Do We Have A Generation “ME” problem?

Yesterday, another tragic school shooting has devastated Colorado once again at a K-12th grade charter school less than a 5-minute drive from my own daughter’s high school. The wounds from Columbine seem to get ripped open for our communities over and over again when we get the alerts that our schools are on lockdown or lockout or there is an actual active shooter situation. Everyone has had ENOUGH!

First, I want to offer my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of 18-year-old, Kendrick Ray Castillo, the STEM student who was killed in this awful event, a young man just a few days away from graduating high school. Now instead of planning his graduation party, his parents are planning his funeral. It’s devastating to think about. I simply cannot imagine what it feels like to lose a child.

I also offer my heartfelt thoughts and prayers of healing to the faculty, students, first responders, team of doctors who treated the injured patients and everyone’s families affected by the shooting.

Many students acted courageously by attempting to stop the shooters, including Kendrick and it is believed that this heroic response saved the lives of so many students. The prompt arrival of the first police officers on scene and their actions of entering the school immediately, running toward the threat, also undoubtedly prevented further tragedy.

I took to Facebook to find as much information as was available to us in the immediate aftermath. As expected, my FB friends expressed a gamut of emotions- and rightfully so as we try to make sense of yet another school shooting tragedy. Grief, fear, confusion and anger… just to name a few.

The Second Amendment argument inevitably surfaces almost instantly following any school shooting, but that’s not what this article is about.

The resounding theme whenever a school shooting happens is that “our kids have a right to feel safe at school”. I cannot agree more! In fact, every child has a right to feel safe whether they are riding in the car with their parents, watching a movie premier, attending a marathon, flying on an airplane, worshipping at church, or enrolled in a day care located in a federal building. And I believe EVERYONE has a right to feel safe doing these activities. Unfortunately, evil exists and people make horrific decisions that cause tragedies beyond our comprehension.

Of course the question of “Why?” undeniably surfaces. We want to make sense of a senseless act. What has changed since I was a kid growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s?

I believe in the era where the internet was born, we (my generation) were bombarded with tragic news stories that spread not only quicker but to a greater audience. This resulted in my generation becoming overly cautious as we had our own children. Let me expand on this thought by first talking about my own childhood.

Growing up, my parents warned me about kidnappers. My mom went as far as offering up actual instructions of what to do in the event someone tried to lure us in their vehicle. She encouraged my brother and me to always be aware of our surroundings. Despite this possible threat, we were allowed to ride our bikes to school, almost a mile away from home. In addition, we would ride our bikes around our neighborhood to visit any friend we wanted to or ride to our local Circle K, which was conveniently located across the street from an inpatient mental health facility. We didn’t have cell phones, GPS tracking devices or any other technology that kept us in constant contact with our parents. We might’ve been at one friend’s house and then we all decided to go to another friend’s house where we might play a pick up game of whiffle ball. This is where the distinction between how my generation was raised and how I and my peers raised our children comes in.

As a child, playing with my peers afforded my friends and I the opportunity to problem solve and accept the outcomes of situations when they arose (even when the outcome was sometimes not in my favor). That taught us to not only come up with solutions, but the value of compromise- when appropriate- and also to cope with the end result.

We were allowed to have a healthy level of competition and develop our strengths at school. For example, I cannot carry a tune (just ask my older daughter and her friends from the Alabama tailgate, I’m 100% certain that they will all concur). I had friends with amazing voices and other musical talents. I wished I could sing better and I admired them for their ability, but being aware that they were superior in that area did not make me feel bad or less worthy. I knew I had my own set of talents and strengths and was encouraged to nurture those. Because I loved sports, I also looked forward to our annual Field Day. You bet I was competing for as many blue ribbons, as possible. I won some, I lost some. I was okay with that. Same with softball and basketball games that I played in as I got older.

Now, not all of my friends were athletically-inclined, but our schools afforded them opportunities throughout the years to support and develop their talents, as well.

I loved and broke hearts and had my heart broken many times. I was bullied horribly my freshman year and was, at times, a bully (I have since had the opportunity to apologize to that person as an adult and she was very gracious). These aren’t fun experiences to go through but they are a part of life. EVERYONE must learn to deal with it and develop the most basic level of coping skills when these undesirable circumstances occur.

