TW: Suicide

So, it’s been a long bit of time since I’ve written, for the public at least. I just scrolled through all the old “notes” on my phone. There were half-a-dozen very lengthy entries, mostly just blowing off steam. Everything I’ve held sacred, everything I teach, all the good I strived to achieve, has felt like it’s been under attack, from science and the environment, to racial justice, basic human kindness, and decency. I’ve really had nothing good to say, nothing positive to contribute (beyond the positivity I rally for raising my very wonderful and deserving child). I didn’t want to contribute to the abundant negativity. That’s low hanging fruit, so I’ve been quiet.

I wish I could say that I took a break from social media, stopped investing any time and emotional energy, but I didn’t. I can’t! During my child’s waking hours, I am mindful, happy, and excited. I try to forget about the world. Once bedtime rolls around, I dip my toes into the current-events cesspool. Putting it into words seems sadistic, but I want to make sure nothing bad is happening that I don’t know about. I want to be sure I know how much unpleasantness is out there, where it’s directed, and keep an eye on it. This is my way of dealing with a hurricane of news and numbers, the never-ending, unbelievable headlines, and the general feeling of chaos that presides over this period in history.

Overall though, that’s not what this blog is about. It’s about parenting; it’s about growing and learning as a person and first-time parent. Yet, it seems inevitable that the many intense, global situations we are all living through will affect our parenting and trickle down to our children. What we do next is critical. Our response is all we can control and sends a powerful message to our impressionable off-spring. What emotional strengths and sides should we show them?


The rate of suicide among teens has horrifically increased over the last decade. Those families left with no answers can’t comprehend how a promising soul could choose the “unthinkable”. There is one aspect of this extremely complex problem that I’ve personally given a lot of thought to explaining. When friends of my family lost their grandson, almost a year ago, they looked for clues, explanations, and even someone to blame. Like so many who are thrust into grief, their denial and anger was a circular experience. From what I’d known about this highly intelligent young man, he was extraordinary in many ways. At 18 years old, he was socially conscious and compassionate. To me, the answer seemed obvious! He cared too much, felt too much, and it was overwhelming.

​In this ever connected world, adults have a hard time understanding how incredibly aware and globally well informed the younger generations are. In any direction they look, they can find video and pictorial evidence documenting tragedy on every level, from the shared experiences of the persecuted to the suffering of a single soul. Highly empathic teens can start to acquire the weight of the more horrifying realities of the world. What many adults turn away from, these kids want to know. With discerning eyes and open hearts, they are disdainfully labeled social justice warriors. Feeling society’s disdain for even caring, these young warriors sense the battle is impossible, solutions unattainable.

Since I can sympathize, I had to articulate my thoughts to those looking for answers. I wasn’t speculating. It was more than just a theory to me; it was my experience. While I am not now and have never been depressed to the point of not wanting to live, I often feel overwhelming anguish for the state of the world. It is very easy for me to understand how teens without solid coping skills, hope, or support, find that it’s just all too much.


​Globalization is something that has always scared the older generations. It’s been villainized for various reasons ranging from economics to epidemiology. Yet, for the younger generations, their experiences online have shown them humans are humans. They live in a world that exposes how alike and connected we all are. It’s part of their schema, how they view reality. They have a global mentality and with this view, problems “over there” are just as real and disconcerting as ones here.

Young people have spent their whole lives being taught how to behave. We teach toddlers to overcome their animalistic urges, how to get along with others, not to bite, scratch, or clobber their peers fighting over a toy. We teach kids not to lie, cheat, or steal, and that they should help others and be fair. We teach them the “golden rule”. These and many other lessons shape children into people other people want to be around. If everyone operated only from these parameters then the world would be full of loving, kind exchanges. Perhaps this is the world most teenagers were hoping for.

Instead, they see is chaos, destruction, oppression, greed, hatred, environmental degradation, species and habitat loss. What’s worse is the apathy they receive when they try to express their incredulous anger. The exact same people who taught them what’s right and what’s wrong offer a shrug or distraction. All of a sudden, when they see famine, genocide, apartheid, and brutality everywhere, they’re told fairness doesn’t matter, peace doesn’t matter. These reactions will not suffice.

Where do they go from there? What takes hold, anger, sadness, apathy, self-medicating? It reminds me of the Friedrich Nietzsche quote: “…if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” Teens can easily be lost in the abyss. How can we guide and support them?


