Myriad Thoughts on the Emotional Lives of Young People

As autumn sets in, I almost invariably get lost in the moment, tasks at hand, and find it hard to make space for things that aren't immediately in front of my eyes. In some ways, maybe that is good. Yet, I think there is some value to taking a step back and reflecting. With the popularity of mindfulness philosophy, it would be easy to forget that life is probably best lived in a balance between being in the moment and looking back and forward. With all that said, I have several articles I wanted to post here that I will include in one update.

The first one that grabbed my eye was shared with me by a friend. Due to my experience in working with young people with special needs for many years, I often internally debate and discuss with colleagues the pros and cons of putting a label on a child's difference. I am not convinced that there is a blanket solution. In an ideal world, the decision would be made case by case and, even then, it is hard to know for sure. Some more thoughts on that are in the article here from the New Yorker.

This article on teens and developing empathy I find an easier case to take sides on. I deeply believe, perhaps with a hopeful naivete, that empathy can be developed and improved in most individuals. Certainly, I have seen young people engage better with empathetic emotions after given the right exposure to these ideas. Perhaps, it is a social responsibility that we have to ensure this development is possible?

And, it seems that all these articles I put aside over the last couple weeks are all connected. (I suppose that isn't surprising. What catches my eye is likely to have a theme.) This article on the moral life of babies suggests, like the article on teen empathy, that genes and biology affect empathy rather than parenting. I'm not fully convinced that it isn't both of these factors, as well as your social environment. Haven't we all learned by now that it is almost always nature and nurture? Yet, these scientific findings might melt your hurt a bit - the responsiveness and desire to help seems to start at infancy.

The obvious theme here is young people and how they develop healthy emotional lives. The other theme, I think, though, is hope. I have witnessed some really tough and traumatised teens be touched by others' pain when many thought they had become totally desensitised. I think, as adults, we sometimes struggle ourselves to empathise with teens and young people. It seems so easy to forget what it was like and how hard it sometimes was to be in adolescence, especially. Maybe it is naive but maybe people need to be understood in order to reach into their own empathy for others. Let's not give up on people too quickly, including ourselves.