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TEENS: “She’ll outgrow it, dear. It’s just the age…the age where nothing fits.”

Movie quote from: Rebel Without a Cause (1955) – Judy’s Mother (Rochelle Hudson)

DeanAt the precise moment the western culture was inventing the concept of a 'teenager', Rebel Without a Cause flickered onto the big screen.  James Dean's character Jim Stark personified "the age where nothing fits" - uncomfortable at home, posturing for his peers, disconnected from his past, uncertain about his future.  Change the clothes, change the cars, and the Rebel story is an icon for the youth of today.  As the movie elegantly illustrates, only one thing ensures a young person will survive and thrive in those turbulent teen years. 

Put the palm of your hand on your nose.  Close your fingers together and look forward.  What you have there is the perspective of your average teenager.  A teen's life is all about right now.  Everything is amplified and immediate.  When we're young, we see the dramatic elements of our day-to-day existence.  It's not until we age that the comedy can become more clear.  Everything is important and no one understands.  With such a narrow and ever-shifting window for a world perspective, it's no surprise most young people feel isolated and misunderstood.

In the movie, Jim Stark is all those things.  His lack of forethought gets him involved in a variety of criminal acts, including driving a stolen car, knife fighting, breaking and entering, and involuntary manslaughter.  Throughout these troubled times, Jim falls back on the one thing that gets us all through those years - meaningful connections.  His new friends offer an opportunity for him to feel purposeful and supported.  A juvenile officer and eventually his father provide emotional support when it is most needed.  In a time when "nothing fits", it is vital that each young person has a reason to think past their nose.

If you regard every teenager as a 'rebel without a cause', an individual who inevitably will struggle with their own image and identity, you set a useful expectation that will help you to more effectively connect.  Offer young people roots - a safe place to come and vent their unpredictable concerns.  And offer them wings - experiences that get them excited about the possibilities of the future.  People are more likely to make reasonable choices if they consider others and their own future before they act.   

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