Monday, December 31, 2012
Dr. Wes: We arrive tomorrow at the year 2013, in remarkably good shape for a world destroyed on Dec. 21. As one who grew up in the shadow of an oft-imagined Cold War mushroom cloud, I found the threat from long-dead Maya a bit underwhelming.
So if our world and way of life is to survive, we must honor the Double Take New Year’s resolution tradition. Organized as she is, this year Katie thought we needed themes. So this is mine: strive.
Our kids have endured some tough years since 2008 when our current seniors were just entering eighth grade and the economy collapsed. That summer, Julia Davidson and I wrote: “Increasingly I see cash-strapped families in which food and fuel are wiping out discretionary spending, forcing parents to rely on credit to get by. Much of the money conflict in these families comes from teenagers who don’t understand why the gravy train is rapidly leaving the station. It’s time to help them come to grips with the same realities we are facing as adults, and unless you’re one of the families who has stressed good economic behavior from early on, it won’t be easy.”
Right about then, everything went from annoying to catastrophic.
By 2011, those eighth-graders were no longer entitled. They were frightened. In December, Miranda Davis wrote: “If you’re a teen, and you’re not scared of what will come with the next several years, you aren’t paying attention. The world we live in has changed. We can no longer be materialistic creatures and we’re learning the hard way that we have to manage our money wisely. As a senior, most of my nightmares consist of how to pay for college…[and] a college degree is no longer a ticket to a good job.”
Today, I see a dazed and frustrated generation. While the majority of kids continue to put their heads into the wind and lean forward, quite a few seem resigned to give up, play video games, live at home and smoke.
This year, as parents, our resolution should be to help, or, if necessary, require our kids to learn to strive. To look at history not as a boring class in fifth hour, but as instruction on how to rise up against economic depression, war, bigotry and a culture of fear, and make ourselves and our world ever better.
Things really are looking up. The silliness of the fiscal cliff may frighten us more than the silly Maya, but a great many good things lie beyond our temporary obstructions. They always do. Kids who’ve said “to hell with it” simply won’t be ready to join that hopeful future.
This year, have courage. And strive.
Katie: It’s easy to brainstorm a list of broad self-improvements while the ball is dropping in NYC, and difficult to act on the day-to-day details of those fragile resolutions. This year, I challenge teens to take time out of every day to work on a quality that’s important to all generations: respect.
Whether your behavior was infallible or intolerable in 2012, 2013 is a new year. Let’s look back on it with pride in 2014.
Respect your parents. Most teenagers can remember complaining at least once during adolescence that their families treated them like toddlers, perhaps while screaming during a teenaged temper tantrum. Yet, every argument has more than one side to it. Before shouting something you may regret later, take five deep breaths and imagine you’re stepping out of your body and into your parents’ minds. Trying to understand your parent is a true mark of maturity.
Respect your peers. If you’ve read any young adult novels lately, you’ll know that our generation is notorious for its selfishness. Teens sometimes have trouble thinking beyond themselves, failing to see how their words and actions affect those around them. Try paying special attention to how you behave toward your peers this year, in real life and online. We’re all going through this strange stage between childhood and adulthood: If we have that much in common, it shouldn’t be so difficult to empathize with the kid sitting next to us in math.
Respect yourself. All teenagers can benefit from recognizing themselves as inherently good people, because only when we believe in our best qualities can we exhibit them for the world. Your behavior has the power to decide how others view and treat you. Whether in private or in public, in school or on Twitter, hold yourself to high standards. Respect for everyone else in your life will follow naturally.
Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP, is author of “Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens” and “Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens.” Katie Guyot is a Free State High School senior. Send your confidential 200-word question on adolescence and parenting to email@example.com.