It’s not easy being green…or a kid.
Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time. They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about. Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.
Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress. Well, you get the picture. Stress.
Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway. And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.
Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.
And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.
And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.
“All teenagers are sullen.”
“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”
“All teenagers have teenage angst.”
I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.
Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.” There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.
But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)
Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?
Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.
“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”
That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.
All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression. First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults. They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions. I mean, why would they? They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.
Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.
Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.
Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.
Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!
Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.
Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on? Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day? Who can they take it out on? No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen. For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences. Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.
My point in all this rambling? Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.