Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What Lies Ahead: School Books, Peer Pressure & Psychology

Photo by Giuseppe Zeta
For many children around the nation the new school year has arrived. Parents are probably relieved and students are probably all sorts of things--excited, hopeful, afraid. Teachers, families and communities all prepare for a new school year of learning, testing and socializing. Kids and parents have checked the latest fashions, bought new clothes and shoes, book bags and books and off you go! But where in all that preparation are we talking about peer pressure, sexuality, safety? Children will go off to school knowing they will be coerced, liked, disliked, feared and bullied. Let's consider how we begin those conversations at home first.

Last week, I had a guest on our Blog Talk Radio show speaking about Bullying In The Workplace. We often talk about bullying in schools and via cyberspace but there's bullying with adults at work too. But back to the kids. Where in any of our preparations for "getting ready for school" do we talk with our children about being a child or an adolescent? We watch Oprah. We've seen the news. We read the papers. Are we having those difficult conversations with them about gender issues, peer relations, risky behaviors? These topics can easily be separate conversations that can go on all year long.

My 16 y.o. niece told me the other day that one of her friends already had an abortion at 15. She said the girl was too poor to take care of the child but really, is that all there was to it? This was someone's daughter who may not have known she was even pregnant; who may or may not have talked with her about sex, her body, relationships. This is not a judgment on that girl or her family but rather on our society that we don't often know what our children are facing. And we're not spending enough time with them getting to know what they face to have those conversations.

At the same time, last week, a freshman college student jumped to her death from the 14th floor of a dormitory at Columbia University, an Ivy league school in the Morningside Heights section of New York City. Would you assume she was in pain, emotional pain? I would. We see all around us the hard realities our youth are gripping with. As much as I feel like a 21 y.o. at times I would not want to be 21 or 16 again if I had to deal with the pervasiveness of these kinds of things.

Next year my advocacy group, The Collective Advocates, will be working with several people and organizations to have conversations about what's going on in the worlds of our youth. We're hoping to bridge a gap between youth and adults and get working on some serious social ills in our world. If you or anyone you know is willing to join in on those conversations please contact us.
We encourage many of you to join us in making change possible!

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