those between 12 and 20 titled “The Flaming Teenage.”

The NPR program of March 26 is titled “How to Better Understand Teenagers.” Moderator Jenn White informs us at the outset that the appellation “Teenager” did not exist until the 1940s. The title came about as America adopted laws mandating full time school enrollment and limiting work opportunities for children. In so doing we created young people with time on their hands that had not existed. In 18th and 19th century America children worked either on farm or in factory and attended school when they could.

Today’s program which is available through National Public Radio featured teenagers and experts who study them. It was a fascinating exploration, one which every parent of a teenager should devote an hour to hear. Yes, you have a teenager under roof and they can be really annoying when they are not fully engaged in an average of 9 hours of daily screen time. But as one caller admitted, she did not even know how to engage with her teenage child because everything today is perceived as an interruption.

But if you listen to this program you will probably find that modern teens are both very interesting and VERY stressed. Most parents don’t care to hear much about this. They have their own stress, much of it associated with the high cost of RAISING TEENAGERS. What many parents don’t realize is how kids will feel their parent’s stress. As I used to tell clients, “If you are a child, your full time job is managing and manipulating your parents except for the six hours you are in school.”

Most parents perceive their children as having an easy life. The NPR program highlights how different childhood has become in an electronic age, both for better and for worse. Their stresses are quite different than those of us who grew up before personal computers and the internet. It has changed entirely again in the last 12 years as social media has infiltrated nearly every home in America. It seems that part of what separates us from teenagers and their associated stress is that we didn’t have to cope with these forces when we were their age. They are bombarded with communications of all kinds; informative, wasteful, friendly and in some cases highly threatening. They are not apt to share that experience with their parents. Candidly, we didn’t do that with our parents either. Teens are trying to forge adult identities. And, as we know, that means child expressed viewpoints and adult interactions that can be both dumbfounding and highly concerning to parents.

To this writer, who chose not to have kids, it was interesting to listen to the children interviewed talk about their anxieties. Needless to say, if you knock on your kid’s bedroom and ask about “anxieties” you are going to probably get a weird response. But I suspect that if you did succeed in such a mission, what you would hear would echo what was said on the radio today.

This ties into the business of separation and divorce. Kids don’t know how to handle these things with rare exceptions. They have conflicting loyalties even in settings where they have “issues” with one or both parents.  They typically don’t want to choose between parents. They also don’t want to be any parent’s “best friend” although lawyers will tell you how many times they have had to wince their way through a custody trial while their client professes that their 12 year old is as close a friend as the adult has. Teens often graft on to step-parents or significant others, especially if those folks telegraph an understanding that they are not the kid’s parent. The core issue here is that at a time when adolescent children are trying to claim center stage to show their growth toward adulthood, that stage is often co-opted by a custody battle kids neither want nor need.

The podcast is here:

If you want to re-visit the history of teenage problems, the 1956 movie is here: . The good news is that illicit drug use is not on the rise but according to the National Institute of Health 31% of graduating seniors report having used in the past year.

This is really not new. Socrates also had some attitude about the situation 22 centuries ago. “The children…love luxury…have bad manners, contempt for authority. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when an elder enters the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company…and tyrannize their teachers.”