Sonia asks: Can you tell me what the challenges are, that have to be overcome by today’s kids of 5 years of age and above?
Wow, Sonia, that’s a huge question! I mean, there are a ton of things that most five-year-olds have overcome: most of them have learned to walk and talk and use the toilet and a lot of other more detailed things. But the answer to your question is: Everything Else! Kids 5 and above have to learn social skills and multiplication; how to ride a bike, drive a car, and analyze history; what to do on a date and how to write correctly in the subjunctive tense (okay I’ll be honest, this dog has absolutely no idea what the subjunctive tense is; it’s just something I heard Handsome say).
But it sounds like you might be asking about today’s kids specifically. In other words, you’re asking what challenges today’s kids face that kids of earlier generations didn’t face. I can’t pretend to tell you everything you’re asking for, but I can offer a few thoughts.
First, and most clearly, is the information and telecommunication explosion (can you believe you’re hearing a dog use such big words! I am so proud I’m about to burst my collar!). Most parents today didn’t even grow up with personal computers, and their kids are dealing with a world largely defined by the internet, cellular phones that get more amazingly powerful every year, and now the rise of social media. Some things stay the same – there are bullies at school – but some things change – now we face the horror of online bullying. Everything moves faster, everyone’s definitions of privacy are changing, and it’s all a mixture of glorious and terrifying. And the coolest and scariest part of it all is that we don’t have any idea of what’s going to change in the next few years. Five-year-olds’ parents had never conceived of Facebook when those kids were born. Who knows what will be there when those kids are ten?!
Second, the population is growing, but the world is getting smaller all the time. Today’s 5-year-olds should learn at least another language than their home one, and ideally more. They’ll really need to know about the world’s major religions. They’ll interact with more people of more races than any of their ancestors ever did. Think of that beautiful Louis Armstrong song that says, “I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know.” And especially in this regard, the great jazzman was absolutely right.
And third, I hate to say it, but we really have no idea what is going to happen with the ecology of our planet in those kids’ lifetime. People can argue about the causes of global warming or what different environmental policies should be – and I’m no scientist, I’m a dog for crying out loud! – but we know for certain that the world has never dealt with anything like what human technology has done to it in the last century, and we really don’t know where it’s all going to go. How much poison can the oceans stand? How much cutting can the rainforests sustain? How much radiation came out of Japan last month, or out of all our cell phones today? I’d love to tell you that it’s all under control and everything’s going to be fine. But the truth is, I have no idea, but I’m sure some of the news won’t be good.
But here’s the funny thing about history, Sonia. When scary changes happen, good ones do too. If the internet means bullies can hurt kids faster than ever before, they can also be caught faster, and the victims can be more empowered faster than ever too. As our cultural boundaries fall, people become more sensitized to their fellow humans, and prejudices and bigotries are crushed forever. And as humans face the destructive effects of progress, new technologies and solutions are developed daily that can solve much of these difficulties.
So will five-year-olds face challenges? You bet! And most of them I can’t even imagine. But do they have the courage, the stamina, and the brilliance to take them on? Ha! Have you ever talked to a five-year-old? They’re the most brilliant humans that exist! If anyone can survive the world’s changes and make it better, it’s them!
So give them support, give them education, give them your ears, and especially, give them love. That’s what they need most of all. (And of course, if you can’t give them quite enough love yourself, just drive down to the local shelter and get them a pooch – and there’ll be enough love to knock the daylights out of those kids!)