“It gets better” is not enough

I am sure that the people who say “It gets better” mean well. I am sure that they want to keep children from killing themselves. But “it gets better” doesn’t help a kid who is being teased mercilessly by his/her peers. If you’re 14 years old, and all your classmates have turned on you, what good is it to hear that things will be better in a year or more? I heard that sort of crap a lot when I was a kid, and I don’t remember it helping me much.

When I was that kid being picked on, what I learned was that adults can’t help, mostly because they don’t know how. I don’t know how well that has advanced, but I suspect it hasn’t.

To those who say “it gets better,” I’m sorry for disparaging your message. It isn’t wrong, at least most of the time. I was rocked with three emotional crises over a short period of time, but two years after the first one, I was a lot better. High school was still a trial, but it was better than eighth grade, and I did manage to gather together a group of friends. But “it gets better” isn’t much to offer a kid who is hurting now. Why can’t we make it better for that kid now?

The only thing I know is that, more than anything in the world, I want to help that kid who had trouble dealing with the torment. It seems to me that school administrators could do more to make their schools emotionally safe places. But maybe they don’t know how.

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9 thoughts on ““It gets better” is not enough

  1. It does get better for a lot of people; kids need to be reminded that highschool or middle school doesn’t last forever and that life beyond those things is often wonderful in ways they can’t even imagine right now. Hearing from people who were bullied who made it through and came out strong and happy and OK is a valuable and important message. You are right though; just saying ‘hang in there, it gets better’ isn’t enough, which is why the message is coupled with changing attitudes and behaviour in schools, at least in Canada anyway, and more progressive places in the States. It’s slow going though; we’re fighting against generations of ‘kids will be kids’ thinking. We have to teach the teachers, admins parents AND kids that bullying someone is wrong. Full stop. and that takes time.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m glad we both agree that we need more than “it gets better”. My problem was that I would get upset, and couldn’t keep a level head. The playground in those days was a no man’s land, with little to no adult supervision. So it was up to me. What would have helped was a mental toolbox to allow me to deal with it on my own. Mental exercises to keep me from losing it. But maybe no one could have helped me.

  2. My biggest problem with “it gets better” is that for many people, it not only doesn’t get better, but it gets worse. So what are we supposed to say to those folks? What do we have to offer them? If the whole “it gets better” thing actually does help some people then that’s great, but we need a lot more than that because not everyone is helped and for those people, this amounts to pretty words and useless platitudes.

  3. I agree alone it is not enough but I do think the project as a whole is helpful to LGBT youth. It helps kids who feel isolated or feel like they are the only one. It won’t stop a parent from kicking a LGBT kid out of the house but the project does give hope to many who are in less dire circumstances. It gives kids hope when they hear that famous and not so famous people have been where they are and have gone on to thrive. It is probably cathartic for some adult contributors as well.

    • Thanks for your comment. I have to say that since I’m not LGBT, I can’t speak from that angle. But I was a kid, and “this too shall pass” sorts of statements were cold comfort at best. Perhaps the It Gets Better campaign is richer and more helpful than that. (And we do agree that it’s not enough.)

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