One of the greatest problems with modern-day parents, according to Pope Francis, is that they compete with their teenage children instead of educating them, by attempting to be “eternal teenagers” themselves instead of role models.
In the present cultural context, Francis told a large delegation from the Diocese of Rome Monday, “kids want to be adults and adults want to be or have become teenagers.”
Today, Francis said at the inauguration of the Diocese’s annual convention, “there is a sort of competition between parents and children, different from that of other times where normally there was greater distinction between the two.”
“These days we have passed from differentiation to competition, which are two different things,” he said, with two different “dynamisms” in play.
“Today our kids find a lot of competition and few people to look up to,” he said.
“The adult world has embraced ‘eternal youth’ as its paradigm and model of success,” he said, “as if growing up, getting old, and aging were a disease. This is a symptom of a frustrated or exhausted life.”
“Today it seems as if everything has to be masked or concealed, as if the very fact of living made no sense. Appearance, not getting old, make-up… I think what a shame it is when people dye their hair.”
“These days the word ‘lifting’ is more common than the word ‘heart’!” he said. “It’s so sad when somebody wants to erase the ‘wrinkles’ of so many experiences, of so many moments of joy and sadness! It reminds me of when the great Anna Magnani was advised to have lifting done. She replied, ‘No, I’ve spent my whole life acquiring these wrinkles and they are precious!”
The Pope said that one of the most dangerous threats in the raising of young people today is “to exclude them from their process of growing up because adults have taken their place.”
“We find so very many ‘adolescent’ parents,” he said. “Adults who don’t want to be adults and want to pretend to be eternal teenagers. This ‘marginalization’ can aggravate the natural tendency of adolescents to isolate themselves or slow down their maturing process because they have no one to look up to. There is competition but no role models.”
Francis also expressed his concern with the current trend to view adolescence as a “pathology that must be combatted,” which leads some parents to “prematurely medicate our young people.”
“It seems that everything is remedied by medication,” Francis said, or by over-programming young people’s time. In the end, he said, “young people’s schedules are worse than that of a high-level executive.”
Young people, he said, need educators who will raise them according to “the life of the spirit of Jesus” and help them see that “becoming Christians requires courage and is a beautiful thing.”