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More face time with teens needed

February 18, 2012

Since Drew Ferraro’s heartbreaking death at Crescenta Valley High School, a deep shock of sadness has settled silently over our entire community. It is a time to cry, and a time to ask “why.”

Why would Drew and thousands of other teenagers so full of promising new life choose to end it before it really even gets started? What is society doing to this beautiful new generation that makes the future and the present so bleak, frightening, depressing and hopeless?

Now is a time for answers, options and action. Just the day before he died, Drew’s school sponsored a mock drunk-driving accident to highlight the tragic fact that traffic accidents are the biggest cause of teenage deaths in America. Three out of 10 of those traffic deaths involve alcohol. Teen traffic accidents also send thousands of vibrant, healthy teens to hospitals annually, often with life-long injuries.

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Maybe we all need more face-to-face connections to go with our Facebook pictures that limit real-life experiences to a digital, virtual world the size of your computer screen. You can’t hug a friend or family member on Facebook. You can’t look them in the eye and cry with them, hold their hand and tell them you love them on Facebook.

There are so many demands placed on teenagers’ left brains to excel in the fast-changing, complex, Xbox world, and to get good grades on standardized tests that primarily measure self worth and future success on half-brain verbal analytical skills, depending only on their heads and not their hearts.

Are we, as a society, unknowingly breaking the hearts and spirit of our teens by ignoring their need for emotional, spiritual connections and balance of body, mind and spirit? Are we driving them toward self-destructive behaviors because they feel disconnected from the unlimited opportunities for happiness promised in childhood to all of us?

Having now seen four generations come through our Glendale and Burbank DUI Programs, it is alarmingly clear that those being arrested for driving under the influence today are younger and younger, as each new generation uses more and more alcohol to escape the increasing demands of left-brain logic, judgment, hyper-speed, high-tech competition for tangible results and financial success. We urgently need a state of balance.

Most brain studies tell us that what we get in communication is not in the words that people say. It is in their facial expressions, their body language — eyes, emotional tone of their voice and their mood. In other words, it is not so much what you say, but how you say it.

We all need face-to-face friends to share heart-to-heart friendships with love and compassion to offset the stress that can depress our children and youth with endless expectations to succeed in a scary world.

John A. Marshall

Glendale

Editor’s note: Marshall is founder of Right on Programs.

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