Although growing up in the here is advantageous for kids in many, many ways, there are some insane things that kids in the United States have to do simply because they live here and not a gentler country. For example, shortly after the deadliest mass shooting in American history left 49 people dead in a gay nightclub in Orlando June 12, Stacey Feeley posted a Facebook photo of her daughter standing on a toilet, as she had learned to do during a lockdown drill at her pre-school. The Michigan mom was dismayed that her daughter, just 3 years old, had to know exactly what to do if a shooter entered her school.
It's not always easy to be a kid in the United States, and that's usually because of institutions adults have put into place, or mistakes they've made. Deficits in our school systems mean that a lot of students are pretty bad a math, and it's hard to blame kids themselves for high rates of childhood obesity in this country.
The fact that these problems even exist may be perplexing for people in countries that aren't experiencing them, but they're pretty steeped into our consciousness in the good ole U.S. of A. But because the United States is a nation of dreamers and achievers, its citizens and its government are (or should be) constantly striving to improve the outcomes and opportunities for the youngest and most vulnerable among us. The first step to conquering problems kids face is to name them, so here are some seemingly whacky challenges that confront kids here. Hopefully identifying them will spark some important conversations.
Worry About Mass Shootings At School
In 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States experiences more mass shootings than any other country in the world. That report came nearly two years after a gunman murdered 20 first-graders and six adults in a Connecticut elementary school, so although the chances of this happening are low, the threat feels very real to school administrators.
Kids are aware of the frequency of mass shootings in the United States, and they carry that knowledge and fear with them.
Honor The Confederacy's Leaders & Its Flag
The United States' South has a shameful history of enslaving human beings, and many American schoolchildren are still taught to revere Confederate leaders who fervently defended slavery during the Civil War.
The Confederate flag was finally removed from some state-sanctioned places of honor after a white supremacist terrorist killed nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, last year, but its legacy lives on for many adults. That means they're teaching their kids to respect it, and the racist hate it symbolizes. Yikes.
Contend With The Idea Of A Trump Presidency
It's election season, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are "neck-and-neck" in the presidential polls, according to CNN. A President Trump is a pretty scary concept for a lot of adults, but it could very well be enough to freak kids out as well.
Even if they don't fully understand the implications of the former reality TV star's unique brand of misogyny, onslaught of vitriol aimed at Mexicans, or the fact that ISIS is using his xenophobic comments about Muslims as a recruiting tool, his unmistakable resemblance to a Cheeto is probably disorienting enough for them.
Deal With Notoriously Unhealthy School Lunches
The United States is a lot of great things, but "healthy" doesn't typically top the list. This is especially obvious is school cafeterias, where big companies sell food that's high in salt and low on nutrition (popcorn chicken, anyone?), and make big bucks. Junk-laden lunch trays is a reality First Lady Michelle Obama is working to remedy, because it's really, really no good for kids' health.
Salad restaurant chain Sweetgreen launched an initiative to fight childhood obesity that compared American school lunches to those in other countries, Business Insider reported, and found some major differences. It's fascinating, so check it out here!
Being a kid is tough sometimes, for sure, at the same time that it's awesome. It's probably brutal to have to struggle to understand what a Trump presidency could mean (especially if you're an immigrant or the child of immigrants), and then go through puberty. No doubt that growing up in 2016 sure makes some kids quite resilient — and, ideally, prepared to solve some of these issues as they grow up.