What Can Teenagers Learn from Our Mistakes?


From as long as we can remember, older generations have been offering advice to youngsters. Quite often, this is derived from a previous event that reflects the firsthand experience of situations.

This can often be attributed to life regrets and something we do not want younger loved-ones to have to encounter. A Loving Tribute, makers of funeral stationery, recently conducted a survey to discover what one piece of advice over 65’s would pass onto their 18-year-old self before they die. You can see a full range of their funeral order of service templates here.

The most common regret from current retirees was the lack of self-care and not presenting a positive mental attitude earlier in life. When asked what would be the most important piece of advice they would give their teen self, answers included:

  • Don’t worry
  • Love yourself
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Be true to yourself
  • Believe in yourself
  • Be confident

Looking after mental health is a huge focus in the media and government today, previously there were very little resources available to those suffering from mental health anguish.

Would today’s over 65’s have given these answers if they had access to the support today’s teenagers have? Although today’s systems are still not perfect but are certainly a huge improvement over what was available 4-5 decades previously. There is also pressure on employers to be more open to discussing mental health and providing more support to those who need it in the workplace.

However, we all know the troublesome period of our teens and the transition into adulthood and finding ourselves is a struggle for even the most level-headed of people. Perhaps no matter what support we are given, this will always be seen as a time of hardship.

These answers can also be interpreted in a positive manner, perhaps respondents have led a life full of happiness and they simply want to advise their younger self that everything turns out ok in the end and to not worry about anything.

As answers become more specific, it was discovered that a lack of fulfilment in education pathways and careers was the largest regret from today’s over 65’s.  Answers included:

  • Be ambitious in your career
  • Learn a trade
  • Work and learn hard
  • Study harder
  • Go to uni
  • Go back to school

Going back to the years these respondents were stepping into the working world, university was reserved for the elite. High fees meant those from a more modest background were priced out of the chance to pursue higher education and it seems many people regret how their careers progressed due to this missed opportunity. 

Nowadays, thanks to loans and bursaries, university is open to the masses and gives all those willing, an opportunity to obtain a degree. But is this still the best option for today’s 18-year-olds?

Many graduates have found themselves in competitive job markets with high amounts of student debt and now so many are able to gain a degree, it means candidates can struggle to stand out from other applicants.

With this in mind, teenagers are now choosing different paths from formal education, apprenticeships and trade skills are becoming more popular. This is a huge appeal and it can make candidates prove they have the skills and experience without committing to large amounts of debt and time and speed up the chance to earn their wages.

It may be, for today’s teens, that the common advice given of studying harder and going to university may not have the same impact as it may have done 50+ years ago.

Family and relationships is one of the largest and most important elements of our lives. We can gain and lose so much from these that any form of regret from a relationship can make a huge impact on ourselves. Many respondents saw their biggest regret as something to do with a previous relationship, whether romantic or otherwise. Answers included:

  • Don’t get married
  • Don’t have kids
  • Don’t sign the adoption papers
  • Do not get married at 18
  • He’s a liar
  • Stay single

In 1973, the average age for marriage was 28 years old for men and 26 years old for women. In 2013, there was a dramatic rise in average age for marriage at 36 years old for men and 34 years old for women.

Younger generations are now turning their attention onto their careers before starting a family, ensuring a stable job is in place before committing themselves. They could have also witnessed parents and grandparents having endured unhappy marriages from rushing into their nuptials at such a young age, something they do not wish to repeat themselves.

Teenagers are infamously stubborn and perhaps no matter what we would have been told earlier in life, it would not have altered our choices.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? Hopefully, you do not possess any regrets so large that you wish you could have changed the course of your life so dramatically. However and more importantly, if you do, would your teen self even take this advice on board?

Show More
Back to top button