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Top Ten Challenges Facing High School-Aged Teens*
Diocese of Gary Diocesan Youth Council · 2014
* list presented in alphabetical—not ranked—order


We are the Diocese of Gary Diocesan Youth Council (DYC), and we are high school students who represent the youth of our parishes and communities. Through careful deliberation, we have established this list of the “Top Ten Challenges Facing High School-Aged Teens.” We have created this document in hopes of accurately portraying the greatest challenges teens face in our society. In the process of creating this list, we discussed many relevant issues, some of which were not included in the final document. However, these issues still have merit; our hope is that this list will be a gateway for discussion of not only the listed topics, but any issue with which a teen may be struggling.

This list reflects the opinions and ideas of the teens represented by the members of the Council who represent churches throughout Northwest Indiana. However, we realize not all regions of the Diocese of Gary are represented here; therefore, we urge every parish to select representatives so that we can better acknowledge the diversity in our Diocese. Additionally, it is our hope that this project will be revisited every five years, so that the list evolves according to our changing society.

We hope parish leaders use this list as a tool to open dialogue with youth. Hopefully this dialogue will result in teens realizing that, no matter the struggle, they will find comfort and peace in the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Blessings in Christ,
The Diocesan Youth Council, May 2014


Acceptance of others

“Why can’t we be friends?”  This is a question high school students ask as they consider the acceptance of others and themselves.  Students feel a pressure to fit in and be accepted so they are not judged or discriminated against.  Discrimination is caused by many factors such as race, intelligence, interests, gender, and sexual orientation.  We should always see the good in others because we can learn positively from them. We should always remember that everyone is created in God’s image.



Depression takes on many different forms.  These may include the loss of interest in activities, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and mental disorders.  Teens who are depressed may feel a loss of control in their lives.  However, depression affects more than just the person who is struggling with it.  Others may not recognize the personality of a depressed friend or know how to help.  If suicidal thoughts are carried out, the result affects the whole community negatively.  Involvement in social activities, ministries, or therapy can help a teen experiencing depression.



A problem facing teens today is the incorporation of Faith and Spirituality into their everyday lives.  Teens may think religion is “not cool” which can have a negative effect on their morals and values.  Another challenge that teens face and struggle with is maintaining their faith in the presence of those who do not believe or are critical of their beliefs.  Living in a society that lacks religion and moral authority leads teens to engage in immoral behavior and become hypocritical. Teens should pray for the courage to express their faith and should be willing to tell others how important it is to them.



The biggest influence in a teen’s life is family.  Some of the challenges teens face in their family life is the death of loved ones, divorce, disagreements, abuse, parents’ involvement (or lack of), and family pressures.  Experiences at home can influence who a teen grows up to be.  How parents solve conflict reflects how a teen will learn to work out their problems.  Teens may feel pressured to join certain activities to please their families, but as a result, it can cause additional angst.  Family needs to be the core of faith and life development, and we should all look to the Holy Family for guidance.


The Future

Teens struggle with the idea of having to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives after their graduation from high school.  When facing decisions about their future, teens often question where they should go to further their education and what they should do as a career.  Teens struggle with college and career decisions as well as their personal lives and relationships.  The fear of not building a family with someone that makes them happy is an issue that many teenagers face.  Alongside this fear comes the pressure from family, teachers, and oneself to fulfill certain expectations in life.  Teenagers question whether they will be successful, whether they will have to choose between what they love and what their parents want, and whether they are prepared enough to live on their own.  The biggest fear most teenagers face is the realization that they will one day have to survive by themselves.



Media is any form of communication of mass scale that disseminates information.  Media consists of bad influences and good influences.  It can influence a person’s self-image because it often portrays the idea of a so called “perfect person.”  Negative media also spreads fast and can cause people to act out in order to gain attention.  While teens struggle to find the right way to use media in their lives, media isn’t all bad.  It can be used for good.  For example, social media can help you stay in touch with family and friends, spread positive messages, inspire others to do good deeds, and can be an effective tool in promoting faith activities and spreading the Gospel of Jesus.



Self-esteem is how one views themselves and treats themselves.  It can make or break us physically, mentally, and emotionally.  God can influence how we look at ourselves.  No one can force you to feel a certain way about yourself.  People can have positive self-esteem.  Being confident can be healthy and help one feel better about themselves.  Positive self-esteem gives people the courage to deal with negative comments.  People can have negative self-esteem.  If someone is overly-confident, they might start to try to control others.  There are not enough people who are self-confident.  Learning to accept yourself and how your self-esteem affects your life will have a positive influence.



Teens struggle with the pressures of pre-marital sex, even with knowing that the Church teaches that sex should happen only in marriage.  Sex is hard to avoid, because it’s so prevalent in our culture. It’s in the media, it is constantly around us, and pornography is so readily-accessible. People- including our peers- assume “all teenagers” are having sex, and teens feel pressure to fit into this culture.  Teens do not always acknowledge the consequences that come from having sex.  The consequences are presented to teens, but often ignored.  Although pre-marital sex is viewed as a bad thing, sex itself, when married, is viewed as a positive action because it creates life.



Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.  In teens, stress is often caused by school, job, extra-curricular activities and relationships.  All of these activities can lead to struggles with time management, which can lead to even more stress.  Too much stress can lead to physical and/or mental health issues.  It can also lead to poor coping behaviors (i.e. drugs, self-harm).  It’s important that teens are aware of positive coping behaviors as well.  Stress can often lead you away from God, so it’s important to maintain a relationship with God throughout stressful times.



The term “Substances” is a generalization for drugs, both legal-such as prescription drugs – and illegal.  We find the problem is not simply the use of these substances, but also the readily available nature of them in high schools today.  As substance use becomes more accepted and available to the teen population there is an increased pressure for teens to participate in risky behavior.  The use of substances directly affects the teens and also indirectly affects those around them and their environment.  The consequences of substance use are just as prevalent as the use itself.  Consequences include: physical, spiritual, and emotional harm to oneself, and a negative impact on your family, education, and your future.


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For more information on the Diocese of Gary Diocesan Youth Council, contact Kevin Driscoll at 219-769-9292 x229, or visit garyoyya.org .

> List of teen challenges can serve as ‘gateway for discussion’: NWI Catholic news article, 8/3/14

> Youth Council explores top teen challenges from faith perspective, NWI Catholic column by Bishop Dale Melczek, 9/7/14


DYC reps participate in a multiple-month process that led to the document you see above. While the document was a worthwhile project in and of itself, the journey that led to the final document was arguably even more valuable. The process taught and allowed the teens to use Christian leadership skills, including: consensus building vs. majority rule, engaging and accepting different leadership styles, respect for the dignity of the human person, and prayerful discernment.