Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Proud to be a Pioneer: Parenting – the Ultimate Test

Parenting is the world’s greatest honor and its’ most difficult task…all too often we experience both in the same day! We’re grateful for all the time, energy, and lessons you invest in your kids and we’ll continue to support and complement your efforts every day.
If you read or watch the news, you’re well aware that there is an epic crisis in adolescent mental health happening now. It’s been visible for awhile now for those of us working with young people every day, and there have been a wide variety of explanations. Some researchers have said young people are just more willing to come forward right now, but there’s not really an increase in depression. Some claim it’s related to the pandemic and lockdowns, the economy, school safety, and more.
There is likely a tinge of truth in some or many of those explanations, but my take is a little different. Teens’ self-reported relationships with parents is near an all-time high and has generally increased since the year 2000 (Source: Monitoring the Future, Teen satisfaction with life generally rose from 1990-2012, and then plummeted over the following decade. Why? A few thoughts:
Smartphones. We’re losing a childhood that was largely play-based for one that is too often phone-based. This simply doesn’t match with what we know about the development of human beings! We can connect without connecting. We can play games without playing games together. We can be in the same room without any conversation, without even watching the same things for entertainment. Truth is, the non-internet based phone would be the way to go with today’s kids – allowing them the ability to connect (text or talk) with friends reasonably quickly and to stay in touch with parents, but still needing each other.
Social Media. This is a halfway decent place to keep up with far away friends and their families, and for remembering birthdays. Occasionally you can glean information on social media. But it’s also fraught with poor excuses for news, unrealistic comparisons, and enough negativity to fill a universe. It’s no place for the teenage brain (and may not be for many adults, too!).
Lack of Achievement. Have your kids help you every day with chores around the house. They may not mow the lawn or shovel the snow as well and as neatly as you, but they can contribute to the home and family. They may load the dishwasher all wrong, make a mess of the pancake batter, or fold the towels incorrectly…but they can contribute. And each of these involve accomplishing something of merit. Start young, and never stop. Accomplishment establishes self-worth, and that sends our self-esteem skyrocketing.
As a general disclaimer – I’m not a social scientist or an expert of any sort…just an observer of young people who wholeheartedly wants to see your kids have opportunities for success in the world. I want to help them be healthy physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally for our community or wherever they intend to succeed! I’m also not judging anyone…I’ve made plenty of mistakes on my own. I’m hoping you can learn something from my errors and together, we can do better for this generation of Pioneers and the next.
In 2024, let’s do all we can together for our kids, and to continue making Clare a great place to live and learn!

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