We all know we’re stressed, but what are the other two major issues disrupting our lives today?
We live in an interesting world. An interesting time. Where life should have advanced to an awesome state of comfortable living. However, for many of us, and for our children, it is more stressful, scary and boring than ever.
That’s the surprising thing for me. In my ten years of working with children and young adults, I have been totally surprised to learn just how scared and bored many of our children have become. You may disagree, but if so, ask yourself, what is going wrong? I mean, we hear, all the time, about bullying, student disconnect, teen suicide, drug abuse, youth violence, and so on.
These are signs that something is not right.
Isn’t life meant to be so much better now than it has ever been?
We live in a rich age, where the average person lives wealthier than the kings and queens of old. We have so many modern comforts and so many marvels of modern technology, that life should be an exciting, comfortable, fulfilling adventure.
I think we all know that, that is pie in the sky. I don’t know anyone who is genuinely feeling the thrill of life in the 21st century. That’s not even considering that right now Coronavirus is making things a whole lot worse.
So, what is wrong, if our teens, and often we, ourselves, are feeling stressed, scared and bored?
Well, having contemplated this great question, I have come to the surprising realization, that most of the problems our children, families and actually most of society is facing, boils down to two surprising things.
Boredom & Fear
The unsurprising issue we’re all facing is stress. So let’s start there.
Life can be crazy
We all know that life right now is crazy. This is not surprising. Even before Coronavirus messed the whole system up, we were living crazy lives. I’m sure if you were to contemplate your regular life, you would have many of your own stories to tell. Maybe tales of early starts, late finishes, stressful deadlines, meetings, to-do lists that never end, dealing with relationship dramas and on and on, all the way to big issues of life and death.
We have, on the whole, packed our life full of so much ‘stuff’. This has obviously had a huge impact on us and our families.
On top of that, our kids are running these same schedules in their school life; meetings, deadlines, social issues, relationships, striving for success in all the many ways we dream up for them.
All this stuff seems to be making us stressed.
Signs of Stress
To take a quick sample of statistics on stress in 2020:
About 57% of surveyed Americans say that stress paralyzes them.
More than 44% of Americans feel that their stress levels have increased in the last 5 years.
Only 14% of children say their parents’ stress isn’t a notable source of concern for them.
Approximately 45% of teenagers say they’re under stress constantly.
To read more, follow the link to healthcareers.co.38 Worrying Stress Statistics & Facts to be Aware of in 2020However, did you know that not all stress is bad? There’s also positive stress , or eustress , which can help people…healthcareers.co
We are all stressed
So we know many of us, and our children, are living in stress. However, the surprising, or not so surprising, fact is we are also living in fear.
One of the major stressors, or fears, of modern life, and especially of teen life, is the huge worry about the future. The pressure can be immense. I see many kids these days are freaking out. Kids are growing up with a future competition of millions of peers all striving for what they deem are limited opportunities, they must strive for any advantage they can get.
Especially now, with robots coming, AI, globalization, outsourcing, and all of that, I know there are many kids who are freaked out about their future. That’s before we get to global warming, terrorism, poverty, inequality, pollution, pandemics and food security issues.
What about you parents? Getting excited for the strange new world your children will inherit?
Specific Fears facing children today
- Fear over the future: Suddenly, children get to year 10, 11, 12, and then this big future starts to come into shape. However, do they have any idea what the future is and what it means.
- Need to fit in: Kids start to realize that they are one in a whole mass of many. They need to fit in. We see all the issues with bullying and often depression and suicide that occur when someone fails to fit in with the crowd they want.
- Self determination: The need to find their own voice and yet fit in is often impossible. Wanting to stand out, but fearing the consequences. Wanting to stand up and say ‘I am special’ — that’s scary as hell even for adults.
- School: All the demands of school can be massive. Pressure to socialize, pressure to fit in, pressure to pass.
- Home life: Who knows what happens behind closed doors. Some children go through problems that are too much for their years. But even for your kids, the lucky, safe ones, you still need to realize they are going through big psychological shifts at the moment.
- Fear of bodily changes: “Am I normal?” “Will I be normal?” “What happens if I like boys, or girls, or both?” “What happens if I show my feelings in public and …” You get the idea — potentially scary times.
Maybe not just teen fears
Now, the surprising question here may be to ask how many of you parents/adults are feeling some of these fears?
- The future?
- Fitting in?
- Finding fulfillment?
- Providing security?
- Pressure of work?
- And so on?
We may be somewhat confused about a rapidly changing world, just imagine how our children are feeling.
