Do we, as a society, expect too much from our kids? Are our kids growing up in a pressure cooker? What happens when that pressure becomes too much to bear? Today I’m sharing a powerful guest piece from teen author Alexendra Egi, author of The Lives We Lead. It’s a must-read for parents of kids of all ages, but especially those of tweens and teens.
As the mom of a tween, I am all too aware of the enormous pressure placed on our kids today. When my son started 3rd grade, his teachers told him “play time is over, this is the year we get serious.” Serious, they got. Any sort of “child like” behavior was met with swift punishment (so long, pitiful 15-minute recess) and ridicule. Coincidentally, it’s also the same year they started administering the state’s standardized tests, which I’ve been opting my son out of every year anyway. The pressure was on, and my previously bright, vivacious boy honestly hasn’t been the same since.
Pressure from teachers is rough enough, but around the adolescent years, pressure from peers seems to reach its peak. Last year, my son was so hurt by the words of another student, he told his principal he didn’t want to live anymore. Do you have any idea what it’s like to hear your 9-year-old tell you that? I sobbed all the way on the drive to the school, alternating between panic and heartbreak. If he’s under this much pressure in elementary school, what will it be like next year when he heads to middle school?
17-year-old Alexandra Egi, a high school student, entrepreneur and writer, sees the struggles that her peers face every day. She also sees the stigma surrounding the challenges that our kids are facing in a world that expects perfection from children as young as 8. Alexandra decided to do something about it by lending her voice to teens everywhere in her debut novel, The Lives We Lead. I’m currently reading Alexandra’s book and I’ll share my thoughts on that when I’ve finished. In the mean time, though, Alexendra was kind enough to take time out of her incredibly busy schedule of prepping for SATs and checking out colleges to put together a powerful guest piece about the pressure our children face every day.
A Generation Under Pressure
Guest piece by Alexandra Egi, author of The Lives We Lead
We all know that if you pressure cook an egg, it’ll crack. But what happens when you pressure cook a 19-year old girl, who seemingly had the world? Madison Holleran was a student at the University of Pennsylvania and she was a star track and field athlete. Even while achieving great success both in the classroom and on the track, stress began to mount. As reported on the New York Post website, her father said that the pressure she faced in her classes were significantly more than she was used to. Madison’s story came to a very tragic end when she jumped from a parking garage to her death (“Dad: Stress Drove UPenn Track Star to Suicide“).
What if you pressure cook a 13-year old girl who happened to be more physically developed than her classmates and, was bullied because of it? When Gabrielle Jackson’s mother called the school to deal with the problem, the school offered her only two suggestions: change schools or have a breast reduction surgery. It is ridiculous that instead of being treated like the victim she was, she was treated as the cause of the problem. Imagine being a 13-year old girl and being given the ultimatum of either surgically altering your natural appearance or leaving your school. You are basically being told that your body is offensive to those around you. Imagine the anxiety she must have felt every day, not to mention the deep psychological scaring and ill effects caused by the school’s shameful and demoralizing act. In this case, Gabrielle was able to withstand the pressure; where others haven’t been so fortunate (“Tammie Jackson: School Suggested 13-Year-Old Daughter Get Breast Reduction Surgery To Fight Bullying“).
Maybe we think that boys are better equipped for pressure? Jun Jun was a 10 year old boy with his whole life ahead of him. Like many a 5th grade student, Jun Jun got in trouble for speaking during class. As punishment, Jun Jun was asked to write a 1,000-word apology, a task that probably exceeds the capabilities of most 10-year olds. However, when Jun Jun was unable to complete the task, instead of a mild reinforcement of lesson, his teacher told him that he should kill himself. One would expect that a teacher, an authoritative figure, would know better than to say such a thing to a child. Jun Jun took the teacher’s words literally, and committed suicide. 10-year old Jun Jun would still be alive today, if he was not put under so much pressure, intimidation and abuse, by someone who was supposed to help guide and mould him into a good citizen. Instead, his parents mourn the loss of their only child (“Ten-year-old Chinese Pupil Jumps to His Death from 30th Floor Window ‘on Teacher’s Orders’ Because He Had Not Written an Apology for Talking in Class“).
Why is it that there is so much pressure on young people these days? Does technology play a role? Or is it our schools? It is concerning that the place where children are sent to be educated, has increasingly become the place where the students’ problems originate from. In my opinion, technology, media, schools and family all play a role in this modern epidemic.
The need to have the perfect social life, the need to have the perfect body, the need to have the perfect family and the need to be the perfect student is what is driving our once seemingly perfect eggs to crack.
To protect our youth from undue pressure, and the myth of perfection, an open dialogue must exist between the school and home. Mandatory mental health education on the development of coping mechanisms, support systems and unity is a must, as is the provision of open platforms for the youth to express concerns and seek help, without the fear of being judged. In addition to teaching respect for others, we need to promote self-respect and realize that it is not a given for all people. Above all, we need to empower the youth, and help them use social media as a healthy and fun invention, rather than as an instrument of negativity.
About the Author
Alexandra Egi is seventeen years old and a senior in high school. She is President and Founder of Impact Writers Hub, which is an online writing program that aims to make a difference using words. In addition to her responsibilities as a student and entrepreneur, Egi enjoys art, basketball, music, and spending time with her loving and supportive family. As a writer, Egi has been published twice in Canadian anthologies. The Lives We Lead is her first novel.