'Kids these days'

March 10, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

“Kids these days.” We probably have all heard that statement from someone or have said it ourselves.

Have we ever asked ourselves why “kids these days” may act the way do – at least some of them?

Do we think about the circumstances that kids live in day-to-day?

Many times when we see kids acting out it is just that outward behavior that we see, and we often times conclude that the kid is a “bad” kid.

Most often there is something going on that triggers the behavior, and the acting out is the result of something awry in the child’s environment.

A few weeks ago I was working with a group of junior high age students. We were playing a table game, and one of the students commented on my ten-year anniversary ring, asking me where I got the ring. I explained that I had received as a gift from my husband a few years ago.

The students were in awe, making such comments as, “Wow! That’s a world record. No one stays married that long anymore.”

One of the male students shared that his parents were divorced, and he hadn’t seen his dad in a long time, but he heard that he was a hippie; and he never wanted to see his dad again. He said this with anger is his voice.

Another male sitting next to him then commented that his parents were also divorced, and he also hadn’t seen his dad in a long time and hopes he never will.

Two boys without a dad in their lives.

I also learned that one of the females in our group had just recently lost her mom, and she was a middle child of six children.

Three out of four children without one parent in their lives. Anger, loss, pain. My heart went out to each of these students as they each shared a piece of their life experiences.

All of these children are good kids dealing with things that are out of their control. They still have to function from day to day.

So must we wonder why kids these days function the way they do; many having to function in circumstances that are certainly beyond ideal. Certainly not all children live in such negative experiences, but many do.

We as adults must remember that each child, at whatever age, has a story that he or she is living from day to day. Maybe it is the loss of a loved one due to death, divorce, illness. Maybe it’s an environment that is chaotic and unproviding of security and safety. Maybe it’s an environment filled with love, safety and warmth.

I believe for many children school is a safe haven, a place of safety and security for them, a place of caring adults. Or maybe it’s the baseball practice that they go to that’s the place of security, etc. That’s why teachers and school staff, coaches, and volunteers are so important.

When we work with children in whatever capacity it is, as a teacher, volunteer, coach, mentor, leader – the time is never wasted.

Among the 40 developmental assets that the Search Institute identified as building blocks for healthy development in youth are, of course, family support and communication. But other adult relationships, a caring neighborhood, a caring school climate and a community that values youth are also among those important assets.

We must value our youth. We must “tell” them they are people worthy of care, support and love.

“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which everyone who passes by leaves an impression.”

– Chinese proverb

Let us work hard so that we can provide each child with positive impressions.

And as Garrison Keillor said, “When we are new, and when we are fresh and young, our hearts are very open in a way that they may never again be the rest of our lives – so that the impressions that are made on us and the good that is done for us, the kindness and generosity by which a child lives, are never forgotten. Never forgotten.

“Nothing that you do for a child is ever wasted. Ever.

“You may never know exactly what that child saw, or how that child received it, but any gift you give a young person is permanent. It is more permanent than this building because it is then given to other people and is as permanent as we know.”