Parenting in the Los Angeles "Bubble"

Jim Knight
For years, parents have commented, “I don’t want to raise my kids in a bubble.”
 
Every time I hear that—and it is often—I am perplexed. 
Do they really know what they are saying? There is no bubble in Los Angeles. The fact that your kids live in your house with a Wi-Fi connection means that they have access to the world and much more of the world than you did as a kid. The fact that they are breathing human beings moving about on Sunset, Figueroa, Wilshire, or Sepulveda means that the bubble has burst.
 
Parents say that they want their kids to develop grit, become savvy and sophisticated, not sheltered or unaware. I nod. I get it. However, in Los Angeles, those traits are a given. In fact, you have to work really hard in LA to ensure that your teenagers are sheltered. You have to work even harder to ensure that the fast lane doesn’t scar them.
 
Parenting in LA takes a lot of work. Don’t worry; they will learn the ropes of life even if you want to stop it. The key is to lean into their journey, so they don’t fall off a cliff. I am not advocating over-parenting or helicopter parenting. I do suggest that you pay attention and stay involved. Please get to know their world well so that you can help them navigate it. Seeing and understanding teenage culture's realities—the good, the bad, and the ugly—is wise. It prepares you to help walk with them from innocence to independence. Things are not the same today as they were when you were a teen, so engage.
 
I lied. There is a bubble in Los Angeles. However, it’s not the bubble you imagine. Every teen—wealthy, middle-class, or poor—lives in a bubble of wealth. Yes, it’s a wealth bubble that shelters them from the real world. Of course, if you are from an economically disadvantaged family in Los Angeles, the bubble is smaller. Nonetheless, there is a wealth bubble, and it limits our kids. Take them to skid row. Explore poverty-stricken areas of the world like Haiti, Central Africa, or parts of Central America, and you will quickly learn that the rest of the world lives far differently. If there is a fear of being soft, scared, cowardly, unaware, and unable to function in the real world, it comes not from a “moral bubble” but a “wealth bubble.”
 
Teens in Los Angeles, especially affluent ones, are allowed to run all over town to “experience life.” However, they don’t have to do anything or experience any real hardship. They are protected from failure by lawnmower parents who live vicariously through their kids, hoping to continue a certain standard of living. These kids have tutors, coaches, private schools, cars, credit cards, and more. They struggle with entitlement. The main goal for these kids is to get into a top college to carry on their family’s wealth. For those in the middle class, the goal is to break into the upper class, and nothing will get in the way—no part-time job, no failure, nothing.
 
Many teens in Los Angeles are culturally sophisticated and aware and have a level of grit and perseverance. At the same time, they are highly unsophisticated and soft when it comes to dealing with the rough-and-tumble daily life beyond high school. They are more nervous, anxious, and even depressed than ever before. Wealth has bubble-wrapped them, created young adults who lack resilience, have an underdeveloped dose of perseverance, and can struggle to function in the real world.
 
There is no moral bubble in Los Angeles. Be careful. There is a wealth bubble in Los Angeles. Be very careful.
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Pacifica Christian High School

A college-preparatory, Christian, liberal arts high school in the heart of Santa Monica.