Different World… Tougher Jobs… Better Parents…. Stronger Kids

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

Imagine looking into the eyes of a teenager, and wondering to yourself if they were capable of killing themselves, or of killing somebody else. Think about the weight of these thoughts and the potential toll of relentless worry on your spirit.

Now imagine that this was your job, to figure out what sort of destruction a young person was capable of. And that your bosses, and the parents of your students, and everyone who watches the news, looked to you to know the truth of children with certainty… and to provide them with explanations and fixes.

Given today’s school climates, and the heartbreaking news inundating our eyes and ears about teenage tragedy and violence, this is in fact the job of many caring professionals. For school counselors specifically, and for teachers, our jobs today are about far more than improving school statistics… which is burden enough. Our jobs are in fact about seeing, and preventing, the dark potentials of every child.

As much as we’d all like to think that painful and scary truths won’t find there ways to our children, or that we’ve sufficiently armed our children with the strength of character to withstand media blitzes and peer pressure… it’s simply that different a world than when most of us were kids. Schools and educators can no longer solely focus on curriculum and content. Schools and educators can no longer spend their evenings burdened only by thoughts of passing and failing students and of grading papers.  Whether we like it or not, teenagers, every one of them, are capable of destroying their own lives, or those of others… and there is no one explanation or stakeholder to blame. All any of us have the efforts we put forth in the lives of the kids in our lives.

These aren’t words people want to read, and as a school counselor, these aren’t words I want to write… but our children deserve, and desperately need a more heartfelt commitment from adults in positions of influence. One of the most powerful forces feeding the destructive behaviors that we wished weren’t so common is the propensity of adults to look away from what is scary. Our urges and wants and needs to see our children as beautiful spirits filled with only wonder and promise can not cloud our vision to the darker possibilities. And our fears of our own inadequacies as parents, administrators, counselors and educators can not continue to fuel our rampaging blame, which serves only to lessen the sense of responsibility of the person doing the blaming.

The truth is there is no one explanation. There might not be one gene that causes a person to go on killing sprees. There might not be a clear link between parenting styles and self-destructive behaviors. We might not be able to know with any certainty that childhood trauma leads to homicidal or suicidal tendencies. And we may never be able to rest completely at peace knowing our children will be safe from harm.

But what each of us can do, quite simply… is to be better in the roles we’re in. Better educators, better parents… better adults in the lives of children. Less afraid of the different world our children live in, and more humble and transparent in our communication with them.

We can role-model and demand compassion… so our kids don’t become bullies.

We can cultivate our children’s voices and promote in them quiet confidence… so they don’t become targets or victims.

We can expect humility… so our children don’t fall into the traps of arrogance and entitlement.

And we can stay tethered, always, to the idea that the achievements we want to see from our children… will only happen if collectively, we start to value character and substance more than accomplishment and show.

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