Not a happy topic for a Sunday afternoon, I know. Not a topic any of us wants to discuss, or even think about. Teens, after all, should be at the threshold of life, excited about what the future holds, looking forward to whatever comes next.
Instead, the latest statistics, according to several sources I checked, show that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people 15-24 years old. In 2010, the three main causes of death for this age group, in order from first to third, were unintentional injury, homicide, and suicide.
The older a person is, the less chance there is that he will die violently by his own hand or by homicide. People ages 65 and over rarely commit suicide.
So what has happened in our society, that our kids are killing each other and themselves at such an appalling rate?
This is not a scholarly research paper; it is an opinion piece. I’m basing it on my life experience, age 69, and observation of teens over the years during which I reared my own four, taught many, and now am counseling professionally. So here’s what I think, not necessarily in order of importance, but just as things come to mind.
God got legislated out of our education system. Instead, we now offer courses in sex education, self-esteem, and anti-bullying strategies. Courses of this nature were supposed to decrease teen pregnancy, violence, crime, drugs, alcohol, and so on.
I grew up watching Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, programs in which the parents were smarter than the kids and the father truly was the head of the home, and everybody sat down to eat dinner together.
Today, our kids are growing up watching things we never dreamed would be on TV. Violence, blatant sex, complete disrespect for parental authority, and kids who are all smarter and funnier than their parents or teachers. And kids’ language these days includes words even the “bad boys” wouldn’t have used in front of girls. They drop the F-bomb without even thinking about it. Violent language comes from angry people.
Kids in my office tell me that “everyone” knows where to get drugs. It’s easy. And if you need money, you can always sell drugs yourself. Yeah, sure, it’s dangerous, man, but you know, you only live once. And if there is no God, then there is no heaven, no hell, nothing to fear, no authority to respect. We’re all just animals, after all.
Why are so many kids choosing death? So many possible causes. I can’t believe the number of kids I see who are worried about what their sexual orientation is! You don’t need to even be thinking about that at 12 or 14 or 16—at least, not in the world I grew up in. But sex education today often includes “tolerance/diversity training” as well, and all the different options are presented to kids in a way that makes them wonder–am I straight? Gay? Bi-sexual? Maybe I’m really the opposite sex trapped in this body. I need to experiment to see what I really am.” Kids are confused, worried, and stressed out because they’re being given information they’re just not ready for.
Bullying? Oh yes. Social media has given bullies, who are ALWAYS cowards, a wonderful tool for their evil. They can hide behind their PC’s, or their phones, or whatever devices they use, and never have to see the fear and anguish their nasty behavior causes their victims.
Depression and anxiety are epidemic among our kids, contrary to all the glowing predictions that were made if we could only teach them to love themselves just as they are. Our kids are afloat on a sea of anti-anxiety, antidepressant meds. Prozac is the one most-often prescribed for kids, because most of the others create side effects of worsening depression and suicidal ideation and behavior. Isn’t that ironic? The medicine can make the problem a whole lot worse! And if we depend on the medication and do not help them learn how to think about what is true and good—-
Pornography is also epidemic. Easily accessed, free for the looking. Kids can even go online with other kids anywhere in cyberspace on their X-Boxes and access porn. What? You didn’t know that? You need to monitor your kids’ history on their devices. You may be in for a shock.
Cop-hatred, racial hatred, hatred for any authority, hatred for anyone who has something someone else wants, hatred against the wealthy, against the poor, against religions and nationalities–it’s so much worse than when I was growing up. Our nation stands divided on issues that most people agreed upon 55 years ago when I was in high school. A simple thing like the Pledge of Allegiance, for example. I don’t remember anyone refusing to say it, or the words “under God” creating angst for anyone. I did have one teacher, fresh out of college in 1968, who challenged me about a verse in the Bible that he found offensive. Why me? Because my dad was the pastor of the only Baptist church in town. Baptists are Bible-bangers, and this teacher wanted to shake my faith.
So what can we do? In this age of both parents working overtime, how can we take better care of our kids?
I know this is an old argument, but I want you to consider that we’ve painted ourselves into the corner with our belief that we have to have all the STUFF we have these days; that our kids MUST have all the coolest clothes, shoes, electronic gear, etc. Or what? Well, they’ll be uncool. They’ll be teased. They’ll be bullied. They may get depressed.
What if all the parents in a school district agree together that they weren’t going to support all the expense of being cool? That they were going to monitor their kids’ electronics EVERY DAY; that there would be no more wi -fi access in their bedrooms, no more computers, iPads, iPods, tablets that they could take to their rooms, slap on the headphones, and do whatever they please? I’m not saying they should never have electronics. I’m saying we parents need to realize the dangers out there and be busy about protecting our kids. Sure, they’ll be upset. They’ll get over it.
What are we teaching our kids in our own homes? Do we ask them what goes on in history, health, science, literature? Do we monitor what the schools are offering our kids? Or have we given up all our parental authority to the schools, the “experts,” who tell us that some incident or the other is an “in-school issue, and you (the parent) do not need to concern yourself with it”?
My high school principal tried that one on my dad back in 1960 something. It’s not a new philosophy. The principal lost that round and ended up apologizing to my dad. How about that?
Here it is: Kids need parents. They may think they need us only as a money supply, but they need us to be an active, involved, interested participant in their lives.
Sadly, there are some who are doing that, and are shocked and heartbroken to find their child has taken his own life anyway. That’s because kids are very good at masking what is really going on, and a parent truly may not have a clue until it’s way too late.
It’s a difficult world our kids are growing up in. Please, do whatever you need to do to shepherd your kid through these crucial teen years when he’s being asked to make decisions about things you and I never even thought of until we were much older. If that means decreasing your income, isn’t worth it?
Our kids are our future. It’s SO worth it, whatever it takes.
I want to end this on a positive note. It’s high school graduation season all over the country. Every year, one of our local newspapers puts out an edition on the cream of the crop students from all over the district. There are a lot of them; high achievers, dedicated volunteers, planning for an exciting future. Wonderful. We have parents out there who are still turning out quality kids.
Be that parent.