Sweet Sixteen

It’s not easy being sixteen. It’s a time of conflicting feelings and desires. You want to go out and have fun, have a social life, have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, maybe start a serious relationship. At the same time, important public exams are clouding the horizon and your school work is becoming more and more demanding. At home you want your parents to treat you like an adult yet you still depend on them for food and practical he elp. It’s also a time when friendships can be unstable as you experiment with your own self – image. You may feel a sense of loss as you drop your old friends or are yourself dropped by them. These feelings of pressure and conflict at school, at home and amongst your peers are not generally helped by those tactless adults who tell you to ‘make the most of the best years of your life because it’s all downhill after you leave sc chool’.
The fact is that 16 – year – olds today are a lot busier than those adults were 30 or 40 years ago. You seek your pleasures more actively and cram a lot more into your lives. You’re impossibly busy ( when you are not in on

ne of your well – earned Sunday morning comas ) trying to get homework done, revising for a science test, playing in a match, rehearsing for a play, looking for your best for your new boyfriend / girlfriend or going to a friend’s party. Many of you are trying to solve your constant money shortage by doing a part – time job. At the same time, your parent are suddenly expecting more help from you at home, with washing – up, babysitting and other domestic duties. You realize that you have to establish priorities, but you find it hard, especially when your parents want you to do it for you.
It is difference between your own and your parents’ priorities that make family life explosive wh hen you’re sixteen. Many parents don’t worry too much about whether their child is popular, having a good social life or going out with friends. Instead, they emphasise the importance of doing well at school and getting good exam results. You know that they’re right, up to a point – that you have to have qualification to get anywhere in this competitive world. But at the same time you realize that however brilliantly you do I your exams, you won’t be ha
appy if you haven’t got any friends. You also know that if you don’t collect new experiences and take social and emotional risks, you will not become an independent and self – reliant adult.
Sex can be another cause of conflict between 16 – year – olds and their parents. At the age of 16 it becomes legal in Britain for heterosexual to have sex. However, this legal milestone does not bring with it a sense of liberation for all teenagers. For those who are shy with the opposite sex and don’t have a boyfriend / girlfriend, it can actually cause a feeling of failure. Those who do want a sexual relationship face practical difficulties. Quite apart from a fairly prevalent fear of AIDS, there are very few 16 – year – olds whose parents allow them to bring their boyfriend / girlfriend home for the night.
What words of comfort or useful advice can give to teenagers? You, not your parents, must decide on your priorities even if you won’t always make the right choices. But try to keep your options open by balancing school work, social life, relationships and hobbies. Living with your parents won’t last forever. So, while you are with them make the most of not having to pa
ay electricity and heating bills. Enjoy having a fridge full of food and your laundry done for you. And remember being sixteen only lasts a year.

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