The Teenage Years Growing up is a hard process, especially for those who are experiencing their adolescent years. Everyone who has gone through this process agrees that these years have been some of the most awkward and strangest years of their lives; the ‘teen years’ is a period of time in which the majority of people tend to have rebellious and irresponsible behavior, where it’s easy to feel isolated and where everything bad that happens is the “end of the world”.
Teenagers seem to hate everything around them; they seem to always “know what’s best” and to think of adults as fake and annoying due to their beliefs and their way of speaking. On the other hand, many adults do not know how to communicate to teenagers because they have lost a certain understanding of what it’s like to be a teen. In this paper we will discuss some of the different problems that adolescence can cause and what teenager’s feelings can be by analyzing the behavior and situation of Holden Caulfield, the main character of The Catcher in the Rye, written by J. D.
Salinger. To begin with, this essay will concentrate on the difficulties that teenagers can have while trying to gain a sense of belonging in society and, simply, trying to fit in with a group of friends while fighting their feelings of being excluded and different from those around them. We will then discuss in detail, the link between depression with teens and the use of alcohol and drugs. Finally, we will explain why it is so important for teens to have a healthy relationship with their family and for the family to be supportive and to openly communicate with their children.
A great way to define adolescence is to call it a ‘state of confusion’ or a blur of emotions and anxiety of various issues or problems. One of the most common feelings that teenagers have is that feeling of not fitting in, whether it be society, school or their family, the issue lies on the fact that they do not know what they really want to do and what to believe in; teens are struggling to find their own identity and to separate right from wrong.
They tend to feel like no one is able to understand how they feel, what they’re going through or their way of seeing things, except for their friends, which is why a lot of teens distance themselves from their parents, for example. The problem with adolescents is that they are experiencing a period of time in their lives that represents the connection between their childhood and their adulthood, which makes things complicated for them. They ask for more freedom and independence in order to feel as if they are adults, yet they are not willing and are not ready to take on or accept many of the responsibilities that adults must deal with.
Due to the fact that teenagers are going through a certain maturity and growing process into adulthood, there are many changes, responsibilities and decisions that they have to face. A lot of the responsibilities and maturity that teens have to take on is due to school, where they are told every day that they must figure out their future, like knowing where to go to college or find a career. A lot of teenagers, especially guys, have problems with balancing their want of being cool and in doing well in school.
Due to the fact that guys try to be “cool” in front of others by wanting to show off that they are strong and superior to everyone else, many of them do not care about their grades and, often, disrespect their teachers in front of the class. This behavior, in some cases, turns into serious bullying, which is characterized by violent behaviors towards classmates. It is proven that certain bullies at school have a higher chance of joining gangs, due to their violent and malicious behavior.
In fact, the number of gangs in schools has greatly increased, “The percent of students reporting street gang presence at school nearly doubled between 1989 and 1995, increasing from 15. 3% to 28. 4%” (soundvidion. com), and these numbers are only getting higher. Another reason as to why adolescents often do not perform well in school is that they are not interested in what they are studying; they are forced to go to school, even if they do not want to, and so they are less motivated in knowing and learning what they are being taught.
Teens also have a lot of problems with teachers, as well as some parents, who they perceive as too strict, “annoying” and “old school”. Throughout the novel, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield represents a teenager with many of the same views and issues that are mentioned above. Holden is one of those ‘typical’ teenagers who believe that no one else in the world can understand their feelings or are going through the same thing. He does not have any real friends because he does not like anyone and his family doesn’t seem to understand him or know how to help him.
Holden is a high-school student and he does not believe that school is going to help him in his life; he thinks that it’s phony and useless and therefore, he has no motivation to do well with his studies. Despite being a sharp guy, he was expelled from one school and is going to be expelled from another one because he is failing in all his subjects. Holden’s general idea towards his teachers is that most of them all just “act like teachers” and this reflects the way a lot of teens today think. Due to Holden’s anger and ‘hatred’ towards everything and everyone around him leads to isolation from the rest of the world.
