Monday, April 8, 2013

Youth Needing Direction.

I look around now days and I'm shocked at what I see. I grew up mostly in a small town. Summer's where spent down by the creek fishing and swimming.
Round Lick Creek TN.(This was the creek I grew up playing in.)

Fall time was spent harvesting crops between school days. Winter was spent canning and packing tobacco leaves. It was also spent with family and friends, warm kitchens and lots of foods (mostly fried in some sort of grease.) Don't get me wrong, as a teenager my friends and I tested the boundaries and stumbled around the meaning of adulthood. Some of us went on to college and careers, while others of us picked up a trade, married, settled down (Not necessarily in that order.).

Watertown, TN. Downtown Square
I always use to roll my eyes when I heard adults call the days they grew up in "simple times". Now I get it, life seemed so much simpler before I moved to Florida as a teenager. I didn't have to worry about the latest fashions, or cell phones, or music videos, or Facebook feeds. There's just so much now days, people are so connected, however we all become so disconnected on the personal level of things. We've come to become so media focused that we're losing true values. I don't know when it began to happen, all I do know is my friends call me old-fashioned.

Now day's we allow our kids to dress like adults, we do their hair and put their make-up on them. We expose them to adult humor content on TV and in the movies they watch. We're allowing them to watch music video's featuring over the top music artists who are showing so much skin it makes you wonder what the point the clothes are. Back up dancers dancing so sexually, that it really should come with rated-R viewer ratings. With lyrics such as "I got a dirty mind. I got filthy ways. I'm tryna bathe my ape, In your milky way" playing on our radio. We wonder why America is leading the way for first world nations in early teen pregnancy. More than 365,000 teens, ages 15–19, gave birth in 2010(this is not including miscarriages and abortions) which was actually a historical low showing a declining by 9% from 2009 and 44% since 1991.[1] But shockingly out of 12.2 million single parent families in 2012, more than 80% were headed by single mothers. Today, 1 in 3 children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Of that group, nearly half live below the poverty line. Around 45% of single mothers have never married, around 55% are either divorced, separated or widowed. Half have one child, 30% have two. About two thirds are White, one third Black, one quarter Hispanic. One quarter have a college degree, one sixth have not completed high school.[2]
This was me. A single mom at the age of 19. No college education, working a full-time job at our local McDonald's. Trying to balance school, work, and a bouncing baby boy by myself. I don't blame anything for this fact, but I do know a few things. I got caught up in what my friends where saying, I got caught up in what they were doing. I didn't have low self-esteem, but it wasn't the best. I had to much free time on my hands and nothing outside of school and a social life to fill it. My friends here didn't camp. They didn't go fishing. There was no canning and harvesting of crops. There was hanging out at the mall, and going to the movies. Hanging at this friends house or that friends house. There was just to much focus on media and to much opportunity to get into trouble. And nothing really productive to fill up my time. I was in school programs. Tennis team, Art Club, Drama Club, Student Theater Director, Crime Watch. But that didn't really give me a lot of extra skills. It wasn't me stepping outside of the School/Home ratio. Yeah I did volunteer work, with the school. 

Trust building exercise at one of the youth groups.
What can we do about it? We're busy, times are tight, money is slow to come in and fast to go out, and it's not like the old days of letting your kids head down to the creek camping and fishing with just themselves or their friends.
If you're not a church goer like myself. Options may seem expensive and limited, but they're not! Churches are a great way to go if you're willing though. They offer a lot of single sex camps, and co-ed ones. They really get the kids involved and working while teaching moral values. A good site that really exemplifies this would be Life Teen which is a Catholic Organization.

If the churches really aren't the way you're wanting to go then there's still plenty of options moms!

A VISIONS teen volunteer.
One of my favorite programs may seem expensive, but not if you get your teen to work for it by doing summer jobs, or if you have a preteen and you want to get them into it when they are in high school; planning ahead is a great way to go. The Organization is VISIONS.While yes, it's a huge chunk of change up front, this program is really good. Though it's not as long as the Mormon's Missions that they do for their young adults, it provides a similar background allowing your children experiences beyond normal scope of your community. It allows them to travel, see the world, and experience new cultures all the while they're building leadership skills and gaining confidence that helps support self-esteem. All without the religious aspect.
If this really isn't up your alley and your thinking that you have a more "at risk" teen who just seems to be that fast maturing rebel, who really wants to test their boundaries in anyway possible (much like I was for a few years till I got into a program that got my head on straight...ish.) then maybe something more like Outward Bound and their Struggling Youth program just might be the way to go. This program really works with both your teen and you in learning successful tools and communications skills. There are many programs and youth camps much like this one. Just look up a directory in your area. Most organizations such as YMCA and Salvation Army also have Youth Camps that cater to a more tight forming budget, and really really work on the parents jobs and income to get their kid(s) into any program. I used YMCA for my son.

Mom's if none of this is up your alley cause it just doesn't seem to fit your life style. Get your kid volunteering at local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. Getting your kids a first hand eye opening experience to the economical issues and struggles in their own community can also strengthen their self-esteem and social awareness.

Some programs such as the Youth Volunteer Corps start at the age of 11years old for their programs.

Even better Volunteer as a family with programs such as United Way.

We may be the age of instant gratification, technology, and media. But we can still place the old time values of hard work, morals, and appreciation for what we have with or without the guidance of religious organizations. We can still teach our boys that it's polite to open the door for women, and we can still teach our girls that sexy bikini's and make-up isn't what makes them beautiful.

1.^ "Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 08, 2013.
2.^ "Single Mother Statistics" Retrieved April 08, 2013.

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