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It’s Worse Than You Think

The prevailing 2020 adult mindset is to hunker down, ride the storm, and hope that normal returns very soon. Families with school-aged children have made major adjustments just to keep “school” going. But I’ve been wondering how many of us adults have taken a step outside of our proverbial bunkers to see what’s really going on with our children.

Maybe young people aren’t taking all of this change as well as we think.

Prior to COVID, teen suicide was already a really big problem—a leading killer of young Americans. Everyone agreed that mental health was quickly declining in schools. Teachers were witnessing this decline firsthand as students came to classes despondent, apathetic, or so tightly wound by stress that anxiety attacks were becoming as commonplace, perhaps, as the common cold.

If the well-being of teens was bad before COVID, I believe it’s now approaching critical levels.

This week I spoke with some administrators from Colorado high schools. I asked them how their students are doing. Their response: students feel more isolated than ever before. Many students feel unseen and are so unhappy that they’re pulling away from any opportunities to connect, isolating themselves even more. Some have stopped going to school altogether.

I tried to put myself into the shoes of a 17 year-old. Last year, they lost prom. For athletes, thespians and musicians, they lost a critical season that was supposed to launch them toward future success in their craft. This year, the pinnacle Senior experience that they had anticipated for most of their teen life has been taken from them. Their senior year was supposed to be filled with friends, memories, and experiences that adults and Hollywood have told them would stick with them for the rest of their lives.

One friend shared with me a letter his daughter, a Senior in high school, recently sent to him and his wife. It’s a desperate cry for help that I believe many right now aren’t brave enough to say out loud:

“I just want to say that waking up for school every day feels impossible and doing normal things like getting dressed and brushing my teeth are really hard right now. Nothing specific happened or triggered me, it’s just life right now. I don’t want to go to school online. It’s emotionally hard every single day and I’m gaining nothing from it. I’m really sad and stressed and overwhelmed and I feel really terrible. I’ve had what feels like a migraine for three days and I feel physically sick. I don’t like talking about it. I don’t really even feel like talking to anyone or doing anything. I don’t really know what to do.”

If you are a parent… No, if you are an adult, an entire generation needs you right now. They need you to look up and see them. Sit with them in their emotions and let them tell you about their anger, frustration and grief. They aren’t the resilient, experienced ones in society. We adults are. They need us to acknowledge what they feel and help them find a way through.

If adults do not rally around young Americans in a big way, we may lose the soul of an entire generation.

by Tricia Halsey, Executive Director

Since March, 2020, Big Idea Project has been a forerunner in leading the way for students, schools and families toward healing, connection and personal transformation. Our 2020 classes in high schools are proving to be more timely and effective for student well-being than traditional classes. Our online class for parents, “Unleashing the Curious Learner,” is giving parents what they need to re-establish new family foundations that are shifting their children’s sense of identity and purpose. Big Idea Project is a non-profit that has been negatively impacted by COVID and decreased donations. You can help teens by financially giving to Big Idea Project on Colorado Gives Day, Tuesday December 8, 2020. Schedule your gift HERE!