Many adolescents share Holden’s feelings towards life and, sadly, the most common way of escaping from this situation and trying to feel better, is by using alcohol and drugs. This is probably the most frequent and serious problem that teenagers have in society today. Due to the fact that most teens are susceptible to peer pressure and a general lack of experience and knowledge, it is much easier for a teenager to follow the bad examples of society, which are usually more ‘appealing’ and exciting, as well as easy to do.
The “bad guys”, especially if they are older or popular, can easily and strongly influence teenagers who have a, generally, low self esteem. The ‘cooler’ guys look like they are the ones that can help them and accept them, therefore, teenagers do not see or even want to consider the risks and consequences to their actions if it means that they can become ‘popular’ and accepted. Alcohol is the number one drug used by teenagers because it is the easiest to find, the cheapest and because it is not seen as a dangerous drug.
According to a study made by the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), only considering the United States of America, three million kids that are between the ages of fourteen and seventeen are regular drinkers and showed to have alcohol problems. The study also proves that forty percent of teenagers who start to drink before they are 15 years old, will become alcoholics at some point in their lives (about. com).
Alcohol is often used to “solve” problems and as a sort of ‘quick fix’, in fact “more than 40% of teens who admitted drinking said they drink when they are upset” (soundvision. com) and as a way to have fun, proven by the fact that “25% said they drink to get high” (soundvision. com). Finally, teenagers seem to see alcohol as something that makes them look more mature, which helps them to be accepted by others. In fact, in many cases teenagers feel peer pressured to drink by other teens, because if they do not drink they would be considered as ‘losers’.
It also helps, for example, shy guys to open up with girls and to do things that they would not be willing to do if they were sober. The problem is that teenagers forget that alcohol, as well as other many other drugs that are used by adolescents, may not show immediate side effects, but frequently lead to some sort of permanent damage. Teenagers, who use drugs as a way of escaping their problems, are at a much higher risk of becoming depressed.
Being depressed can only aggravate the situation, resulting to these teenagers closing themselves off from the outside world and becoming more and more distant with their family and friends. This can generate a vicious cycle which only makes it harder to stop using that specific drug, it actually does the opposite, making these teens feel as though they can only turn to the drug to escape their newly found depression. Depression can lead to a variety of other problems such as, lack of self-esteem, increase in the use of alcohol and drugs and even eating disorders.
Eating disorders affect both guys and girls, but tend to be a more common and serious issue among girls. Young girls today are largely influenced by the media who constantly say that in order to be beautiful, you must be thin, which can only hurt the self-esteem and body image that these teens have of themselves, especially during a period of time when their bodies are changing and it is easy to gain some weight. Eating disorders can vary anywhere from anorexia, to bulimia or obesity.
Studies have shown that “one out of every 100 young women between 10-20 years old is starving herself, sometimes to death”, “Approximately 1-2% of late adolescent or adult women suffer from bulimia”, and “15% of American teen girls and nearly 14% of teen boys are obese” (sad. org). Although different, all of these eating disorders are extremely dangerous, in terms of health, and are hard to overcome. Many teenagers, as mentioned before, experience depression in various ways, but it is only in the most severe cases where depression can lead to suicide.
Unfortunately, many teenagers decide to end their lives at a young age, due to the pressures that they feel concerning school, friends or family. The number of teenage suicides is scary, according to a survey made by the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center “almost 1 in 5 teens had thought about suicide, about 1 in 6 teens had made plans for suicide, and more than 1 in 12 teens had attempted suicide in the last year” (teendepression. org).
Growing up and becoming a young adult is never easy and, sadly, a lot of teenagers feel as though they cannot overcome the pressures and obstacles that are thrown their way, which leads to so many young people ending their lives all too soon. In order to overcome any sort of depressive state, teenagers need the support of their families, whether they are willing to admit it or not. In a period of their lives, characterized by the presence of many changes and affected by social, physical and academic influences, family has to be seen as a safe place by teenagers.
