Culture's Messages About Teens

Challenging Cultural Myths and Embracing the Truths about Teenagers

Navigating adolescence in a world filled with expectations can be tricky. People often say teens should always be on the move, in great shape, and carefree. But what if these ideas aren't true? Forget the myths—let's talk about how we can give teens what they need. From dealing with feelings to facing challenges, it's time to set the record straight. Join us as we explore the truth about being a teenager. 

Culture says: Teens should be able to go-go-go and have #goodvibesonly. 

False: Teenagers need breaks. They need to feel their feelings. They need real friends who are also emotionally intelligent and able to handle feelings. You can start acknowledging and validating your preteen or teenager's feelings and equipping them with the skills they need 

to manage them appropriately. 


Culture says: Teens should be in the best shape of their life! 

False: It would be great if this were the case, but it’s not reality. Teen and preteen minds are changing rapidly during this season of hormones and growing bodies as they enter puberty. They are dealing with enormous amounts of stress and pressure as they balance school, social engagements, and the unknown future. Insecurity about changing bodies, not knowing quite what clothes fit best, still learning to do their hair and makeup, learning what diet is truly healthiest for them, and how to fit exercise into their already busy schedule is a heavy load. If they don’t have a rockin’ bod at 17, it does not mean they have missed the boat! Your teenager’s prime shape may come much later in life. There are unrealistic expectations around ideal body shapes and sizes that change with each generation. It's crucial to acknowledge and embrace the diversity of adolescent bodies. Unique and varying body shapes and sizes are not only normal but also natural. Understanding and appreciating these differences can help alleviate the unnecessary pressures that teenagers often feel regarding their appearance, fostering a more inclusive and positive perspective on self-image. 


Culture says: Never grow up. 

False: Staying responsibility free is not a happy way to live. Encourage your teenager to keep a trusting and dreaming inner child, while taking the bull by the horns. Business is not just for grown-ups. Maybe it is just me, but why is starting a business seen as such a complicated deal? Buy stuff, sell stuff. Provide a service. Be excellent and collect a wage. Your teenager can do this when they are 6, 8, 13, 18, 99, or any other age! Do not wait to encourage them to take on responsibility. There is money to be made and lessons to be learned.  


Culture says: If they fail now, it will scar them for life. 

False: Your teenager’s failures now will define their strength later. Stand alongside them as they learn how to take one on the chin and keep their head up (speaking in metaphors 

here, of course!). Help your teenager learn from mistakes and grow to the next level. 

Culture says: If it is hard, they cannot handle it. 

False. Your teenager can do hard things. 


Culture says: They have endless energy, and you just need to wear them out. 

False. Teenagers do have a lot of energy and willingly take on physical tasks or think of new ways to approach things, but they do need breaks. They must be fed and watered regularly and require a regular sleep schedule. Their brains are going through a major adjustment, and sleep is necessary for rebooting and working at their best. Without sleep, you will notice an up-tick in tearfulness, mood swings, anxiety attacks, angry outbursts, and general irritability. Their physical well-being will suffer. Oftentimes, sleep is hampered by poor sleep hygiene and cell phone use, which tend to go hand in hand. 


THE TRUTH ABOUT TEENS and further reading  


1. Positive and negative feelings are healthy. 


Gottman, J. M., & DeClaire, J. (1997). Raising an emotionally intelligent child. New York, N.Y., Simon     

& Schuster Paperbacks. 


2. Being their best self will be a life-long journey.  


Baumann, T. (2016). The Teenager’s Guide to Health and Happiness: 101 Nutrition and     

Lifestyle Secrets. Wellness For Life Network, LLC 


3. Teenagers need responsibility. 


Sutherland, A. (2022). Be a Young Entrepreneur. Hachette Children’s. 


4. Failure is a necessary experience. 


Lahey, J. (2016). The gift of failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can     

succeed. Harper. 


Day, E (2019). How to fail: Everything I’ve ever learned from things going wrong. Fourth     



Woodich, B. (2019). Fail more: Embrace, learn and adapt to failure as a way to success.     

McGraw Hill. 


5. They can do hard things. 


Harris, A. & Harris, B. (2016). Teenagers Can Do Do Hard Things. ‎Multnomah. 


6. Teenagers have limits, but do not know them yet.  

Leeb RT, Bitsko RH, Radhakrishnan L, Martinez P, Njai R, Holland KM. Mental health-related emergency department visits among children aged <18 years during the COVID-19 pandemic — United States, January 1–October 17, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(45):1675-1680. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6945a3 

Wrapping up, it is essential to remember that everyone's experience is unique. We've learned it is okay for teens to take breaks, feel their feelings, and embrace responsibility. Failures are not the end but stepping stones to growth, and yes, teenagers can handle hard things. So, let's break free from the myths, support our teens in navigating their challenges, and create a world where they can thrive authentically.  



  1. New York Times. Teens are advocating for mental health days off school

  2. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental health by the numbers

4-H, Harris Insights & Analytics. Teen mental health.