Today, like every day, teachers work hard to help kids pull themselves and their lives back together. We do it because we genuinely love our students and want the very best for them.
But kids aren’t resilient these days. And a lot of them want to die. And they express this. They have learned that these are the words to say to get whatever it is they need. And most of the time (not all of the time), what they want, what they need, is connection.
To be seen. To be heard. To be loved.
They crave time and conversation. They crave being told that they are perfect just as they are, and that life sucks a lot of the time but it sucking is also temporary. They crave being hugged. They crave knowledge and they crave understanding, belonging and acceptance.
And we aren’t there for them enough.
So, they take drugs, they bully, they fight, they steal, they argue, they yell.
They do everything they can to belong somewhere to feel validated. And often, these choices are unhealthy. And they impact on themselves and others, sometimes fatally, sometimes irreversibly.
And us adults are letting them down.
There was a lot wrong with how a lot of us were raised and I am not condoning that. But, I have a work ethic, I am resilient, I have forged a blessed life for myself, and I am happy. Well, today I am angry and I am sad. But at my core, living the life I choose to lead.
Because my mum was home. Because shops didn’t trade on Sunday’s or past midday on Saturdays. Because I had boundaries. Because I was taught to respect everyone older than me. Because my parents knew where I was, who I was with, and more often than not, what I was doing. Because I wasn’t given so much it didn’t fit in my house. Because we weren’t connected to everyone 24/7. Because I learned how to heal. Because if I did something wrong at school and my parents found out, I knew I was in deep shit because they wouldn’t ask me for or take my side; my ego was not pandered to.
It wasn’t an ideal world. It wasn’t an ideal childhood. But I knew there was a community of adults and families looking out for me. We had an extended family and I was as likely to get a smack from Aunty Maureen as I was my own parents, and we knew that. So when we would torment Aunty Maureen, we knew a few of us would cop it badly, but we also knew she wouldn’t get all of us. We hedged our bets.
We were raised in the proverbial village: shared values, shared consequences. And love. Through discipline. Through high expectations. Through connection, real connection.
And that’s what’s missing now.
Our kids are connected to false promises and false ideals. When all they want is to be connected to us. To you.
We need to spend quality time with kids. We need to be present. We need to be real.
Maybe then, they won’t take so many drugs, or threaten/assault adults, or tell us they don’t want to be here anymore, or cut, or be sad.