The Most Basic Needs of Teens

Most likely you or someone you know has had to deal with a distressed teenager at some time or another. Let’s face it; our American culture has taken its toll on the emotional health and well-being of our teens. They face pressures today that put them on the brink of emotional breakdown. Consider some of the most common stressors that lead to mental, emotional, and spiritual overload.

Divorce of parents/broken families
Breakup in a relationship with the opposite gender
Rejection from peers
Dissatisfaction with body size and shape
Lack of academic or athletic ability
Unhealthy friendships

The list could go on, but any one of the above pressures alone could drive a teen toward harmful behaviors and habits such as depression, anger, cutting, substance abuse, sexual activity, fear, defiance of authority, truancy, poor academics, and threats of suicide. When we read this alarming list, we react with urgency for our teens to find a way to stop these behaviors as quickly as possible, and rightfully so; they are destructive. But if we analyze the situation a bit further, we can conclude that this list is just a litany of symptoms representing a deeper problem.
Underlying all these symptoms (produced from life’s pressures) is a deep-seated need in every human being on the planet. It is not costly to meet this need. It is not difficult to provide (or shouldn’t be). It does not necessarily require the honed skill of a trained professional to infuse hope into struggling teens in order to turn them around. It is basic and simple but profoundly foundational to all people everywhere, and especially teenagers. What is this basic need? The need to be accepted.

Teens are in the unique stage of life in which the need to “fit in,” be accepted, or find some sort of social standing among their peers is paramount to their existence. Most teens will trade in their moral standards, family values, academic success, and even plain old common sense in order to win the ultimate prize of acceptance from their peers. It is vital for parents to recognize this need so they can help their teen through this stage of life. Parents must provide unconditional love, a listening ear, quality time, and meaningful communication to help bolster their teen’s need for acceptance. Parents must also provide boundaries, guidelines, and even punitive consequences when their teen violates a family policy. This provides a sense of security that helps define the family social structure of which the teenager is a part. Further, parents must be consistent in holding their teens accountable to these desired boundaries.

Article by Lamar Eifert
Associate Pastor | Valley Forge Baptist
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