For as long as I can remember I have been sharing with the parents I have worked with, the importance of validating young people’s emotional struggles – letting them know that you can see and understand they are having a hard time (I can see that is making you very angry); normalizing their struggles (You are not alone, that kind of thing makes most people angry and we are here for you); and then offering hope (We will get through this together, there is so much to look forward to). However, it is becoming more and more difficult to say that last bit about hope, because we are increasingly exposed to all forms of media highlighting so many worldwide problems. The significant rise in violence in our societies; the increase in mass shootings; the increase in bullying behavior in our schools – in person and on social media; the increase in bullying behavior in our leaders; the rise in racism and hate; the rise in mental health struggles across every sector of society; living through a worldwide pandemic that killed millions and the promise that there will be another; climate change and increasing natural disasters; ongoing wars in so many nations; and most recently, some scientists are saying that we are entering a sixth mass extinction event. Our leaders in business and politics have led us to this state of affairs and they are the ones with the power to change things, for the better.
From my perspective, people, young and old, are struggling to find hope that there is a future to look forward to. It becomes increasingly difficult to not be swept into a cyclone of hopelessness that triggers anxiety, anger, and depression. How can we help our young people to have hope that there is a future worth sticking around for? - that the future does not have to be all doom and gloom? Our young people need to see that their teachers, parents, community leaders (politicians too) have plans to regain control in these areas, to be able to guide them towards hope. I believe there are significant positive efforts to deal with these problems and it is such efforts that need to be highlighted more by our leaders and our media. In my view, the loss of hope for a worthwhile future, is directly related to the significant rise in anger and a sense of doom. We need to help our young people to avoid being swept into that cyclone of hopelessness and the only way to do that is to offer hope – hope that when they choose a positive path forward, things will improve and they can have a future that they hope for.