Anyone that really knows me could tell you that I am way more prone to anger than I am to sadness. I guess I am fortunate for that. Anger is a passionate, energetic emotion. Sadness is a lower energy emotion that can lead to depression. Anger isn’t inherently a horrible thing. A lot of good causes have been established because of righteous anger, justifiable anger.

Negative emotions may make parents uncomfortable, but it is important to dig deeper. No matter how old we are, most people would probably agree, we dislike when a parent or loved-one makes assumptions about our motivations, thoughts, and feelings. When we do this to kids, we are minimizing their diverse emotional and mental landscapes. We are doing them a disservice, diminishing them to only what we think they are. What they need is an active listener, a parent who wants to learn about them. Kids may temporarily and conditionally let us glimpse their inner realm of thoughts. How we respond will determine what happens the next time.

​An invitation may sound like, “I’m angry!”. They’re opening the door for us to help them process this emotion. The best thing you can do is listen and ask clarifying questions to understand. Listening should always be a selfless process, but especially when dealing with an upset child. It helps to refrain from constantly interjecting or relaying your own experiences. Also, if you’re calm, do you really need them to lower their voice, stop swearing, or relax for you to agree to listen? How do those commands effect the flow of productive communication? Unless it’s unsafe, let them express themselves.


Once you understand the problem, the worst thing you can do is offer a positive platitude. Anyone with sympathy, who has taken the time to truly understand another person, would never. It’s like: “Oh, what’s that, a shark bit your arm off? Well, just be happy you have your other arm.” That is not helpful or even supportive. A generic “that totally sucks!” would probably be a more welcomed response!

It’s not reasonable or sane to be positive about terrible things, yet toxic positivity is currently everywhere and being peddled as wellness. Toxic positivity is a brush off. “Turn that frown upside down” is demeaning and juvenile. This isn’t a toddler dropping a lollipop into the dirt; large and legitimate feelings need processed. Processing is not the same as acting upon feelings. Dealing with feelings entails a thoughtful review of the underlying causes and formulating acceptable solutions.

​For a child, frustrated by their own futility in the face of all the perceived downfalls of society, help them sharpen their perspective to see what they, personally, are equipped to change. Empower them to imagine the good they can achieve now, with the resources, talents, and ideas they have. There are many impactful actions that are free, like starting or joining a social media campaign, organizing a protest, or simply creating awareness of a problem.

​Hope is a powerful feeling, it is the capacity to rekindle a belief in goodness. From my own experience, I can say I am grateful to feel that I am positively impacting the world. Over the past decade, this has protected my soul and saved my mind from short-circuiting countless times. My teaching business, books, and videos, created with passion and purpose, have saved me.


A frustrated adolescent may need reminded they aren’t alone. It’s easy to see how the younger generations are changing the world. With their creative solutions to old problems, they are inspiring hope. I love seeing their passion and refusal to settle for the status quo. Many young people around the world are showing up to create change. By choosing a cause that is meaningful, they can take solace in contributing to and positively influencing the world.

Here is one small example from a local, mall pet-store. This place has always been notorious. It’s an easy place to go in, throw down a credit card, and walk out with a dog (or other animal). Everyone has known that they sell extremely over-priced, puppy mill dogs. Everyone knows, and can see, how poorly the store cares for their animals. The term abuse is no exaggeration! Yet, for decades it was business as usual. That is until about a month ago.

It started with one simple post. Then the comment section light up with verifiable stories from multitudes of former employees, customers, and concerned citizens. Within a couple days, a protest was planned and carried out. These caring young people won’t be satisfied until they shut this unnecessarily cruel pet-store down.

This is just one store, in one small town! Around the world, more than ever, young people are shaking things up. They don’t understand why we just accepted things we knew were wrong. And after witnessing them, I don’t understand us either! However, the very thing that is instigating their awareness, can be our excuse, social media. It’s now become easy to find and organize like-minded individuals. The informal way these platforms work achieves faster results than traditional campaigns and heavily bureaucratic committees.

Fear not parents of frustrated youth, the younger generations offer us all a reason for hope. Let them remind us that anyone can use their passion and purpose to create change! The world becomes a better place with every soul who realizes their purpose, and right now, that may just mean being an understanding parent.