My adolescent clients have been coming in with terrible angst. They are triggered and tested to death. School has no meaning because all they do is “teach to the test.” If you don’t believe me, my teacher clients say the same thing. Kids and teachers who are high achievers are burnt out; kids who are low achievers get inappropriate help, like being muddled in a classroom that combines autism with ADD, dyslexia, and bipolar. They don’t necessarily mix.
College kids say their parents are moving, running out of money; their school work is too hard. “Stress culture” has replaced actual culture. The worst President in history is sitting there while Gen Z are counting their college debts and wondering if there will be a job after graduation. They don’t want to work 9-5 and their parents have thrown up their hands worrying about what’s next. A perverse kind of relative morality and lies and deceit are gaining traction in our culture wars, while doing the right thing and basic decency are a lost art.
Kids come in saying their parents are awful. Like a parent who says, I’m going to have another child to give me what you can’t, I’m getting divorced because of you, I’m going to send you away, I’m tired. This is tantamount to abuse.
Then the teens and young adults come to therapy alienated, estranged, confused, isolated, lonely, clinically depressed, anxious, and socially scared to death. They think their parents’ anxiety is contagious. So they turn to substances, self-harm and self-doubt; they turn to more and more risky behaviors, hoping someone will stop them. But alas, no one is available. Vaping has become the culprit of some serious if not fatal issues, but keep your eye on the prize. Vaping is the next rage, like juul, or crystal healing. But the underlying causes of self-destructive behaviors have not changed. Where are the prevention programs?
Here’s what I’ve gleaned:
- Anxiety and depression, OCD, mood problems and personality disorders have some inheritable characteristics but you can’t “catch” them from your crazy parents.
- Learn to face your fears early and often. If you avoid them you stagnate.
- Your parents have their own problems. They cannot transmit them to you. Try to grow and learn in ways they can’t.
“First and foremost agree that the welfare of the child is paramount. Then it is important for both parents (together if possible) to give the child a framework that is age appropriate to make sense of the divorce. It may be something as simple as, “Mom and Dad cannot live together but we both love you and will continue to take care of you.” The framework statement of course will be much different for a 6-year-old than a 16-year-old child. Explain to the child it is the parent’s choice and it is not their fault. You will have more success if you have this conversation more than once.