The millennial generation has been shielded from a young age as a result of misguided school policies being influenced by parents who wish to protect their kids from hardship. The overprotection of children is nearsighted and is a roadblock to children building resilience that helps them cope with hardship later in life.
Mental resilience is built incrementally; it is not endowed upon anyone at birth. Inoculation in regards to physical ailments is no different, utilizing small amounts of a disease to help the body recognize and learn to deal with pathogens. The same principle of building resistance to a disease such as smallpox is applicable to hardship. The American Psychological Association claims that “resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.” Resilience cannot be built if you remove adversity from life.
The trend of protecting kids in their adolescent years against hardship that is relatively mundane compared to what they face later in adulthood is reducing their resilience. Children cannot learn the skills needed to deal with hardship if they are not exposed to negative experiences early in life.
According to a study conducted by Child Trends, 42.4 percent of children between the ages of 15 to 17 have not been exposed to an adverse experience in their life. This significant portion of the adolescent population is not given the opportunity to gain skills that are necessary to deal with hardship. Overprotection manifests itself in mental hardship for children when parents, teachers, or other adults can no longer protect them.
In the Healthy Kids Survey conducted by the San Mateo Union High School District, the proportion of male BHS students reporting chronic sadness increased from eight percent in ninth grade to 18 percent in eleventh grade. The trend is mirrored in the female population, rising from 27 percent to 37 percent in the same time span. It would be illogical to trace the cause of this change to purely biological and chemical issues. The dramatic increase is a result of students becoming exposed to hardship as is inevitable in high school, an environment less protective and more independent than previous levels of schooling. The response to these statistics is reflected in school rules where protection for students is stressed above all else. Continuing to protect children is only delaying the time it takes for the child to be exposed to hardship and robbing the child of time that can be valuable for learning coping skills and understanding how to deal with hardship.
A government run program Stop Bullying includes in the definition of bullying “leaving someone out on purpose.” The American Psychological Association says that although “social rejection aches like physical pain,” over time “most people eventually get over the pain and hurt feelings of rejection.” With school policies and guidelines stressing the importance of preventing the exclusion of students at all costs, we are robbing young children from being able to become used to coping with rejection. Learning these skills in elementary school, where the situation may be as trivial as being left out of a recess game, will prevent kids from struggling when they have to deal with more significant problems that present themselves in later stages of adolescence and as an adult.
Sophomore Samantha Goldstein says that in her experience “kids who were protected by their parents didn't have the same social skills as the ones who were more independent.” Learning how to face adversity is an important part of functioning in society. Although a student becoming upset when in the face of hardship is unavoidable, learning to deal with the situation in a healthy way will give them the confidence and skills to face adversity later in life.
In a survey conducted by National Public Radio, 51 percent of professors reported using trigger warnings in their class. This use of trigger warnings is a result of protests on campus led by students. The cry for this censoring of education is organized by the millennial generation. This generation, which is now in college and beginning to enter the workplace, is credited with being the most protected generation. Students that have not been required to face possibly offensive subjects are inherently more likely to be more sensitive. The demand for censoring of potentially offensive information is a result of students who lack resilience attempting to continue to live in a sheltered environment instead of coping with the hardships in the real world.