The Toll It Takes

Discimination against young people is everywhere, yet it’s a form of oppression that isn’t widely recognized. That’s unfortunate, because adultism teaches us bias from a young age and reinforces all the other “isms” such as racism, sexism, heterosexism, and so on. It also fuels low-esteem—as children, we can’t can’t help but take in adultist sterotypes and beliefs. These beliefs take a toll and can lead to:

  • Doubting yourself
  • Doubting other young people (feeling insecure or isolated from peers)
  • Releasing rage, fear, and powerlessness on close friends and family
  • Unconsciously replaying adult domination with peers of lower social status
  • Completely appeasing adult expectations / being induced to always choose adult approval over self-respect
  • Completely rejecting adult expectations (for example, dropping out of school)

Resistance Strategies

Luckily, just noticing when problems are caused by adultism can effectively boost mood and self-esteem. Another strategy is to strive to replace negative adultist messages with more truthful, positive ones. Either with a friend or on your own, you can think about the questions below to challenge adultist ideas:

  • What makes me proud of being young?
  • What’s been hard about being young?
  • When do I remember resisting adultism? (This could be an action as small and powerful as what you showed or didn’t show on your face when hearing a microaggression.)
  • When do I remember taking steps to connect with others, despite how adultism promotes isolation from other young people and adults? 

I hope that thinking about these questions helps you resist the negative impact of adultism! Thank you for making it to the end of this lengthy episode—my fingers are crossed that my efforts to “adult splain” the issue weren’t too annoying. If you are willing to offer me any corrections or feedback, I am all ears. You can tag me in a Class activity post (@taylor) anytime. Have a great rest of your month!

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