Last week, I spoke eighteen times in local schools with different classes on Anger, Suicide, Depression/Addictions, and Stress. These classes and the interaction with the students keep me aware of the needs of today’s youth. After these various classes, I had some of the students come up to me with the following responses:
- A girl who was cutting herself
- Suicide note (with counselors and police called in accordingly)
- Request for my contact information
- Thank-yous that were hard to say but deeply sincere for addressing the tough stuff.
At some point each of us has to figure out how, when, and where we can invest in students in the ways they really need help. They don’t need another “you can do it”, “dream big”, or “the whole world is waiting for you” kind of talk. They need a good grasp of reality and the tools to deal with the real world of failure, death, competition, relationships, and pain. If they get the real tools they won’t be the victims of failure, death, competition, relationships and pain but those who can prosper in various situations.
Students aren’t pessimists or optimists anymore they are perfectionists, fatalists, or “I don’t give a *&^*$*%^”. These extreme reactions are often because they are pushed to punishing performances or ridiculed for their normal failures in learning how to live new parts of life on a regular basis.
Given the decreasing age of physical maturity (they are biological adults much earlier than in years past) and the increasing expectations and overwhelming information available; they feel and hear the call to grow up too quickly. Only a few will fit that call and have the capacity to march into that brave new world successfully. The vast majority will falter along the way and find place to hide and try to recover from the wounds that are slowly bleeding out from hearts that often pay the biggest price for this new pace of life.
In whatever capacity, our role is to be real with them and help equip them for the bumpy road that life brings. We have to be willing to really listen to the mess of their lives and hearts and walk them through the real steps it takes to deal with them; we have to dive into the dirt.
Easy? Of course not, if it was I wouldn’t have the experiences I do with the students I speak to on a regular basis. Needed? Yes, and you can’t assume that someone else is already doing it. Too many students are completely disconnected from anyone who is pouring help, hope and healing into their lives.
Nothing surprises me anymore; nothing. Don’t become discouraged or overwhelmed just realize that anything you can do helps and the more you know the more you can help.
Some teens, out of need to protect themselves from more hurt, encourage adults to fear them. Give them a reason to hope and smile. The liar and the thief is taking full advantage of this pressure to get them to take their own lives, self-medicate with destructive addictions and walk away from the only real faith that will walk with them through it all.
Half time talk is done; let’s go out there and make a difference in a student’s life today.