Q. 3. You Try to Relate to Teens in a “Cool Way,” Often Using Teen Lingo. You Sense It Is Tragic. You Might Be Right.
The way we interact with teenagers is important. I agree that trying to be cool towards a teenager could backfire. I think teenagers are not looking for adults to be teenagers, but rather, for adults to respect them. If teenagers are trying to differentiate themselves from adults it might be counter-intuitive to emulate them. That would just give them another reason to be repulsed. Teenagers are entering a phase of their life where they are separating from their parents. Part of this transition is to be different. It is more important to accept their difference than to try and incorporate it. You should also try to make yourself available to teenagers in a way that does not impinge upon their individuality. At the same time, not impinging on them is not that same as being unavailable. You can greet them and ask a few questions about things they might be interested in. I would try to keep the questions about external things. I think it is also helpful not to make them think that anything is expected from them. Their parents and teachers are all adults who are constantly asking them to do things. At the library, they should be free from these demands, unless they are breaking rules, and should be allowed the same kind of freedom that adults have. At the same time, if you can sense that a teen needs help or has trouble expressing his or her needs, you might approach them and ask if their is anything you can do to help, or once again, ask them about something external which they might be able to talk about. I think the point about talking about external things, is that it respects their fragile individuality, which is experimenting with what it means to move away from childhood and into adulthood.