Dear parents, Take the foot off the gas

Today’s Question deals with the dirty little secret of Minnesota schools: There are a lot of kids killing themselves. The reasons are more difficult to get to, however, partly because some school officials insist they’ve got to keep a lid on the situation so that more kids don’t kill themselves.

On MPR’s Facebook page today, one young man takes issue with the notion that there’s a cure for this problem that’s going to come from the schools alone.

Meet David.

Today’s adults seem to be quite out of touch with the “plight” of the modern teenager. I am a senior in high school, and although I have seen and encountered bullying, I have never seen it as a significant detriment to a teens mental health…. There are many, much more pressing issues that are not so easily solved. First of all, the pressure teens feel from their parents and teachers to get good grades and test scores can be crushing. This is juxtaposed with acute societal pressures to be “cool,” form a confident personal identity and find a place in the world.

To top it off, a vast majority of teens I know have very difficult home lives, in which they are unable to make their own decisions and have very few places to find peace and quiet. Adults are constantly nagging teens to keep up grades, stay competitive in sports, make friends, and many other things–and all the while, teens are seeing their guardians struggle with their own relationships, jobs, and a plethora of other issues.

Although hiring more counselors or having a stricter policy to defend our poor teens against bullying seem to be easy fixes, neither would see a significant change. What we need are more sleep, more comfortable places to have time to ourselves, more free time, more compassion and above all, less stress. Teenagers are more mature than they’re often given credit for, and when given a choice, they will be civil to each other. The greatest issue rears its ugly head when adults have so much difficulty understanding what causes the teenagers so much pain.

Over to you, parents.