These teens need a place where they can be themselves, speak about what they are interested in, say what they think without feeling as though they are being judged and gain advice and insight for any problem that they might be having. Parents must understand that this particular period of time for their kids can be very difficult and that they need to do everything they can to try and be helpful by listening to them and understanding their needs instead of simply disagreeing on everything and always thinking they are right.
A good way for parents to do this is to communicate more by having serious conversations with their kids, asking them their opinions on important topics, in order to make them feel important and involved in family decisions. Parents should also give responsibilities to their kids but, at the same time, understand the fact that they can make mistakes and, sometimes, do silly things. When a teenager makes a mistake, punishment is not always the best solution because sometimes it can only create hostility and anger rather than acceptance and understanding of the poor choices that were made.
Being open and communicative as well as supportive is what really helps adolescents to mature into confident, independent and healthy adults. The importance of family guidance and support for teenagers is evident throughout the novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Holden’s parents are successful and have very good jobs which mean that they are always very busy and distant with him. Due to the fact that they do not spend much time with their son, Holden’s parents do not really know him and simply believe that they are always right and that he is just a trouble maker.
This is a very common mistake that parents make, especially for those who concentrate too much on their careers and do not considering family as the first priority. Often times, in these specific situations, parents become too materialistic because it is easier for them to just spend money on a present instead of finding the time to spend with their kids. This usually leads to very distance relationships between the parents and their kids, which makes the growing process much harder on the kids and increases their likelihood of making many wrong decisions that can have a negative impact on their lives in the future.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden’s mother sends him a present, which is a package containing a new pair of skates. While packing his bags before having to leave school, from which he was expelled from, Holden opens the box and sees that the ice skates are not the ones that he would like and that he cannot use them; his feelings in this scene are evident from what he says, “She bought me the wrong kind of skates–I wanted racing skates and she bought hockey–but it made me sad anyway. Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad. (J. D Salinger, 28). Clearly, he appreciates the fact that his mom gave him a present, but the present shows that his mom does not know him. His words allow the reader to understand that he would have preferred a different present or, more importantly, attention or even a visit from his parents. He also feels bad about receiving a present when he has just been expelled from school because he thinks that he does not deserve it. Often teenagers and parents do not agree on a lot of things, maybe even on anything.
The reason for this is usually due to control; “Adolescents want to feel in control of their lives, and parents want adolescents to know the parents still make the rules” (merckmanuals. com). In these cases, the parents must choose what is worth fighting for and what is not; they should push their kids to perform at their best in school, respect their responsibilities, and to not conform or crumble under peer pressure (merckmanuals. com). This kind of relationship between parents and teenagers is very hard to establish in cases such as Holden’s family, where the parents and their kids are not close at all.
In conclusion, the teenage years are some of the toughest and most challenging years of one’s life and are some of the most influential as well. These are the years where young teens begin to grow and mature into the adults they will become, and so it is crucial for families to be supportive and encouraging in order to guide their child in the right direction for a successful, healthy and promising future. Teenagers are constantly evolving and changing because they are trying to better find and understand themselves; everyone wants to fit in to a certain degree, but also stand out and be different at the same time.
The key is for teenagers to be productive and open with their family and friends, so they avoid that dangerous feeling of being isolated and outcaste. Being young and impressionable has as many disadvantages as it has advantages, this is a stage in people’s lives where the most important factor is to learn how to avoid the dangers that society has to offer and to take advantage of this time in order to become someone who has something to offer and contribute to society in the future. Work Cited “Statistics on Teens. Islamic Information & Products – SoundVision. com Home! Bureau of Justice Statistics, U. S. Department of Justice, 1995. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. . Category, By. “Teens and Alcohol Don’t Mix – Alcohol Awareness Month. ” Alcoholism – The Alcoholism Home Page. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), 2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. . “Statistics on Teens. ” Islamic Information & Products – SoundVision. com Home! U. S. Surgeon General, 1991. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. . “SADD Statistics. ” Welcome to SADD.
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