It’s every parent’s greatest fear: their teen goes off to school one day and then comes back an activist. But how can you know if your teen has been sucked into the world of activism? Look out for these warning signs.
Your teen won’t like you going through their stuff, but for their safety, you need to search their room for activist paraphernalia. It can be scary to find a backpack stuffed with petitions or a pile of protest signs shoved under the mattress, but try to stay calm. Remember: your response will set the tone for all future interactions with your teen.
One classic sign of activism in teens is them spending time with new peer groups. Have you heard your teen mention the name “Wayne LaPierre”? If you have heard this name in your home, it’s time to pay attention. Remember, there is not a teen alive who would interact with someone named “Wayne” unless they were deep into activism.
Is your child bucking against reasonable social norms, doing things that just don’t make sense? Some weird behavior, like eating laundry detergent pods or knowing what a “Logan Paul” is, is normal. But other behaviors, like refusing to accept that the constant cycle of gun violence, meaningless platitudes, and inaction is an intractable part of American society, is a concerning sign that your teen may be an activist.
If you aren’t familiar with teen culture, you could be forgiven for assuming that most American teenagers have a black light poster in their bedrooms of Chris Murphy, the dreamboat junior senator from Connecticut. However, this too may be a sign that your teen is dabbling in activism.
Loss of Interest in Favorite Activities
Parents of teens who are into activism often report a drastic change in the way their teens spend their leisure time. Know the signs: Where once your taciturn teen spent eight-hour stretches draped silently across the couch, scrolling through Snapchat, responding to your questions only in grunts, an activist teen may now prefer to spend his or her time on national television eloquently and fearlessly taking public officials to task for their years of legislative impotence.
Rapidly Changing Grades
Keep a careful watch of your child’s grades. If you’re dealing with activism, you may find that your previously average student is now suddenly bringing home A+ papers from Civics class covered in red pen adulations like, “This is why I became a teacher!” and “You literally are teaching me more than I’m teaching you!” and “You have redeemed every minute of my grueling and underappreciated career!’”
Listen to the vocabulary your teen is using. There is a lot of strange lingo in the activist community. A quick search on Urban Dictionary should help you figure out terms such as, “town hall,” “Jake Tapper,” and “RIP, Marco Rubio.”
Tired, Glazed Expression
Look your teen in the eyes; activist teens have red, bloodshot eyes, from the bone-deep exhaustion that comes from simultaneously organizing national marches, holding politicians accountable for their actions, and mourning the preventable deaths of their friends, all while still finding time to clap back to right-wing pundits so brutally that they lose a layer of palm skin.
Trust Your Gut
Ultimately, you know your teen best. If your gut is overwhelmed with simultaneous pride, awe, sorrow, gratitude, and the tiniest, most cautious bit of hope? Pay special attention to those feelings. Your teen may be an activist.