Counseling kids today, particularly girls, I am increasingly concerned at the exaggeration of words they use on a daily basis. They’re “so done” about almost everything. They’re “over it.” They’re “dying.” Someone is a “stalker” that looks on their social media several times. And that’s not even beginning to describe the mental health jargon... A friend who is emotional is “bipolar.” Someone who changes their mood is “schizophrenic.” They’re also diagnosing themselves with alarming frequency. They’re no longer sad…they’re depressed. They’re having a panic attack when they cry. (I sure have trouble breathing when I’m crying hard—don’t you?). They have anxiety when they’re fearful. Not to mention how often they want to “kill” someone when they’re angry.
Now, that is not to say that the incidence of depression, anxiety and panic attacks aren’t alarming in kids today, as well. They are. I sit with kids who are genuinely struggling with these issues daily. And we’ll continue to address those on this blog, at our parenting events, and in our books. If you are concerned your child might be truly struggling in one of these areas, please find a counselor who you and they can trust.
Hyperbole has become the new vernacular for kids today. A friend sent me this New York Times’ piece that describes it well. Technology seems to be furthering the problem. As do we, at times, as adults who love them.
Let’s be aware of our own use of language. I remember years ago, hearing Madeleine L’Engle say at a writing seminar that curse words only arise from a lack of creativity. Hyperbole often does, too. We can describe a situation with great creativity without having to use grandiosity. Let’s model and teach the kids we love how to do this. Help them learn the power of words and to use words that have power without exaggerating the truth of the situation.
AND, with regard to social media, let’s do the same. As your child moves into the technology world, talk to them about their language—not just inappropriate but exaggerative language. Help them learn to speak what they truly mean, so that their “friends” will see and know them. Keep an eye on their social media and what they’re communicating. It’s tempting for any of us to try to present ourselves as better, or louder, or happier, or more anything than we are. But that’s not what we want for the kids we love—in the real or virtual world. We want them to believe that they’re enough. We want them to know that they have so much to offer without exaggeration or hyperbole. They are loved and valued and enough. Let’s speak this truth to them and live it out with them.