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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Compassion for Teens

I was invited to participate in a wonderful event called 1000 Voices for Compassion.  I took one look at the outline and immediately clicked accept.  Because this world can use about 5 million tons more compassion.

I accepted this invitation more than a week ago and I've been noodling my thoughts about compassion. Watching for it, looking for opportunities where compassion immediately comes to mind.  The blogger who invited us to participate in this movement tagged the invite with this:

Compassion begins at home and there are so many ways to teach our children to be compassionate, so many ways to show compassion toward one another.
I go to a large church with many outreach groups that serve those in need; orphans, addicts, homeless, lots of places to place your compassion far and wide.  That's the easy place to muster up compassion isn't it?  We expect to feel compassion for those that have been marginalized. It's the "right thing to do". 

Aren't there other places that could use some compassion?  Aren't there places inside our own homes and schools and grocery stores that could use some compassion?  The place I felt called to write about most is with our teens.  This teen group cries out for compassion and somehow we just give them higher expectations in the name of good parenting.  Study more, practice harder, don't wear that, don't eat that, why are you screaming at me, why are you screaming at your sister?

Maybe they're screaming for some compassion.

I find it completely ironic that a pregnant woman evokes such compassion.  We say things like, Oh those hormones make things so difficult and aren't you just exhausted, it's so hard when your body is changing and you just can't explain your moods"  If you really think about it, isn't it the same for our teens?  Hormones surging, exhausted, bodies changing.  Yet instead of asking them to put their feet up and get some rest, we rattle them out of bed with chores and expectations to do more and be more.

What if they just need a nap.  What if they just need someone to put an arm around their crabby selves and say, "Maybe you should just chill out for awhile and rest."  And allow them to rest without guilt and a lecture about grades or their next soccer match.

The Boston Globe ran an article in July 2014 sharing the results of a survey of 10,000 middle and high school students conducted by Harvard's Graduate School of Education.  

The students ranked compassion or caring for others below achievement and happiness.  This should concern you.  As we push our students to achieve more and more guess where they now find value..... yep..... in achievement.  While we're busy making sure they study hard and get into all the right classes and get the right grades, and get picked for the right teams, we've sent the message loud and clear that their grades and achievement are more important than caring for others.

I'm quite sure we didn't mean to make this shift in the culture of our children, but we darned well better find a way to change it.  Listen around your house this week. What  are the messages we are sending to our kids?  What do we ask about, what do we praise, what do we encourage?

It might be time to give the kids a rest and a healthy dose of compassion for this hormonal exhausting time in their lives.  Teach them love and compassion by extending it to them.  If we extend them more compassion, maybe they'll learn to extend it to each other. Maybe that's what's really wrong with the kids these days.  Maybe they've learned to be hard on each other because that's what we've accidentally taught them at home.  Maybe we've bought into the lie that if you work really hard and get really good grades and get into the best schools, you'll get the best job, and find the best spouse, and live in the best house, and have the best kids and go on the best vacations. When the truth is, you'll wake up some day exhausted and miserable from always trying to be the best.  Maybe our definition of best is all a huge crock and that's what is really wrong with our kids these days.

So in the name of #1000speak for compassion, I'm going to work harder to praise these beautiful teenagers for their loving hearts and their beautiful souls.  And I'm going to remember they are a raging ball of emotions and hormones and sometimes they just need a hug and a free pass to rest.