This year 17 years ago the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred changing our lives. These attacks changed our Country and the world our children now grow up in. Anyone who is over 30 years old grew up in a world where there were good times and then there were bad times. So people over 30 years old learned that life has ups and downs. However, for anyone born in the year 2001 or later, this is not their experience of the world.
The majority of people who are under 30 years old have grown up in a world where there has been one tragedy after another. People in this generation have experienced the tragedy of 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iran and Afghanistan, and hearing nightly on the news about terrorist attacks and terrorist threats.
In addition to hearing about terrorist attacks around the world children growing up in the current generation have also had to deal with mass shootings at schools, and shopping centers. No one who is over 30 years old had to deal with mass school shootings throughout the country while they were growing up. Furthermore in addition to the violence that the current generation has had to endure they have also had to deal with the uncertain financial situation of our country. Children in this generation have heard about the possibility of the economy collapsing and in addition many children in this generation have experienced their parents losing their jobs and as a result also losing their homes. Our country has not experienced such a high rate of unemployment and homelessness since the Great Depression of 1929.
What has this done to our children? From my experience as a psychotherapist who works with children and teens, I have seen a devastating impact on children growing up today. Many of the children I work with carry knives with them. They tell me they need the knives for protection. Many of the kids I treat have told me, they don’t know if they will live to be 30 because of today’s violence.
I have also seen an increase an increase in depression. With the violence children experience at school and when their family cannot afford housing or food, they see no hope for a future. Yes in the United States, there are many children who are homeless and hungry. In fact, the rate of homelessness and hunger for children is higher in the United States than some third world countries.
As a result, many children and teenagers are looking for an escape and they are finding unhealthy ways. The suicide rate in our country has increased every year. Children as young as 8 years old are committing suicide. In addition to suicide, children and teenagers are turning to drugs. We are not talking about marijuana, we are talking about meth, crack and heroin and new drugs such as Pink and Coco. If you go on to any middle school campus in the United States today, you can find whatever drug you want. As drug use has increased so have the number of children overdosing on drugs. In the United States, approximately 125 kids overdose on drugs every day and the number is climbing.
In addition to these factors, gangs and crime among teenagers are on the rise. Why are they on the rise? The teens believe their fellow gang members will help protect them if someone tries to jump them. Since they have no faith in the economy, the only way to get what you need is to steal it. They see no problem in what they are doing because they feel they are just living by the rules that the adults have established.
This is no way for a child to grow up. They should not have to be afraid of being killed because of their religion, race or sexual orientation. The feelings that I have described above cross all lines in our society. I have heard these feelings from white teens, African-American teens, Hispanic teens etc. I have also heard these feelings from teenagers whose families are very well to do and those that are homeless.
I am not only hear teenagers expressing their concerns in my office, we are now seeing teenagers expressing their concerns publicly. Since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, teenagers have been appearing on television news shows and holding rallies demanding that our Government change gun laws so they may feel safer going to school. These demands culminated yesterday in The March for Life by teenagers. Teenagers all over the United States from San Francisco to Washington D.C. marched demanding that we impose sane gun laws. In addition, many of these teenagers expressed how anxious the feel going to school and how they fear for their lives. When the teenagers all over our country ban together to tell us how afraid they are about today’s world, we need to listen.
Dr. Michael Rubino is an expert at treating teenagers and children. He has been treating teens and children for over 20 years for more information about his work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or follow him on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.