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Politics and the Pressure to Forget Your Youth

Nowadays, an alarming amount of kids are worried about politics. Isn't it unfair to feel the weight of the world on your shoulders before you even start high school?

The period in which my teen years occurred can be defined, in part, by a widespread movement to remain informed on political issues and to act politically correct. In these formative years of my life, as I attempted to figure out who I was and what I believed, I often felt pressured to pick a side, even though I was largely uninformed about the details of many political issues.

I was just 13 years old when the United States seemed to become a partisan battleground filled with negativity. This was a result of the unforgettable 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump. Now, nearly 7 years later, the state of animosity between the political poles has only increased. This extreme tension has resulted in excessive stress for those of all identities and beliefs, as they deal with the uncertainty of constantly evolving political problems.

In light of my experiences, I pose a simple question: can we leave the heavy stuff for the adults?

In a fairly recent phenomenon, children and other youth are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress due to politics. It was found that “about a quarter of the caregivers surveyed indicated that their child had clinical levels of anxiety…. these youth have significantly greater worry about political issues and may be at greater risk for harmful mental health effects from following the news." Since the 2016 election, adults have reportedly been experiencing increased levels of anxiety over political tension in America. As one might expect, if adults are feeling increasing levels of stress over politics, their children are as well. It is a shame that children and teens alike, in recent years, cannot enjoy their youth unburdened by issues in which they have no agency to initiate change. If they cannot vote, why do they need to be politically informed, feeling the stress and extreme weight of U.S. political tension?

In the year of 2015, when the presidential candidates began gearing up for the election, everything I knew about politics came from my parents. I mean, what business did I have reading the daily news when I couldn’t even tell you what the three branches of government were? However, as the issues of the political world began to grow in severity, so did their reach.

Before I knew it, the majority of my peers had well-defined opinions, concerns and ideas surrounding the politics of the U.S. I felt I had no choice but to join them, and that ignorance was not an option. This pressure to participate in politics, based on the anxiety to keep up with others, is a problem for too many. As a young teen, you aren't old enough to understand the concept of misinformation, your own explicit or implicit biases or why you were not legally allowed to vote in the first place.

It is both overwhelming and saddening to discover the world through stories like school shootings, insurrections, impeachments, climate change and extreme political polarization. Once one becomes aware of the excessive politics in this world and this country, there is no going back to blissful ignorance. If you can help your child or teen experience a few more years of peaceful ignorance, do not hesitate to do so! 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

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