Our children and young adults are facing a lot of pressure to succeed. GPA. AP courses. College admissions. This observation is coming from those that watch our kids, and it is coming more frequently. We all want our children to succeed and have bought into the American narrative that the only way for this to happen is for them to earn degrees from prestigious schools. This has a number of untoward effects. One is huge student debt. Another is a disdain for the trades. We just don’t look at plumbers and welders and think “success.”
Perhaps the most troubling of these effects is the mental and emotional pressure it places on our young adult children. We impose our own aspirations on them, at times even denying them of normal elements of childhood play. The pressures can be too much for many to carry, and the overall effects are not good. At the extreme end of the spectrum It seems that more teenagers are deciding to jump in front of trains.
Frank Bruni writes about the suicide rates among teenagers in places like Palo Alto and the Washington DC suburbs. They are higher there than other places. And as researchers look for causes they find that the high pressure world of adult competition is trickling onto our children and contributing to a life of anxiety and despair.
Some of this reveals the irony of wealth and success. Having all that one could want in this world may be one of the worst things that could happen.
“Adam Strassberg, a psychiatrist and the father of two Palo Alto teenagers, wrote that while many Palo Alto parents are “wealthy and secure beyond imagining,” they’re consumed by fear of losing that perch or failing to bequeath it to their kids. “Maintaining and advancing insidiously high educational standards in our children is a way to soothe this anxiety,” he said.”
Strasbourg offers some wise advice,
“Want the best for your child, not for your child to be the best.”