Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Gets Better

Last week people all over the place were posting videos and essays and other means of encouragement for high school kids, telling them that "it gets better". As you undoubtedly know, this began in response to the high number of suicides by gay youth but, gay or straight, high school can be a terrible part of life. Some of us look back on high school days as the most fun years of our lives. I'm not one of them. So I want to add my voice to everyone who says that it gets better.

"It gets better" is one of those incredibly simple facts of life that kids don't have the experience to recognize. And they often don't observe this as a phenomenon because we adults often work very hard at making life look easy. Why is that? I think there are definitely things that kids should be spared, but reality is probably not a good choice. Parents must decide what is appropriate to share, but every parent really ought to share with their kids when they find themselves in a tough spot. This is how kids learn that it does get better. And, when you share with them, it frees them to share when it's not good for them.

Maybe your worst days were in high school. Tell your kid about it. Maybe your worst year of work is this one because everyone at your company is waiting for the next layoff. You will probably make some changes in preparation for the worst, so explain to your kids why everyone's spending is curtailed. Then, when the crisis passes, you will have the chance to say "See! It gets better!" Maybe you have lost a beloved parent or friend - letting your kids see you grieve also lets them see that, over time, it gets better.

It gets better. Three little words of encouragement, a priceless gift. Somewhere, sometime in your life, someone has thrown you some much needed words of encouragement. Somebody said that you could do it; that you were improving; that they were glad to have you on their team. You smile as you think of it. It did get better! You've lived long enough to know this to be true.

There are people who believe that the easiest way to teach a child to swim is to throw them in the deep end of the pool. While struggling to swim enough to survive certainly motivates a kid to try hard, it's a dangerous practice. A kid can drown in the deep end of the pool. It makes more sense to me, to get in the water with your kid at the shallow end and work your way into the deep water, adding more skills as you go. Then, when you let go of your child and she swims to the side of the pool she has a sense of mastery, and a deep inner knowledge that she is getting better. And better.

Look for opportunities to teach this lesson. Your kids, your nieces and nephews or grandkids or neighbor kids all need to hear that it gets better. They don't know it, but you do. This little piece of knowledge can be the raft that holds them up when they are close to drowning. It really does get better. Pass it on!

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