For many of us, traveling to another country enables us to grow as individuals. We step outside of regular routines, one-sided viewpoints and open ourselves up to a world of possibilities. Being exposed to new sights, sounds, faces, languages and customs allows us to learn about people and places beyond our own borders.
But most of us will undergo this transformation as young adults. It’s not until we are college-aged study abroad students or twenty-something escapists that we choose to leave the comforts of home and begin to truly understand the world in which we live.
Every day presents new opportunities to learn and to grow. But, after living abroad and observing different cultures, I can’t help but wonder if U.S. citizens lag behind other countries in terms of development.
By saying this, I’m not referring to technological development, but rather personal development. Although we have high-quality education, high standards of living and a high level of financial opportunities in the U.S., it seems that children growing up in America are often sheltered from the world around them.
Live and Learn
Parents love their children unconditionally and want nothing but the best for them. They will go to any lengths necessary to protect their children from harm. Sometimes, however, parents become overprotective.
Remember hearing the following:
- Look both ways before crossing the road
- Don’t touch a hot oven
- Remember to bundle up before you go outside in the cold
As a child, sometimes this advice went in one ear and out the other. Like any other kid, I didn’t always believe my parents knew what was best for me. Sometimes, I learned the hard way.
And, sometimes, this is the only way. If we don’t make our own mistakes, we will never truly learn from them. Because, the truth is that parents aren’t always right. They are learning just as much as their children are.
No matter how hard parents try, they will never raise a perfect child. No one can. It’s impossible.
So, while an American mother may be appalled to see a two-year-old girl riding front and center between her father’s legs on a motorcycle in Costa Rica – WITHOUT a helmet, mind you – it doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a bad parent or that the child will grow up at a disadvantage. Sure, it’s not a smart idea. But sometimes that’s just the way it is.
In America, we believe it’s ok for kids to stare at the TV for hours upon hours playing violent video games. In many other parts of the world, kids don’t even have the luxury of owning a television. They aren’t surfing the Internet, but rather they’re outside kicking around a soccer ball.
It seems that American children could be putting their free time to better use…kids in other parts of the world are.
In many instances, children in other countries seem to mature faster. They start working at a young age not because they want extra spending money, but because their families rely on the additional income. They learn about hard work and responsibility earlier than many American mallrats.
They learn to drive at a younger age and are allowed to drink at a younger age. Does this mean they are being robbed of their childhood? Not necessarily. It merely means these are the circumstances in which they must grow up in – they don’t know any differently.
Perhaps American parents and children could learn something from other cultures. If, after all, kids are the way of the future, maybe it’s better to paint a realistic view of the world than an imaginary one. Kids will be forced to face the reality eventually. It just might be better to do it now, rather than later.