Let’s now consider how my children and their peers (the “internet” generation) have been raised. Long gone are the days of pick-up whiffle ball games in someone’s backyard. They are now scheduled play dates where the moms hangout (and likely get involved when a dispute occurs). In organized sports (now year-round) where the parents and coaches handle any conflict that arises.

We’ve witnessed a decrease in personal accountability while the lack of respect for authority is on the rise. Parents now blame teachers and administrators for their child’s shortcomings rather than address the issue with the child. There is little consequence for actions and behavior and there’s seemingly a mounting sense of entitlement (a recipe for disaster).

Lives are undeniably busy with everyone going in all different directions. As an example, kids are pressured to do sports year-round and be the best at it, while maintaining straights A’s in AP classes. The standards of what being “home” feels like and “family dinners”, including quality of food, have changed drastically over the last couple of decades. Mostly everything has become more important and has replaced the value of quality family time, which should consist of down-time. These kids need to just take a breath sometimes from life, sports, other activities, school and most definitely the little devices constantly in front of their faces.

The old-school field day doesn’t even exist anymore, everyone gets that participation trophy or ribbon. They don’t have to work for it and the life lesson that you win some and you lose some falls by the wayside. Or that hard work pays off. They’ve lost incentive to actually earn what they want.

Nobody wants their child’s heart to be broken, but it will heal. Parents need to teach their children coping skills when these sort of circumstances arise. Rejection is a part of life, everyone needs to learn how to handle it. Period.

It’s become a generation “ME” where they constantly take pictures of themselves and their value is determined by the number of the likes they get on their Instagram posts. The pressure for this age group appears to be astronomical, I believe mostly because of the constant access they have to technology. They take “keeping up with the Jones'” to a whole new level constantly comparing themselves with their peers. Additionally, this generation seems a whole lot braver behind their keyboards and write things they would never say to a person’s face.

Let’s rewind back to my childhood again. When I was in school, I either had to say it in person or call the person on the phone. I risked 1) getting into a fight, something most people wish to avoid, or 2) actually hurting the person. I would see it on their face or hear it in their voice. Talk about going to bed feeling like a complete jerk. It’s the emotional connection with the other person during those kind of interactions that teach us to do better and be sympathetic toward others. Those emotional connections are lacking when these teenagers communicate primarily through text or social media platforms. Cyber-bullying has been out of control, but thanks to legislative efforts and enough sympathetic souls that recognize it’s not okay, hopefully it’s taking a turn in the right direction.

Now, I’m not saying this entire generation fits this mold described above. In fact, there are many more kids and young adults, than not, that I know who interact very well with adults, exhibit tremendous amounts of sympathy and kindness, and have learned valuable coping skills and will be very successful in life.

This next question also inevitably surfaces when a tragedy strikes. I myself have brought it up from time to time. Is this a mental health issue? In some cases probably, but in most cases I feel its a declination in accountability and teaching our children to feel sympathy/empathy toward others. By the way, in our community, the affluent Douglas County, Colorado it can take 2-3 months to get a child into the Children’s Hospital mental health facility for an intake appointment. Honestly, these kids think they have problems? I will validate that some do have genuine mental health issues that need to be treated, but I believe a majority of these issues can be addressed and corrected in the home, especially if the behavior is a matter of being spoiled rotten. Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and the aforementioned section is merely my opinion from observation through the years.

We can only hope this same generation that I helped mold can start to recognize and understand the many perils associated with unfettered access to technology and that they decide to significantly limit the use with their own children. Hopefully, they choose to sit down and have home-cooked family dinners and discuss issues and feelings to ensure they are developing sympathetic children and remain involved in their children’s lives. May they nurture their children’s strengths and talents so the pressure of what their peers think about them matters just a little less (though it will still matter). Maybe they can undo some of this social ineptness that now exists. There will be a greater respect for authority versus a lack of accountability, an appreciation for things people do for them versus a sense of entitlement. They will understand the value of hard work and healthy competition so that when they get out into the real world they can feel confident in themselves to become a productive, contributing adult member of society.

#Enough #SchoolShootings #Society #RaiseKidsRight

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