They’re Caught in the Moral Middle

Today’s children are caught in the middle of multiple moral battle zones. You could even say that children’s moral battles are divorcing them from their parents.

One of the most common characteristics of a child with divorced parents is that the child feels pulled between the parents’ different values and lifestyles. It’s common for husbands and wives to get divorced because they start following different morals. The children are almost always caught in the middle of these two moral worlds and are left to decide which parent they want to follow.

Unfortunately, children of divorce aren’t the only ones who feel caught in the middle of mixed moral messages. Even though most parents weren’t perfect youngsters, the majority still try to implement high moral standards at home and raise the moral bar higher than what they lived up to as youth. This is especially the case for parents who lived through a moral decline and felt unprotected as children.

The survivors of the moral decline of the 1980s and 90s are raising a high bar for their own children after having to reform themselves back to living by principles. The youth of the 80s and 90s were hooked on TV. Morning cartoons, afternoon and evening sitcoms and night-time dramas filled their free time. However, TV was nothing compared to the powerful forces pulling today’s children away from their parents’ moral high ground.

The Modern Moral Attack

Never has a generation been raised in such a social experiment. They’re inundated with a steady diet of digital stimulation, peer pressure and bullying, competitions and self-esteem issues. They still have TV and music, but those things now come through a smart device.

Don’t get me wrong — I love technology. It has the potential to do great things, but we can’t hide our heads in the sand when it comes to how these devices pull children away from their parents and vice versa. We all use devices daily, and we don’t even fully know what these devices actually do to our bodies, minds, spirits and overall happiness.

Preliminary research indicates digital use is a factor in unhappiness, particularly for children. The i-Generation is less happy and is experiencing skyrocketing suicide rates and a general decline in mental health. Results from the Monitoring the Future survey show that as youth spend more time on screens, their happiness decreases. In fact, excessive screen time is a predictor of childhood depression. A big indicator of youth happiness is the amount of time spent interacting with people off screen.

Dr. Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics, said, “The best predictor of an adult’s life satisfaction is their emotional well-being as a child.” Happiness is important for a good quality of life, but our children struggle with feelings of unhappiness. Some self-proclaimed experts suggest removing all morals to help children feel less stressed, thereby supposedly increasing their happiness. This theory isn’t effective. The more we diminish the value of social and familial morals, the more suicide and depression we see in children and adults.

Our children are stuck trying to make sense of these misleading moral messages. They’re morally misguided by prevalent digital peer pressure and often don’t know what to do about the moral help their parents try to give them. Some children see the truth of their parents’ words and choose not to follow the ways of the world, but many children turn on their parents when they need them the most.

Solutions for This Sticky Situation

There isn’t a quick fix to solve the moral divorce of children. It will take time to help children and parents develop new communication habits and leave digital patterns behind. Here are three helpful suggestions for setting things right:

1. Teach children the difference between tools and toys and make sure they see their digital devices as tools. When a person uses a power tool, they make a plan before using it and follow safety precautions, no matter how seasoned they are with it.

2. Develop strong relationships with your children. Spend lots of time talking eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart. Look at your children daily and talk to them without digital devices nearby. Maybe do this during evening walks or pre-scheduled family discussion times. One way we add more discussion is by having weekly one-on-one mentor sessions and daily check-up meetings.

3. Don’t be afraid to point out the social and emotional problems and successes you see in the people around you. Pointing out what you see allows your children to have more freedom to decide how they want to behave. Some people don’t discuss deeply enough with their children because they’re afraid of seeming judgmental. You can notice and still be full of love. We don’t need to stop teaching for fear of not sounding kind.

For future freedom, today’s youth are in desperate need of the happiness, personal connection and self confidence that comes from meaningful family relationships. Parents don’t need to leave their children caught in the middle. They are waiting for our help.

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