Was life was different when you were 17?

March 22, 2012|Lisa Prejean

My first-born turned 17 yesterday.

It is not easy raising teenagers today.

They have so many choices academically, socially, philosophically, globally.

Their list of options is mind-boggling. Opportunities abound.

Yet there are so many situations that could hinder or halt that progress indefinitely.

As a parent, it can be an apprehensive road. Have I prepared my child well enough? Will he make the right decisions? Will he be safe? Will he keep his integrity in a world full of pressure to choose otherwise?

I have invested almost two decades of my life in raising my children, but I often wonder if I've done enough to prepare them for what they will face in the future.

Each time a new issue arises, my husband gently asks me a question:

"Remember what it was like to be 17?"

That was a long time ago, but, yes. I remember.

When I was 17, Michael Jackson released "Thriller," the biggest-selling album of all time.

My parents weren't thrilled with the music, but my friends and I wanted to listen to it.

When I was 17, the computer received Time magazine's "Man of the Year" award.

I remember thinking that choice was a little bizarre, but I was curious about technology, and my friends and I hoped to be able to use computers in college ... even though our parents didn't have them or use them.

When I was 17, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Women continue to enter fields previously dominated by men, but it is not easy. The long hours take a toll on marriages and families. I encourage my daughter to pursue her career goals but to leave time for family. Aren't men encouraged to do that, too? Balance is important for happiness. Let's see, where have I heard that before? Oh, yes, when I was 17, 21, 25, 30, 35, last week?

 When I was 17, President Ronald Reagan announced that the Global Positioning System (GPS) would be made available for civilian use. Where would we be without our GPS devices? Admittedly, I'm usually still trying to load the destination on my car navigation system when my son already has the route charted on his phone, which really isn't a phone but a mini computer.

When I was 17, Gulf Air Flight 771 crashed in the United Arab Emirates after a bomb exploded in the baggage compartment, killing 117. Even though security lines didn't form overnight, air travel didn't seem quite as safe anymore. Little did we know then what we as a nation would face on Sept. 11, 2001. To our kids, that day is a history lesson that is remembered every time they fly.

When I was 17, parents struggled with the role they played in raising their kids.

Some things don't change.

Teens and their parents don't listen to the same music.

Teens will always be on the cutting edge of technology.

Teens will be encouraged to set priorities and live by them.

Teens will be told that the world is a scary place, but may not realize that fear until terror strikes their generation.

Has it ever been easy to raise teenagers?

I don't think so.

But we have to keep trying our best to give what they need — istening ears, heart-felt advice, unconditional acceptance, ongoing encouragement and limitless hugs — to help them navigate the landscape of a changing world.

Make sure your teenager feels loved today.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send email to her at

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