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Its so hard for youth today. Really?

June 30, 2017

Have you heard someone recently say:

  • “It’s so hard to be a teenager/young adult today.” OR
  • “Young adults face challenges now that previous generations never experienced.” OR
  • “Its never been harder to grow up than in today’s world.”

It is not uncommon to hear these type of statements… from parents, teachers, youth & young adult workers, counselors and clergy. While there is a measure of truth (actually the person who says this is really just stating the obvious!), the strong implication – even if the exact words are not said – is that life is harder for young people today than it ever has been.

high school grad picWhile I am not negating the challenges of being a teenager or young adult in 2017, this strikes me as the epitome of a selfish generation – as was every generation before it! – and shows an ignorance of history’s realities.

Let’s just stop and consider for a moment…

  • If you were a “Western” teenager in the 1950s, chances are at least one of your parents was involved in World War II. In other words, if you were not being raised by a single parent, at least one parent likely experienced what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. However, in the 1950`s, there were no counselors for them to talk to. No support groups for veterans who were having horrific flashbacks or having trouble sleeping or even functioning because of what they had witnessed in war. They simply got back to work once the war was over.
    It is not discussed much, but a significant number of children grew up in “physically abusive” situations, partly because fathers had no way to deal with the anger of various military memories. They had sudden outbursts and the spouse and/or children took the brunt of the misplaced anger.
  • If were a teenager in the 1960s especially in the USA, you experienced significant racial tension. If you were African-American, it was directed at you, your parents, and your friends. If you were Caucasian, your grandparents, parents, and maybe you probably showed racial preference with other people… even if you did not really believe it was right or necessary. It was dangerous (physically, socially, or politically) to stand up against your side of the battle. History tells us it was a pretty polarizing time!
  • If you were a teenager in the 70s or early 80s, you grew up in fear because at any moment the Soviet Union could start World War III. Governments around the world had their detection systems always active to make sure they were aware of what was flying around in the air. Although I do not personal memory of such an exercise, I have heard others recall practicing emergency procedures at school in case something happened (not unlike similar drills in WWII or school lockdowns in current times).

This is just a sampling of some of the socio-political challenges recent previous generations faced. There were also changing family dynamics and the related challenges this brought to teenagers growing up in a given era.

For example, the two career parents are starting to retire now (aka baby boomers). Thus, they are just beginning to reflect on their work, family, and life experiences and what was beneficial to their physical, mental and emotional health as well as to the well-being of those they loved. They didn’t have anyone to guide them in how to raise healthy well-adjusted children when both parents work outside the home… because (almost) no family had two parents working outside the home until the 1960s allowed this arrangement to be socially acceptable.

And this is just one sociological example among many a person could choose to compare and contrast the different generations in the past 75 years. And people could point to many other changes over the past century. Or the incredible differences of growing up in different eras of history further back than the past century.

So next time someone says, “It’s so much harder to be a young person today!” smile and politely disagree. Indeed, it is very different. But to say it is much harder is both ignorant and arrogant.

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