Our youth are struggling.

Imagine this.

Your daughter came home from school visibly distressed.   About an hour later you received an email from her teacher that said she had taken two maths tests and ONLY received a C grading.  The teacher stated she needed to speak with you as a matter of priority.  Your daughter is doing well at all other subjects but is really struggling to grasp maths.

My message to her:

Your grades do not define you.

Sure, you want her to do well, but given that she clearly felt under pressure and anxious I believe it is far more important that you help her keep her stress levels under control and nurture her strengths.

In my line of work as a career development practitioner I have serious concerns about what I am seeing from my young clients.  There is a prevailing pattern evident.

I regularly have young client’s aged from 16 – 24 coming to see me and they are visibly upset, stressed and anxious about their future and not living up to the expectations of family members and teachers.  They worry so much when their peers appear to be doing better than them.  Don’t get me wrong here, I completely understand that parents and teachers want the best for our youth, however I believe the pressure that these kids are under is a major concern.

Gain perspective

The most recent data shows us that suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-24-year olds Australian Bureau of Statistics (2017)

Other data tells us that many more young people attempt suicide or consider taking their own lives.

The research also shows young people who are experiencing the greatest distress are also the least willing to seek help.

The stats speak for themselves, we know that our youth are struggling with complex issues and it is seriously impacting on their ability to transition with confidence into adulthood.

As a society, we will likely face worsening adult mental health if we do not begin to challenge the expectations and pressures imposed on young people today.  With the massive amount of pressure placed on young people, where the prevailing narrative is that everything is down to what grade they receive, is it any wonder that so many of our youth are struggling?

The key is to remember that these kids will get to their destination in life via varying paths.  Some may not show academic ability until they a little older (I was one of them), other children may thrive in a non-academic setting. Not every child will be a lawyer, a doctor or an engineer. And not every child will obtain top level grades. And that’s okay. The world needs more than just academics.

Here’s a dose of reality:

Richard Branson: “I was seen as the dumbest person at school,” Colonel Sanders only became a successful restauranteur after he failed as a lawyer, insurance salesman, and tire salesman. His age when he came up with his “secret recipe”? 50.

  • Ray Kroc sold paper cups, was a piano player, and worked as a milkshake multi-mixer salesman before he founded McDonalds at the age 52.
  • Janine Allis, the founder of Boost Juice busts a myth that you need a tertiary education to have a successful business. Janine dropped out of school at the age of 16.

Whilst our education systems continue to push kids hard to excel in every subject, this problem will remain.  We are actually teaching them fear of failure.  When kids believe if they don’t do well at a test and it is automatically seen as a negative, or that they are not as smart as others, they can quickly spiral into a constant state of fear and experience high levels of anxiety, a state that spells disaster for learning.

They then become too scared to raise questions or provide answers for fear of being seen as stupid.

Something must give!

Sally Healey