Are teenage dreams so hard to beat? The first line of the Undertones’ 1978 anthemic hit ‘Teenage Kicks’ conjures up a sense of living for the excitement of now and believing in what can really happen. It’s mainly about a teenage relationship, but that first line and the driving beat are a real hook.
For many teenagers the summer is a time of change – from school, to college, to work, to university. The time when another world opens up with all the possibilities of new friendships, doing different things, and yes, taking a few risks. But this summer is rather different.
The beach trips, first holidays abroad without mum and dad, the Leeds and Reading Festivals, the fun choosing the items for university and the nervous anxiety about whether it will all be OK when you get there. The start of college, the first job, moving to live in a flat share. The essential rites of passage that come with later adolescence. Although some of these will still happen, the current mood is one of uncertainty. It may be sunny outside, but there is a dark cloud over the lives of many young people, if we look at recently published research evidence that points to significant concern about the mental health of young people as a result of lockdown. A time of eagerly anticipated independence, and realising those teenage dreams, has been replaced for some by staying at home, not going out and seeing plans and opportunities put on hold or even drift away.
Much of our safeguarding guidance in recent weeks has rightly been focused on spotting concerns about our older, or more vulnerable church members. This column has also focused on the increased prevalence of domestic abuse. So this is a reminder that our young people may have been impacted in ways that we can’t easily see or appreciate. Our adult life experiences often prepare us for the bumps and knocks of things not quite working out as planned, but for young people whose dreams of who and what they want to be are so powerful, a firm push back can have a dramatic effect. A life’s ambition thwarted, a goal that can’t be achieved, that potential draining away. In this period of annual change, which is wired into our DNA through school, and church, let’s try to recognise when our young people are hurting.
Bounce back is of course possible – we know about changing course, seeing a different angle, and of course in church life, having faith. But the amazing and creative turbulence of being young and in the moment, takes some beating as the Undertones sang. If you want a blast you can access it on Spotify or Youtube.