Your Teen for parents magazine, sent me a copy of their fall issue. I read it with great interest. I should have blogged about this earlier, but yeah, I got distracted by Elul and all the stuff that followed it. Sorry, Susan, here is your review!
First let me start by saying that the magazine is very attractive and well-made, visually. It is well-written, and the mix of articles is good and interesting - some health, some parenting, some bullying and peer pressure, a book review, a celebrity interview. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a parenting magazine that goes beyond the tween years - most of them seem to cap at 12 to 15 years of age, when the fun is only just beginning! You can read it online or subscribe to the print edition.
This particular issue features articles about the incredible pressure many older teenagers put on themselves in high school, because they want to get into a highly selective university. The words "especially in affluent communities" appear a couple of times in this issue, and I'm sure that is no coincidence. These kids take on enormous course loads, drive themselves nuts with too many extracurricular activities, and are at a high risk of burning out. The articles advise, very sensibly, that parents take steps to broaden the college list, cut back on the activities and APs, and generally work to support their kids in stepping back from this debilitating perfectionism.
I have a few friends whose children are on this track, although I'm very grateful my own kids are not. I don't entirely understand the rationale behind this kind of pressure, although I do get that the kids mostly put it on themselves (why?). Yes, it may be harder out there than it was when we were kids (or is it? Maybe our kids are just more coddled and fragile?). I would love to see some statistics that show that people who go to expensive, selective universities for undergrad really do better in the long run than people who go to so-called second tier schools, or even (gasp!) state schools. The only thing I can think of that these universities really do better for undergrad is let you hobnob with the children of the rich and influential. That can certainly be of assistance in a career, but I don't see it as being anywhere near essential. Good work habits and a healthy dose of interest in what you are learning will take you far. The other important thing to remember is that your choice of undergrad major will not necessarily define your life forever - people can and do make mistakes, and it is OK to change course in midstream. Of course that is much harder to do when so much has been invested in getting into that dream university, that dream program. What if it was all for nothing? So crushing.
One could shrug the whole thing off as an extreme case of first world problems, were it not for the miasma of anxiety that emanates from this publication. So many things to worry about, so many ways kids' lives could go terribly wrong if their parents screw up. The responsibility and anxiety weighing down the parents are just unbearable, it seems. Did our parents worry like this about us?
Maybe this is a reflection of the general anxiety and fear that seem to pervade North America nowadays. Climate change, financial insecurity (I'm sure many people are far more concerned with keeping their house than getting their kids into Harvard), the dreadful polarisation of Western society, all combine to make us very fearful and insecure, and no wonder we are projecting this onto our kids. I can't help comparing this time to the interbellum, with its rise of so many fascist movements, leading eventually to the Second World War and the Holocaust. I hope we have wiser leaders than that generation did.
To summarise, this is a good magazine about parenting teens, and it clearly reflects the zeitgeist very well. I am looking forward to reading future editions, and I hope you will, too.