Being the parent of a fourteen-year-old kid, my mind often drifts into concern, when I hear some of the challenges that teens are having nowadays.
I read an article last week which showed some terrifying stats: depression has increased over 60% in the thirteen to eighteen-year-old age range, and suicide has increased over 50%. I knew that things weren’t great for teens, but I had no idea they were this dire. I decided that I had to learn more about what is happening, because it is the only way that I can help my son should he incur some of these challenges.
Teenagers are under a tremendous amount of stress. That is a fact! They are being educated by a system that doesn’t care about their dreams or their potential; it hurls them together into a classroom that is designed to teach them all the same way, and has the same expectations for all students, even though studies have shown that all kids learn differently. For this reason, many of them excel and move through the system with ease, while others struggle, lose interest and may even fail at graduating, simply because they were not being taught the appropriate way for them.
This takes me back to when my son was in seventh grade, and he asked his history teacher how they made sure that kids would retain the information they had learned after they had passed the final exams. The teacher bluntly told him that it wasn’t his job to make sure they retained any information. His responsibility was to simply teach them enough for them to pass the test. It troubled my son to understand that he is part of an education system that doesn’t really care about the real future of the children it teaches. And, according to him, many of his peers feel the same way.
Outside of school, the pressure continues. This is the very first generation that is growing up with social media, and we are only scratching the surface on its effects on our youth. Teenagers are supposed to create amazing digital lives, fake iterations of who they are, to impress other kids that don’t really care about anything but their own stories. Yet, when they come up with something artificial and still get criticized for it, many teens feel that they will never be liked no matter what they do, and they will always be alone. This leads to a combination of loneliness with depression and disappointment, and an overall 60% suicide rate as a result.
Because most interactions are done behind the safety of screens in today’s world, the ruthlessness has skyrocketed to outrageous proportions. Even kids that would have gotten bullied in the past are doing the bullying now, creating a bubble of hate and criticism that encompasses most of the feedback that teens are receiving. And thus, we are seeing the troubling signs that we are seeing today, and the truth is that no one really has an answer on what to do to change it.
I believe that one of the most important things we can do as parents is understand that this generation is dealing with challenges that the previous generations have not. We have to adapt our parenting style to this new system, and not perform the discipline that may have worked twenty years ago but it’s not as effective today. Because teens are so isolated, we have to make sure that we thoroughly communicate with them, and that they understand that they can trust us as parents to help them with whatever they may be facing. These are times where it is crucial to develop a friendship with our kids, because it may stop them from harming themselves when they feel like they are all alone in the world, or simply not good enough.
In the last episode of the Wise Distortion podcast, I interviewed my fourteen-year-old son to get a better idea of the challenges he was facing, and what his thoughts were on the matter. Even though I have a really good rapport with him, what he told me blew my mind. You can listen to the entire interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXRp-z9QpUc
Contributing Writer: Jay Chirino
Follow Jay Chirino : Twitter: @theflawedones