Teenagers are my heroes.

You heard me. They are my heroes. Think about it. Between the ages of 13 and 19 teenagers go through huge hormonal shifts, physical growths, and social changes. They go from being children to adults who will realise just how scary the world can be. Between 13 and 19 teenagers are asked to narrow their interests down to a few select subjects in the hopes they will lead to some sort of profitable future. They are put under immeasurable pressure to perform academically and the entire time they are negatively judged by society for being lazy, entitled, ungrateful and trouble. Being a teenager is awful and on top of everything written so far (which I experienced) they also have to deal with social media. I, thankfully, was the generation before where MSN messenger was as advanced as we got and to be honest I never really used it thanks to dial up internet.

When I see a group of teenagers, I look on in awe. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching teenagers interact with each other, prove their strength by getting up each day, getting dressed and leaving the house to face a world which is for the most part incredibly hostile towards them.

There is nothing that angers me more than reading articles or social media posts complaining about teenagers hanging in groups on street corners. Where the hell are they supposed to go? The government has reduced funding to social programs that might have offered them safe alternatives, their parents don’t want 20 teenagers hanging out at home and it’s gotten harder to get into pubs thanks to increased need to provide identification. For the record, I think it’s good they aren’t all getting drunk in pubs in the middle of the day but at least in a pub they were in a safe environment where adults could supervise. These days teenagers have no where to go. The same people who complain about their presence on street corners are also the people who complain about kids being inside watching television all day or playing video games non-stop. You could argue that they could be doing school work or reading but be honest – did you do that all day when you were a teenager. I know I didn’t.

Most teenagers I know personally are going through truly difficult emotional struggles. They are dealing with depression, eating disorders, self-harming and struggling with their sexuality. Again, thanks to government cuts they are being provided with even less emotional support and their families are so stressed by their own circumstances of pay freezes and the effects of austerity that they are struggling to give their children the time they need.

So yes, teenagers are my heroes. They have so much working against them and not great futures to look forward to with house prices rising, the job market shrinking and university fees becoming unattainable and yet they keep going. They make way for me and my children when we share a pavement, they apologise to me if they swear in the presence of my children (although my children hear worse from me), they smile indulgently as Eloise prances around in princess dresses and they show nothing but love and joy for each other.

It’s teenagers that will lead this world into the future. They are the ones showing the most acceptance and compassion for the diversity in their culture and they’re the ones who seem to see the need for globalisation.

So next time you see a group of teenagers hanging outside the chicken shop, don’t look on in disdain. Think about the day they might have had, think about the struggles they may be going through, remember how you felt as a teenager and show them compassion. Give them a smile as you walk past and mentally thank them for continuing to try.