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Special report: Nurturing happier, healthier youth
Original post made
on Apr 22, 2011
In the months of grieving and searching dialogue that followed Palo Alto's teen suicides, a wide range of community groups, including the school district, settled on a statistical strategy, among others, to assess and address the emotional wellness of the city's youth: "developmental assets." ==B Photos by Veronica Weber/Palo Alto Online.==
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Friday, April 22, 2011, 8:59 AM
Posted by Elephant in the Room
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 7, 2011 at 9:59 am
While I think this survey gives us a bit of an insight into how kids are feeling, I believe it has many flaws. There is a lack of ability to measure how a kid's history affects his current risk-taking behavior. It also does not weigh some assets more than others in trying to determine what causes children to feel unvalued, alone, sad, depressed, etc.
Beyond this survey, here are items I think we need to look at:
- Kids are often left out of groups of friends because of their socio-economic status.
- Kids who are not popular (because they are different in any way) are left out. I see parents unintentionally supporting their kids in excluding the unpopular kids.
_ I see parents wanting their kids to be friends with kids from other "good families" - which usually means families with a big house, lots of money, parents who went to Ivy Leagues, etc.
- Kids who are trying to climb the social status ladder can be very mean (bullies) in order to rise to the position they aspire to. These kids can appear very sweet during one-on-one play dates, but watch them in a group and you will see how they act in very hurtful ways.
- In some other countries, adults talk to kids they don't know. They genuinely value kids and the kids learn to value other kids this way. In other countries this comes in the form of a passing pat on the head or simply some extra attention to a child just for being a child.
- The kids in other countries get attention and respect every day from a number of people they know and don't know. In our community, kids get things like iPhones, or huge, overdone parties, or parents who spend a lot of time making sure they get into an Ivy League. Mom's who stay at home, spend a lot of time behind the scenes making sure our schools are better and our kids get the best education they can. This is a wonderful thing for the community, but I don't think kids see this as valuing them.
- We further the lack of a community feeling by doing things like giving our kids cell phones to call home if they, for example, fall off of their bike. Why not have them knock on someone's door for help? We are unintentionally creating barriers for our kids so that they do not feel connected to the greater community.
- We need to teach our kids that they can rely on adults in the community and I believe we are failing to do this.
- We need to teach our kids to be more inclusive, less social climbing animals.
- How many parents that live in Palo Alto include Tinsley transfer kids in play dates, birthday parties, etc?? I can tell you that in the schools my kids have attended it is very rare for those kids to be included. From this example, you see that kids who simply aren't like others risk being left out, left alone and made to feel bad about themselves.
- I have witnessed many teachers and some administrators acting as if they do not value kids... especially kids who don't get A's, who act out, or who have learning differences. There is a big push to make kids more independent without regard to their developmental ability. All kids must conform at the same time.
- I have seen kids shamed in class rooms, in school play grounds, in school halls... I see administrators turning a blind eye to this because California makes it difficult to discipline a teacher.
- In schools, kids who do one bad thing are continually scrutinized and looked upon as "bad kids". The more this happens, the more those kids feel alienated and the more they act out. Often times, those kids are blamed for things they did not do because the teachers and administrators assume that it must be those kids that did wrong in a situation. There is almost no way for those kids to turn things around and, I have seen things get really bad for these kids. The less connected they feel the worse they do in school. By the time these kids are in high school, they are the "delinquents" who no one cares about and who are the first to be yelled at or left out. These kids then are excluded from sports and other extra curricular activities. If these kids do not have much parental support, it is even worse.
- At the high school level, I have experienced kids being treated in a very business-like manner. Questions, such as what classes they have taken, what grades do they have, what extracurricular things are they involved in, etc., etc. There is little space for these kids to be kids, to be seen as humans with a range of emotions. There is little space for these kids to say to an adult, "I am unhappy... or my friends have been mean to me... or I don't know what I will do if I can't play on the football team." I think these things need to be something kids feel they can talk about with lots of adults... not just Adolescent Counseling Services.
- As a community of parents, senior citizens, teachers, administrators, college graduates, and others, I believe we can do a much better job of making kids feel valued, adored, loved, included, understood. We are a community of really smart people... I believe it just takes a little less of an academic approach to these problems and more introspection on the part of adults. All kids want to feel loved and included... especially the ones who actively push adults away with bad behavior.
Let's all try harder to make Palo Alto a place all kids (not just our won) feel valued and loved.