Every parent thinks their kids are growing up way too fast. It is surprising how well this maps to the number of adults who seem to have never grown up. There are real and lasting consequences to actively slowing the development of a child that is in the process of maturing.
First of all, it is not possible for your kid to grow up too fast. There is no set time for maturation. Brains are different, and as such, it’s inevitable that some will develop more quickly than others. When a child learns her letters and numbers faster than others, we don’t say that she is growing up too quickly; we are proud at how quickly her brain is developing.
The sentiment that our children are growing up too fast is a reflection of our emotional need to keep them cute and innocent. But life isn’t about staying cute and innocent. Just like dogs aren’t meant to stay puppies, people aren’t meant to stay children. At some point, we have to start preparing our children to live independently as fully-vested citizens of the world; that training starts from day one. Every generation has its unique challenges not faced by the previous one. Today’s parents have to prepare their children for realities that didn’t exist in their day. Here are a few examples of what your kids need to know at a younger age than you learned them:
How to Cope with Addiction
Whether you’re centering on their addiction, or the addiction of a friend or family member, children have to be taught how to deal with it. Like it or not, they are going to encounter people in their lives who struggle with drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse is a big problem for today’s young adults, which is why many programs offer substance abuse rehab for young adults. The trials and tribunes they face are different thanks, in part, to peer pressure, and they need to learn that there is hope for the people in their lives who have a problem, and that hope extends to them if they are the one with the problem.
The only thing worse than finding one’s self in trouble is being convinced there is no way out of that trouble. We teach them how to call for help if they suffer physical harm. They know about 911 and hospitals. This generation also needs to know about effective drug rehabilitation, and what to do when they recognize the symptoms, whether in themselves or others.
Too many young adults find themselves in domestic situations for which they are not suited because they were not aware of their sexual options. The need for sex education goes well beyond subjects like abstinence and sexual assault. Some girls are still being educated as if their only mission in life is to marry and bear children. On the same spectrum, boys are still being taught as if same-sex attraction was not a biological reality for many.
Yesterday’s taboos are a poor match for today’s discoveries, and none of these things are easy to discuss. As a society, we are still grappling with the implications. Even religious organizations are in the process of rethinking human sexuality. No one has all the answers. The least we can do for our growing teens is to make sure they know all of the options available.
When to Take Risks
As Captain Kirk used to say, Risk is our business. But, you don’t have to command a star ship in the final frontier to encounter risk, and neither do your kids. Risk is a part of the human experience, a significant one that propels our growth from within. Teaching your kids to avoid risk is to limit them in what they can excel. There are a number of risks you should let your children take.
Children are our responsibility and privilege, not trophies or dolls. We have to be about the business of helping them grow up and meet the challenges of their generation, not ours. Among those challenges are coping with addiction, sexual options, and appropriate risk taking.