Wes: In spring 2008 Double Take warned families that the United States economy was headed into the tank and offered ways to help make adjustments in a generation of young people raised when big credit bought lots of cool stuff. Freshly returned from Washington, D.C., seat of dysfunctional government, I can firmly say in as calm a voice as possible, “Things aren’t looking up.”
I don’t care who you blame, but polls show that Americans no longer imagine a better world for their kids than the one we grew up in. So, in an effort to help prepare for that difficult reality, Double Take will spend one column a month discussing how to help teens cope, manage money and anxiety, and develop workable post-high school plans. If you have specific questions, please send them to my new secure email address: email@example.com.
Here’s lesson one: As frustrating and scary as these times are, parents need to help their kids try to remain calm. I realize this is difficult. I had my teenager with me in Washington, D.C., and I’m sure I did some muttering about the fall of western civilization. Teens will not learn anxiety management watching our leaders. Today politicians seize on political events to raise public anxiety while pointing angry fingers. If your kid treated others this way, I hope you’d ground her and sell her car, Xbox and iPhone on eBay. When our kids see that kind of behavior modeled by nationally televised adults, they lose respect for our institutions and hope for what they can offer us. In such times, they need to have twice as much respect for you as a parent and the hope you offer them, even as you may be fearful yourself.
I visited the FDR Memorial this week in Washington. It offers a sober reminder that we have been here before as a nation. And still, we found a way. We’ll do our small part in the coming months to help you find yours.
Miranda: I could not agree more. Anyone with an Internet connection or a TV can tell that government “of the people, by the people,” has become increasingly disconnected from the people. Teens care about these issues, but just as Wes says, they ignore politics because of the immature antics of the politicians.
Finances are a big part of growing up in today’s world. Life during and after college is becoming this dark, scary blur for us. As teens, we are not versed in every detail of debt talks and congressional sessions, but we are fully aware of the seemingly endless economic downturn. The recession has affected our daily lives in countless ways. At school, teachers hesitate to print worksheets because the district doesn’t have enough money for paper. At home, parents tell us to reduce our spending, or better yet, get a job. Teens right now are lost. We’re told to have fun, enjoy our young years, while being expected to start taking on the responsibility of the real world.
If you are a teen, and you are not scared of what will come with the next several years, you aren’t paying attention. The world we live in has changed. We can no longer be materialistic creatures, and we’re learning the hard way that we have to manage our money wisely. As a senior in high school, most of my nightmares consist of how to pay for college. The recession has changed this part of my life the most. A college degree is no longer a ticket to a good job. The fear of supporting ourselves, with jobs so scarce, is a reality we will all eventually face. These are the times when nice cars, or closets filled with new clothes, become irrelevant, and a good work ethic, initiative and determination are our best hope to succeed.