Musings on millennials
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE - Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2019 - 12:00am

It seems today’s kids are suffering from so many things. There’s a plethora of dysfunctions that experts have diagnosed to explain youth behavior in the past 25 or so years. ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, autism, addiction, self-esteem issues, bullying, stress, being a “special” child — these are some of them.  

When we were in school, these issues were non-existent, or never brought up. At least I don’t remember if they ever were except for bullying perhaps.  In truth, during our days bullying was not a burning issue although it should have been. Rarely reported were wild behaviors like drunkenness and possession of porn material. I surmise that low self-esteem was probably explained as mere shyness then. 

When I think about it now, it is possible that many of us who were in school in the ’50s to the ’70s were suffering from the conditions above, but no one knew what they were called then. We were undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and lived with it. 

But then, it could be that a lot of these are entirely new problems that have just recently been uncovered. Are they conditions that have sprung up just recently?  

I don’t know. I must research more about this. But something tells me that these are mostly new psychological troubles of a new era. Kids are growing up in an environment and time that is unprecedented. I am not even sure parents know how to raise them properly in this new setup. There is no rear view mirror to look at to navigate the future.

Last weekend, I was talking with a few friends about how differently the kids are being raised today. My friends’ ages are from 40s to 60s. They pointed out how easy everything is for millennials. Where we had to go to the library and research, they have the internet. Where we had to use a typewriter to write down our thesis, they use word processors on laptops. So many conveniences at their fingertips. Doing schoolwork has become a lot easier.

From the point of view of those who never had these when they were in school, the students never had it so good.

And yet, as a teacher, I feel many of the kids in ADMU (and I suppose in other universities as well) are actually at a disadvantage compared to students of the last century. To me, I feel we were emotionally stronger and could cope with hardship better. We also had a greater capacity to concentrate and focus. 

In terms of general knowledge, I notice many of the kids now are largely uninformed about things that happened in the world past 40 years ago. They are not knowledgeable or that interested in history. They like watching videos but are not too fond of reading. They hardly know the classics. But they are savvy in social media.

As a teacher I realize that going to a classroom and simply teaching the lesson is not enough. There are many students these days who are looking for more things to learn from a teacher aside from academic stuff. In terms of presentation, a teacher must be more creative and must engage them in more ways. Aside from the lesson, I also know they are looking for adult modeling. When I pay attention to my students, I am amazed at the connection we easily establish. Often I get a feeling that I may be one of very few adults in their lives who take them seriously. Could it be that their own parents are unequipped or too busy working and have no time to talk to them? 

My friends were saying that during their time, they did not have teachers who actually cared about what students were going through as young people. In the old days, I did not know of any teacher who encountered students suffering from depression. If they did, it was not their problem. There was the school counselor. Depression was just “the blues” or perhaps an emotional problem not needing any special attention. They pretty much just taught the lessons. If you did not ask questions, or did not submit your homework, then sorry for you. As a student, you just had to tough it out. 

The classroom has changed now. Kids are encouraged to ask many questions, have more sources when researching. Teachers are also more aware of students who are undergoing depression. I have had a few depressed students tell me that they are going through it. Each department can corroborate this. 

In my own family, my eldest daughter Erica has undergone bouts of depression. We have been very supportive as a family. Luckily, she can hold things together and get over it. 

Recently, I heard of a young musician who jumped off a building. I was so troubled to hear about it. So young. A huge loss. As it turns out, he was somehow a friend of my two daughters. This made him more real to me. It really made me think how important it is to keep communications open with young people these days. Too many suicides happening now. During our time, suicides were unheard of in the Philippines. At a time when so much is available to young people that can help them learn and reach their potential, there is also so much angst that troubles them now. 

In a way, it is not surprising. Sometimes, too many choices actually leads to unhappiness. Instead of enjoying the power to choose, we suffer over the loss of options. When that happens, commitment becomes so hard to do. Without committing, how can one have any direction or purpose in life?

There was something about growing up decades ago that actually toughened earlier generations. We had little money, possessions. We had no cellphones. We had television. No social media. We had real, flesh and blood friends we could physically be with. No online life. We could be “grooving” somewhere or chilling out without half of the world wondering where we were or what we were doing. Our parents also made it clear that they wanted us to finish school, get a job and support ourselves. We knew what the rules and templates were. Some of us broke them and created our own lives. Some followed the common and expected paths.

These days, I am not sure if parents and kids even know what to do. Everything is in flux. Things are changing too rapidly. Where before we looked at our parents as a different generation, someone in college today may look at their kid brother in grade school (or even in high school) as belonging to another one. There seems to be nothing you can be sure of. These are confusing times.  

Just the same, today’s young people will have to make sense of everything and come into their own somehow. Our parents probably felt the same way about my generation during those wild hippie days of the ’70s. They often must have felt we had gone over the deep end. 

I would like to believe that, in the end, I will discover that I am only reacting as my parents did. I wish today’s young people all the best.

ADDICTION ADHD AUTISM BIPOLAR DISORDER DEPRESSION
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