When my oldest granddaughter started college this year, I asked her the usual generic questions: What courses was she taking, which professors seemed dynamic, how was her dorm. I also asked her how she liked going to an all-girls college in a busy city. She ticked off her pros and cons but I was stunned by one "pro" in particular: She felt safe at her school. It was "not the kind of campus that would attract a mass shooter."
Our children and grandchildren are growing up at a very different time from us. The stresses--from social media onslaughts and the pandemic to the fear of a Kalashnikov-toting classmate appearing in a school hallway--are far beyond anything we experienced or worried about at their ages. Where our schools had fire drills, theirs have mass shooter drills.
As Peter Catapano wrote of parenting his daughter, "As she grew, the gentle life lessons she’d absorbed from Elmo and Dora the Explorer faded and gave way to the constant drumbeat of a 24-hour news cycle, social media and a culture driven almost entirely by the internet." The violence of the times in which she was coming of age "had all become undeniably woven into the fabric of life."
It's no wonder young adults today are operating under what psychologist Carl Pickhardt calls "the risk of lifestyle stress." In one of his newsletters, Pickhardt writes about the excessive demands on youngsters who are starting out their years of "trial independence." He offers some parental guidelines on the causes, how to assess if your child is struggling from stress plus some tips on how to help them deal with it.
His practical advice for parents is to guide your child with self-awareness pointers like these:
--Treat occasional stress as expected.
--View ongoing signs of stress with attention.
--Make regular self-maintenance a priority every day.
--Don’t pursue tempting changes at the expense of maintenance.
--Set your goals, standards, and limits to avoid constant over-demand.
--Try not to make resorting to stress to accomplish daily tasks a regular habit.
As for Catapano, he writes that it had become impossible to look his daughter in the eye and
"tell her everything was going to be OK. It wasn’t, not really, and she knew it. Yet, somehow, our family found ways to keep a sense of enjoyment and purpose in our daily lives, and an openness to possibility — even optimism — about the future. Regardless of the circumstances we face, it’s what humans do.
painting: Picasso: Dora Maar with Cat