What teens don’t know (and how it’s pretty much our fault)

A couple of days ago, I spent no less than an hour, off and on, texting back and forth with my son. He is a college student, quite smart, extremely motivated, and lining up interviews for summer internships. This particular string of texts had to do with the fact that he didn’t have a suit for an upcoming interview.

That’s my bad. Let’s just say that he grew at least 6″ during high school and it was everything I could do to keep him in jeans and shoes. He learned at an early age that rolling up your sleeves was hip (even though I encouraged him to do it just to squeeze another year out of a shirt with too-short sleeves). And the one time that he needed a suit, let’s just say that I “encouraged” him to borrow one from his well-dressed friend.

So now here he is, 20 years old, 500 miles away, and buying a suit for the first time. An important suit. One that will hopefully land him an internship that will land him a job. His questions – what fabric, how much should it cost, can I just get away with a sports jacket, what color – made me realize that there is so much we assume our kids know that they really don’t.

I still remember having a long discussion with my daughter, also away at college, about the difference between a debit and a credit card. Did I really never teach her this? I thought. Am I really that bad of a parent. Here I was so busy talking about sex and drugs and drinking and driving and every other weighty, life-or-death topic, that I forgot all about the daily life things that are pretty dang important as well.

Just for fun (translation: just to make me feel better), feel free to share something that you were shocked to discover your kids didn’t know. Or teens other than yours didn’t know. If you’re a teen, what do you wish your parents would teach you, but they’re too busy trying to fit you into your 7th grade shirt?


3 thoughts on “What teens don’t know (and how it’s pretty much our fault)

  1. Let me offer a slightly different but related answer: as someone who sees adolescents in my psychotherapy practice, it blows my mind that as a culture, we often don’t provide kids with a better education in health and wellness practices. We use our bodies every day, eat three times a day every day, and sleep for a third of our lives. And we treat all that as an adjunct, rather than the foundation upon which not only physical but often mental health is built. We often don’t educate kids on how to cook for themselves, slow down, exercise well and often. And don’t even get me started on sex education, at the time when it is potentially most relevant! It is our job as parents, teachers and health providers to help kids walk down the challenging path of growing up, which includes caring for their physical and mental health every single day. [And you’re off the hook, Rebecca; I don’t think not buying your kid a suit qualifies as neglect!]


  2. Well…I’m not sure if this will surprise anyone, however, when my kids went off to college, they would call and tell me horror stories about their friends laundry predicaments… like the one who threw a new black towel in with their white load. Thankfully, I had my kids doing laundry in high school and they could now pass along that knowledge to their college friends!


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