The Elephant in the Room: Why Are We Not Taught About Life As Kids?
Ah, the trials and tribulations of adulting. From desperately trying to keep your head above water financially and dealing with work stress to relationships and attempting to build some sort of legacy to leave behind, there always seems to be something on our plate. It can be overwhelming and downright exhausting at times. Lately, all I've been thinking about is: How in the hell do we possibly attempt to navigate these challenges and still feel the safe, carefree feeling of our childhood?
First and foremost, it's important to acknowledge that adulting is hard. We often compare ourselves to others and feel like we should have it all figured out by now, but the truth is that nobody really does. We're all just doing the best we can, one day at a time, and, of course, faking it until we make it!
When we're young, we feel as though we have all the time in the world to get it right. Somehow, no matter how hard we have it or how backward our lives are, we've got time to change it all. As we age, we become desperate about time and how fast it's passing, and we long for those precious days of our youth. We get hit hard in the face with the fact that time is not on our side, and we look back on those carefree days and reminisce about how easy and fun life used to be. As adults, we often carry a great deal of responsibility and stress, making it easy to long for the days when we had fewer worries and more time to enjoy life.
It's easy to get lost in nostalgia and feel like the present is lacking in comparison to the past. However, it's important to remember that we can't turn back the clock. The only way to live a fulfilling life is to accept where we are now and find ways to create joy and peace in our current circumstances.
And although adulting sure ain't easy, I can't help but feel the weight of the elephant in the room. I really wish we had spent some time learning about actual life coping skills in school. For years we were taught the basic fundamentals like, algebra, biology, and geography, but why not some of the stuff that would actually matter? Every day, run-of-the-mill things like, oh, I don't know, how to cope with a breakup, dealing with the death of loved ones, depression, anxiety, menstrual cycles, boyhood erections, how to handle puberty—the list goes on. Why didn't someone run a seminar on things like that? Why didn't they teach us how to go out in the world and actually be somebody? Morals, values, respect—we never spent much time on stuff like that. Then you grow up and get thrown out there in the universe, where you are expected to survive. Be an upstanding citizen with all your ducks in a row. Do the right thing every time; be the right person every day. Manage your anxieties and feelings against the world's highs and lows.
It would be nice if we had the fundamentals going in; that's all I'm saying.
As kids, we grow up with a certain perception of the world around us. We are taught about basic concepts, as I mentioned above, but there is so much more to life than we are prepared for. We are not taught about the range of emotions we will experience or how difficult it can be to navigate life as an adult. It is only natural to wonder why we weren't taught about these things.
Who teaches kids to combat the stresses of adulting and prioritize self-care? It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day demands of work, family, and other responsibilities, but neglecting our own well-being only makes things worse. Taking time for ourselves to relax, recharge, and engage in activities we enjoy can make a world of difference in our overall sense of well-being. Why aren't we taught this when we're young, so it can then overflow into our adult lives?
Instead, society tends to place an emphasis on achievement and success, which leaves little room for discussing the challenges and difficulties that come with adulthood. Kids learn very early in life whether they are good enough or not. The school system ranks kids according to how smart they are with grades. Join a sport of any kind, and they're ranked by trophies and ribbons—and the list goes on. It's easy to focus on external goals such as getting good grades, going to college, and making the lacrosse team, but these accomplishments do not necessarily prepare us for the emotional rollercoaster that is life.
Getting an education is important; of course we know that. But are we told that these days, it's damn near a privilege to get one? Who helps the kid through the emotional trauma of understanding that maybe mom and dad can't afford to send them to school? Who helps them understand and cope with the anxiety that they develop at a very young age—that perfection is an illusion and that it's ok if you don't get perfect grades every time? Who explains that you don't have to go to medical school and be rich to be someone in society? That if you're happy supervising a crew at a local McDonald's restaurant, you matter just the same?
I think we need to implement the fundamentals of human psychology into the school systems. That it's ok to feel things, that it's ok to cry, and that it's so important to reach out and talk about everything—especially when things get too heavy and hard to bear.
Why wasn't that a subject in school like math, science, and geography? Why did I have to learn the national anthem, memorize it, and recite it daily when I could have been taught to tell myself that I am enough, that I matter, and that I am a human being and will have feelings on everything, and that's ok? Wouldn't that have been more important? Looking at my life now, I can honestly say, Hell yes!
But maybe society, schools, and parents think that discussing topics such as grief, anxiety, and depression can be overwhelming and uncomfortable for kids and don't wish to upset the carefree flow of childhood. However, by not addressing them, children will grow up to be adults who are unprepared, helpless, and who cannot cope.
The fact of the matter is that the education system is designed to prepare us for the workforce rather than life, and parents (if you are fortunate enough to have any) are designed to teach you how they themselves see the world based on their own experiences, biases, and stigmas. Which means that kids are never actually taught the importance of un bias emotional intelligence, coping mechanisms, and life skills, which are equally important for navigating the adult world.
It's definitely too late to cry over split milk now, but I am so grateful to be spending time now, in my 40s, learning about things like the importance of mindfulness, self-love, human connection, and feelings. I cannot tell you how much I wish I learned about this in my teenage years, because it would have definitely made me feel more worthy in my own life now. It's a pity that I had to go through a world of trauma just to learn the importance of mental wellness and how to cope with everyday life. How important it is to surround myself with positive people who lift me up and support me no matter what! That negativity can bring me down and make it difficult to maintain a positive mindset. By seeking out relationships with people who inspire me, celebrate me, and make me feel good about myself. That emotional intelligence is one of the most powerful influences and skills one can learn in this life, so as to create a more positive and fulfilling social circle and society.
Sounds like common sense, huh? Well, you'd be surprised at how difficult the easiest things may seem when your mind is crowded and cluttered with noise.
It's for reasons like this that we should ensure that future generations are better equipped to handle the challenges of adulthood. We should insist that our government bodies incorporate a system that teaches emotional intelligence, coping skills, and mental wellness into our educational system. To teach the children of tomorrow how to recognize and manage their emotions, build resilience, and cope with future traumas and difficult situations.
That it's important to remember that it's okay to ask for help when we need it. Whether it's seeking support from friends and family or reaching out to a mental health professional, there's no shame in admitting that we're struggling and need support. In fact, being vulnerable and asking for help can be a sign of strength and resilience.
We should also encourage adults to be more open and honest about their experiences and struggles, modelling healthy ways of coping and providing a supportive environment for children to learn from. By breaking the cycle of silence and stigma around mental health issues, we can empower future generations to navigate life's challenges with greater confidence and resilience.
While it may be frustrating to think that we were not taught about the difficult aspects of life as children, we can take steps to change the status quo for future generations. By prioritizing mental wellness in our education system and fostering open and honest communication around life coping skills, we can equip young people with the tools they need to navigate the ups and downs of adulthood.
We also need to understand that you can't (and won't) be taught everything in school. Just like you cannot possibly be taught everything at home with your family either. Inevitably, some of the hardest things that you will ever go through, you will be taught by life itself; those are just facts. But if you have some fundamental tools in your toolkit, you'll be equipped for the hard times ahead. It won't always be perfect and seldom enough, but at least it's a damn good start. What you don't know, you'll learn along the way. That's the beauty of education; you're never too old to learn new things. So, be mindful and keep looking for answers. You've got this!