I’m watching my kids and the issues they deal with on a daily basis and I swear, you couldn’t pay me enough to be a kid today. I thought my insecurities were overwhelming when I was a teen. But the social pressures to be “happy” and “popular” put on our youth today through apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, ooVoo, twitter etc. are astounding. You’re measured by how many “likes” your photos get and image is everything. And no matter how much you talk to your kids, convincing them that the persona kids project through social media is 85% bunk, is impossible. They see happy, perfect and popular and believe that to be reality.
But let’s face it. As adults we view people’s lives through Facebook and assume it’s reality. I’ve read research that shows that the more you view Facebook the more inclined you are to be depressed. And that’s for adults! Imagine a teen who tends to be consumed with self-conscious tendencies. No way.
I continually attempt to remind my kids that the truth is everyone hurts. Everyone struggles with self image and self doubt. But it’s tough to convince them of that when all they see is smiling happy faces on their phones. Everyone’s successful and has the perfect family. How do you compete with that?
I worry about my kids. And I likely over-react when I see them looking a little down or quiet. That’s a natural thing for a 13-year-old to begin with. But I do get concerned. I can only imagine what races through their heads on an hourly basis. Can only imagine the things they read in their chats. If I was inundated with that type of constant feedback from 500 – 1000 other insecure, hormone enraged teens I would go bonkers.
On top of it they get plenty of negative feedback from us as we point out all of the things they’re doing wrong. What’s that? Not you? Please. You mean you don’t consistently tell your kid to pick up after themselves. Or to be nicer to their siblings. You don’t tell your child that it’s not ok to wear “that” to school or to talk to you the way they do when they’re approaching teen years?
There are times when I see what my kids are facing and I can’t help but feel like I’m in WAY over my head. How do you help a kid navigate through the pressures of school, social media, images they see on-line, messages they get from advertising, video games and television. The world is constantly in their face and rather than feel safe pulling back, they have a deep need to be accepted and social.
I do my best but even I fall short. I’m constantly beating myself up for what I perceive as an error in approach. I want nothing more than to be supportive and encouraging. But there are times I see my kids make serious errors in judgement and in assessing situations that I cringe and can’t help but sit them down and force my intellectual will on them.
What a crazy time it is to be a kid. And to that end, what a crazy time it is to be a parent of those kids. I speak a lot about the importance of working with your ex rather than battling them when it comes to parenting. Our kids really need our support and they need to feel as much of a strong foundation as we can offer. A split home for them is a fractured foundation no matter how you present it. They need to see that it is indeed solid and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to have them see their parents working together as a unified front on their behalf. Putting additional pressure of “handling it” themselves is not the answer. And by “it” I mean their parents.
You couldn’t pay me enough to be a kid today. But as for being a parent, I wouldn’t accept a penny. All I want is to see my kids grow up self assured and confident in who they are. And between you and me, I’m as overwhelmed with that task as they are. But we have to be in it for the long haul and just keep swimmin’. To do that I encourage you to be involved. Keep up as much as you can on social media trends. Talk to your kids. Interact with your kids. Listen to your kids. Seriously think about every interaction you have and how you can improve the next time. Be involved. Talk to your ex about what she’s experiencing with your kids (that’s right they’re still YOUR kids even when they’re at your ex’s house). You’re both on the clock no matter where the kids are. Communicate. Learn. Grow. The world is in your kid’s face. You need to be too, now more than ever.
My gut says the answer is to simple be there; be there and be there. To do your best to create a safe environment. For them to know they’re loved and appreciated no matter what they may be dealing with outside.
I could go on for another four pages on this subject. The truth is, I don’t think any of us have the answers. Sometimes it just helps to know other parents are experiencing the same things and that we’re all in this together.