Abandoning Teenagers

Hurt_2I've read a few chapters of Chap Clark's book Hurt: inside the world of today's teenagers.  It's pretty good so far, and very challenging to some preconceived notions society makes of teenagers.

His basic premise is that adolescence today is fundamentally different than it was a few decades ago.  In particular, society has systematically abandoned the young in a variety of ways and left on their own to navigate the path to adulthood.  But instead of realizing the problems of abandonment, society judges our youth as menacing and an inconvenience to the ways of life we intend for ourselves, leading to more abandonment. 

Teens are now forced in a culture of isolation to "band together and create their own world." (p 44)

Clark writes, "Adults will highlight [extra-curricular] activities as proof of their commitment to the young.  'I drive my kid to all activities.  I sacrificed my own life, work, avocation, and enjoyment in order to take the kids to soccer games, concerts, and competitions.'  This statement is in and of itself another subtle form of abandonment.  We have evolved to the point where we believe driving is support, being active is love, and providing any and every opportunity is selfless nurture.  We are a culture that has forgotten how to be together.  We have lost the ability to spend unstructured down time."

Clark then mentions two consequences of parental and adult abandonment: a lengthening of the adolescent journey (no one is there to help them develop and mature) and a sense of aloneness in the world.

The real hope for youth is genuine relationships with adults who will go as far as necessary to build trust.

I think Clark is on to something.