How many of us remember our first kiss? Not the “boys chase girls/girls chase boys” elementary playground kisses coupled with giggles and dares, and spitting out the “cooties” afterward, but the excitement-building, “will you meet me after school” hand-written note kisses, first week of “going with” someone kisses, the awkward not knowing where our hands are supposed to go, what do I do with my tongue in someone else’s mouth kind of kisses?
Remember practicing kisses on the back of your hand, or with a pillow—talking with friends about who might be the first to be kissed? Remember the building fantasy, the fear, the first time you knew that it was just about to happen…. all that, just about kissing?
Most of us remember note passing, giggles in the hallway, the “will you go with me?” questions being passed through our chosen posse before reaching the intended receiver, girls huddled in the corner whispering and boys acting as nonchalant as possible, trembling inside at the thought of rejection or, possibly worse, reciprocal attraction.
This is when the buds begin to bloom, playtime evolves into “who likes who” banter, and attention grows toward questions of connecting differently, changing social structures, shared curiosity and fear. And oh, the awkwardness—the sweet, tender …and necessary awkwardness!
Do you think our kids will get to have those feelings?
The children born in this new millennium exist in a new paradigm of social norms, emotional-relational development, and a whole new host of visual, audio, emotional, and neuro-available stimuli that are impacting the way reality is perceived. Teen brains are changing, as they should—that is basic evolution. Yet, at what cost?
Most generations struggle with change…. Whether the “music’s just not what it used to be,” “chivalry is lost,” or “these young kids just don’t know how to work,” humans have a history of resisting change—at least older humans. We remember days past and meaning lost. Maybe we fear we won’t have shared understanding with newer generations, what was most meaningful to us becoming irrelevant.
And maybe there is a shadow to change—change without integration.
Can we collaborate with our youth, incorporate their evolving reality, and hold onto and share with them what has been most poignant about ours, before it becomes damage control?
Our kids—many before high school, some, even before middle school, are so well versed in sexting that they’re missing all the good stuff. Things they would not naturally imagine at 11 and 12 are portrayed with emoji’s and counterfeit boldness but hidden behind their Iphone X’s. Then after all that’s been thoroughly explored via the interweb, who’s going to tame the tiger back into pre-digitized-arousal enough to enjoy the subtle journey into a first kiss? And besides the embodiment of that lovely awkwardness, what else gets missed?
Our kids are going to date. And even if “dating” in middle school means that they share four minutes of conversation after math class, and the rest of the relationship happens between friends and via SnapChat and Instagram, our middle schoolers are “hooking up!” Just as they should be…
Nature is a powerful force. Unstoppable.
But dating—those tender first moments of feeling “seen,” the timid reaches and nervous moments of contact—they’re being muted and morphed by screens and buttons, by the digital curtain that negates interpersonal neurobiology—the scientific fact that we constantly have a direct impact on one another’s nervous systems when we are in person-to-person contact.
The majority of what we communicate innately moves automatically through our bodies, in well-rehearsed patterns—neurochemicals flow, neural pathways that were laid down in the first few years of life and literally “designed” the emotional and relational habits that are habitually engaged (unless we’re conscious and practiced enough to change them) take over most of the time. The way we look at people, the subtle shifts in our movements, the way our bodies fidget when we’re nervous—through these interactions, kids and teens (and some adults) learn the nuance of human language—the most important part of language—the part that has nothing to do with words. The things that aren’t communicated through emoji’s.
These subtleties, however, are becoming a thing of the past. They’re not fast-paced and exciting enough. You see, teen brains (all brains) are becoming hard-wired to crave increasing stimulation at faster and faster speeds to keep the dopamine drip from staggering, triggering boredom, and then depressive symptoms from withdrawal. We need more and more, faster and faster to keep us engaged, and at some point, some part of this system becomes over-taxed and shuts down—the question, what fails first, technology or the human nervous system?
How can we help our kids slow down and appreciate the subtle blooming essence of sensation, emotion, attraction, when their brains are geared toward lightening fast experience? How can we teach them to value awkwardness that leads to interpersonal understanding, mistakes that lead to self-reflection, boredom that leads to creativity, and slowing down that leads to living?
When girls are being asked for naked pics before ever having been kissed; when teenage boys can’t get an erection or ejaculate with a partner because they’re addicted to porn; when kids can create every detail of a personal, online world, barely having walked in the real one, when opportunity to escape life is within every key-stroke, we have some foundational problems.
Let’s help our kids get back to the basics.
For the Love of Your Life!