Suicide is the topic and life is the issue. A rather serious topic for me to cover in my monthly article, however, since we are seeing more and more child and adolescent suicides in our society, as leaders, it’s time to move this issue to the forefront of conversation.

The first question has to be; why is this happening? And the common thought by older adults is generally; didn’t we have it tougher than they did growing up?

With a variety of research on this subject and an assessment of today’s social climate, I believe it comes down to two major contributing factors. Yes, there are always going to be additional and individual factors which contribute to suicide on the part of our youth. I simply want to address what we, as parents and grandparents, have the opportunity to influence.

1. Social Media: It is funny how “social media” can play such a big role in a young child’s life. How un-social that social media actually is… because we are not able to put any tonality into articles, Facebook posts, tweets and the various other social posting outlets. It is up to the reader to input or imply, in their minds, the emotional tonality the writer intended.

Peer pressure has driven many young and immature people to write things in these “social” posts which they may never say in person. Unfortunately for the person receiving and interpreting the meaning of these posts, coupled with their own personal insecurities, it can be devastating. Adolescent insecurities are part of growing up. Just as their bodies are changing, s o i s t heir e motional m akeup. T heir s piritual self is being questioned and determined at the same time during these important formative years. These years vary from individual to individual but generally occur between the ages of 11 and 19.

Where do the parents and grandparents come in? It is up to us to help put these “social media” outlets in perspective for our children and grandchildren.

The first check may be asking yourself these questions; am I totally consumed in this social media frenzy? Have I given it more value and respect that it deserves? Am I focused on how many friends I have or how many likes I get?

Yes, it’s true that we have some parents and grandparents who are, quite frankly, living their entire emotional lives on Facebook. It is both alarming and disturbing to see some of the pitiful language and emotional baggage being placed on various social outlets. In some of these situations, it becomes obvious that the parents can’t possibly be teaching their children the concept of values and responsibility, since they display little themselves.

What is most concerning is that our children learn most of their life lessons by example; hence, these same parents are teaching their children how to live their lives on Facebook.

On the social media scene, let’s re-evaluate ourselves and make sure we’re teaching the right lessons to the younger generations.

2. Personal Values: It seems that with the advent of all the technology in the past 60 plus years, the teaching of personal values has been all but eliminated. It probably started in the ’50s when almost every family in the neighborhood got themselves a TV. Yes, it was a black and white TV but a good spot for the parents to put their kids for an hour or t wo. By t he t ime we h it t he ’80s a nd ’90s, a variety of “children’s educational” programs had been developed for our now colored TVs. And since it was “educational,” we put our young children in front of Sesame Street and the rest of these tailored programs for several hours per day.

The result of this was a decrease in our children’s attention span, teaching them to want and buy garbage products from sophisticated advertising and raising a generation of fat and unhealthy children from eating a fast food diet.

  • So, what can we do today? A good first step would be to restrict television to an hour or two per week. I know more and more young families who only have a TV in their house for the purpose of watching movies together and they have no broadcast television in their home.
  • Next, let’s get back to some basics. Many personal values are taught while doing things with our children and grandchildren. I’d suggest a hike or maybe going fishing. I learned a lot about patience while fishing.
  • My daughters learned to climb trees with me at Lorenzi and Sunset parks. Feeding the ducks was a life lesson in itself. We are fortunate to have a professional baseball team here where tickets in the bleachers are still very reasonable. We can camp on Mt Charleston or take a trip to Zion. There are valuable lessons which can be taught with real life adventures and human interaction with parents and grandparents that can never be taught on Facebook. These might include things like honesty, integrity, compassion, empathy and understanding.

One way to look at this is to reflect back to some of the lessons you learned from family and friends as you grew up. The more I talk with people about life lessons, the more they tell me a story about a major lesson they learned. As they share the story, it always seems to relate to a simple time or event where they were with a friend or family member doing something simple when the opportunity to learn a life lesson presented itself. The life of a generation is at stake. Let’s all do our part to get back to some simple family values and take on the leadership roles we were designed for.