Maybe, though they may not call it that or be aware of it as fear. They may call it stress. Or they may play 10 hours of video games to tune out. Or drinking, drugs, violence … you get the idea. These may also be some of the big issues of society, beyond the school yard.
The really surprising one for me, was boredom. I mean we have no end of distraction. How can we possibly be bored?
- Issues with boredom: Children are alive; they are full of energy, excitement and wonder. However, most of their days are filled with school work. Work that really has no point other than their development. What are they developing for? The future. Always waiting for the future.
- Excitement: Then there’s sex and drugs and rock and roll. Exploring the city, their body, each other. Big exciting plans. Places to be, to go and people to see. All that excitement. Excitement when it goes to plan. Drama when it falls apart. It’s enough to send anyone crazy. But usually, we’re trying to keep things settled. Boring.
- The everyday of school and family activities can become boring. We all know that. Even for parents. I’m sure many of you would love to drop off the kids with the nanny and charge off for one more mad adventure in paradise. But the boring day to day needs to be done. Well kids are not as mature as parents. How boring must the everyday be?
- We could go on I’m sure. However, I think it’s clear. All the everyday stuff, all the school busy work and all the games and simple distractions are not that exciting. What’s exciting — friends, relationships, adventure, danger, all those things that we often try to suppress for our kids.
Again, not just a question for the kids; parents/adults, any of you guys feeling bored, unsatisfied, unfulfilled?
How we got to the stress, fear and boredom
The truth is, we fill our lives with so much stuff that we often don’t ever stop to think what we are doing. Does all the work, all the energy and all the hustle actually fulfill our needs, or is it stuff to run the machinery?
To focus on teens, which is my area of real study, I would say we spend a vast majority on filling time with busy work.
If you were to see the average schedule of a year 12 doing an international school curriculum, you’d be amazed. Add all the extracurricular and all the extra learning that goes with figuring out life and the next move in study and career paths and so on, it’s a whole lot of ‘stuff’.
Stuff that is forced on them by the system; in many cases not driven by self motivation, or self actualization, or individualization. Not always, but generally stuff forced by the needs of the system. That can make all this stuff seem quite boring.
It can also make the whole process very intimidating, and therefore scary and stressful.
Serious problems due to stress, fear and boredom
So far, these are the big issues disrupting our lives and the lives of our children.
Many of the problems of society, and especially for teens, may be rooted in these issues.
Drug taking, risky behavior, the rebelling and crazy experiences, I believe, are because they are bored of waiting for the real life to come, or they are scared of that real life to come.
I may be wrong, however, we know there are many problems:
Appearing on Time.com, the following shows reason to be concerned:
Since the late 2000s, the mental health of teens and young adults in the U.S. has declined dramatically. That’s the broad conclusion of a new study published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Mental health is not just an issue for young people, it’s a huge issue in wider society. Tied to this issue, in many ways, is the issue of drug abuse.
In terms of substance abuse, one survey observed the following:
Monitoring the Future: Annual Survey of Teen Drug Use
Teens are vaping both marijuana and nicotine in record numbers. Past-month marijuana vaping among 12th graders nearly doubled in a single year — the second-largest one-year jump for any substance in the history of the survey.
One in 4 students in 12th grade, 1 in 5 in 10th grade, and 1 in 11 in 8th grade reported vaping nicotine in the past month.
On the other hand, rates of binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks in a row) continue to drop for students in 10th and 12th grades. (teens.drugabuse.gov)
Now, I may be wrong about the causes, but if more and more kids are turning to the use of drugs there must be a reason. I believe kids are turning to nicotine and marijuana, because they are either bored or stressed.
The statistics for binge drinking are encouraging, but for me, drinking was a way to loosen-up and enjoy times; not necessarily a healthy behavior, but it was somewhat positively driven. However, nicotine and other things were a way to escape the pressure.
No one really smokes for the dizzying thrill. If you had have asked me why I smoke, when I used to smoke, my answer was, ‘it helps me relax’. Basically, I smoked as a way of dealing with the stress I felt.
I may be wrong, but I totally believe that while teens seem to be adventurous and ‘invincible’, they are often actually stressed, scared and bored.
Not all, of course, some of your lovely bundles of joy are the life of the party, some know they’re born to rule, some have their happy path paved for them and still some do follow the rules. As much as you know any way.
However, many are drawn into crazy days.
This continues my work on youth and educational issues. If you found this interesting, or helpful, please also read:
Thanks for reading!
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Joe Brown is a teacher, a writer and an amateur investor. He has dedicated his life to finding success, by investing in personal development and striving for financial freedom. He likes to write about current events, self-improvement and investing. He strives to help his readers by inspiring them to achieve their own personal goals in personal and financial investing.