This year, National Teenager Day falls on the same day as Incredible Kid Day – or rather Absolutely Incredible Kid Day – so parents and teens get to celebrate two novel holidays on one day: Thursday, March 21st, 2019.
You may ask yourself:
What is it with all these holidays? Who makes these things up?
Let’s just remind you of one thing: all holidays are made up.
Even New Year’s Day. Humans chose when to start counting days, after all. Yes, we use science-based solar calendars that do a good job keeping track of earth’s orbit around the sun. But most of you can remember enough history to know the Mayans had a calendar of their own, we derive our Gregorian calendar from its Roman predecessor the Julian calendar, and the calendar as we know it wasn’t formalized until around the 18th century.
All that to say this: let’s just enjoy them these days on the calendar we call holidays, no matter who invented them or when they first appeared.
This year, we encourage you to recognize that teens face issues and risks you never did. Coming of age in The Internet Era is tough. Teenagers deal with a constant barrage of input from social media that we never had to deal with. They may feel their entire life is under a microscope. We urge you to recognize that, but at the same time, we also don’t want you to feel like it’s impossible to relate to them. Don’t let the generation gap become an uncrossable abyss. Though there are significant differences, we want to repurpose a line from the great Maya Angelou for this occasion:
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalilke.”
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at this holiday.
What is National Teenager Day?
National Teenager day is a time to celebrate the teenagers in our life. It’s a day to recognize their accomplishments and acknowledge their challenges. A day to remind them that even though the teen years can be tough to navigate for everyone involved, we’re there for them and love them unconditionally.
Who exactly is the “we” we’re talking about?
It’s all of us. Parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, therapists, siblings, you name it: if a teen is in your life, take some time on National Teenager Day to give them props.
And why exactly are we giving teens props on National Teenager Day?
Because being a teenager is tough. There are lots of things going on in their brains and bodies. Let’s start with the physical changes, which can be summed up in one word: puberty. Remember that? Would any of you want to do that again? The hormones? The peer drama? The romantic drama?
What we’d really like to remind you of are the changes going on in your teenager’s brain. The amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions, develops ahead of the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational decision making. This development occurs throughout adolescence and can account for much of the behavior which teachers and parents find challenging.
For a thorough look at adolescent brain development that’s a quick and easy read, check out our blog post from last spring, Understanding Adolescent Development. We’ll summarize the key points of that article in the following list.
The Teenage Brain: What Changes During Adolescence
- Ethical and Moral Decision Making. Early teens learn to think abstractly, develop their own moral code, test limits, and choose personal role models. Late teens develop a refined sense of ethics, learn personal responsibility, and may stop testing limits and boundaries – or at least slow down.
- Independence and Emotions. Early teens may be moody, heavily influenced by peers, feel awkward in their bodies, and begin to demand more independence from their parents. Late teens will show signs of self-determination, real personal responsibility, and learn compromise and patience. Late teens often come back to their parents, in the figurative sense: there’s less conflict and door slamming.
- Sexuality. In the early teens, females develop physical and emotional sexuality more quickly than males. However, both early female and male teens may be shy, awkward, worry about their level of attractiveness, and jump in and out of romantic crushes quickly. They may begin to experiment with sexual activity. Late teens will develop a sexual identity, experience intense feelings of love or passion, and develop the capacity for mature, loving relationships with their romantic interests.
Is it all coming back to you now?
That’s what we meant earlier when we said there are lots of things going on – and we didn’t even talk about academic pressures, the choice of whether to go to college or not, and the impending specter of adulthood – a.k.a. the day you come home and the only things in the mailbox are bills, and they all have one name on them: yours.
How to Celebrate National Teenager Day
You don’t even have to celebrate, really. We advise having a heart-to-heart with your teen and reminding them that whether they realize it or not, you know what they’re going through, because you’ve been there. Sure, the 21st century is different. Your teenagers face things we never had to face. Social media and instant access to everything changes the game – we’d be naïve not to recognize that. But at the end of the day, we all went through every single developmental change listed above and lived to tell the story. Think of National Teenager Day as a time to reassure your teen you’re there to help get through these years healthy, happy, and in one piece. And most of all, you’re one hundred percent committed to doing whatever it takes to make them the best version of themselves they can be.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.