Kids are growing up faster than they used to.
This is a scientific fact and not just an observation. Puberty is now starting in 8- and 9-year-old girls -- which many attribute to hormones in food but studies are still being done. Simultaneously, adults are often acting more like kids, causing a reversal of roles. While many parents reclaim adolescence in their 30s and 40s, children take up adult responsibilities in order to compensate.
A favorite quote of mine comes from the show "Arrested Development," when the young son tells his cousin, "Adults are allowed to have fun; we're kids, we're supposed to work."
To keep up with other nations, kids are completing advanced college courses earlier and earlier. To develop their future careers, they are in intense ballet, soccer, acting, horseback riding, golf lessons and tournaments, plays and various productions on the weekends. Simultaneously, their parents are stressed and often unable to spend time with them to pass on values that help stabilize the pressure. An unbalanced lifestyle is more and more common.
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Work hard, then play hard is a model that is reflected in media and reinforces already distressing currents in our culture. Younger kids are looking at their older peers on television and in real life and experimenting with "work hard, party hard" lifestyles. Easy access to free pornography and more mature programming for younger people sparks conversations and earlier experimentation than ever.
Many are now realizing that our families, especially the young one, are living in a soup of misconceptions. The dehumanization is debilitating to some family systems as people allow entertainment to influence them more and more.
Are there any limits to what we consume? How does the young person deal with the impulses of an image-conscious culture that says "sex sells" over and over? Where does one go to learn that each is a person valued as a human beyond their ability to be a commodity for others to consume? What is the alternative to the "anything goes" lifestyle that has shipwrecked people emotionally, relationally, physically and spiritually?
If these are questions that spark a fire in you, there is an event coming to the Hilton Head Island High School Visual and Performing Arts Center from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. After 10 years, The Silver Ring Thing returns with a response to the message "Image is Everything." They say, "It's about Guys. Girls. Dating. Waiting. Love. Second Chances. The best choices." This message is needed in a world that leads young people to believe that behavior is not about choice. Being responsible for one's actions and decisions and being trusted to make the right decision is something all kids need to hear, even if mistakes have been made in the past.
Youth will find that this high-energy event is fun and exciting, and their friends from around our communities will be there. Parents will enjoy the simultaneous Parent Sessions that will help families be on the same page about the important message of sexual purity.
We need to believe and have faith that the next generation can find balance in life, and part of this process is discerning how to navigate the currents of culture in which we all swim.
For more information and pre-registration, go to www.silverringthing.com.
It will be worth the time.
Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @dannonhill.