Friday, August 24, 2018 famous news daily, Mumbai Mirror carried an article highlighting a crises looming on the modern society. It read ‘64% of city youth surveyed have thought of ending their lives’ (Source – Mumbai Mirror), which was derived from the survey carried out by city’s renowned institute Podar Institute of Education (PIE), which published the report after surveying students from Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru.
The finding of the survey is quite alarming. But, surprisingly many of the parents I have met after that are not even aware of this crisis. We regularly come across news of students ending their lives, many a times for seemingly insignificant reasons. Then question arises is why do students take their lives? What are the compulsions which force them to take such a drastic step?
Let us first understand the stage of Teenage in one’s life. It is the age when one is neither a kid nor fully grown. If we look at brain anatomy, during teen years, it is still developing. Only at the age of 20, one has a fully grown brain. What’s the effect you may wonder? Let me explain. There is a part called Pre-frontal Cortex among adults, which carries out the function of judgement, decision making etc. Since Pre-frontal Cortex is fully developed among adults, they are capable of balanced decision making. In teenagers, Pre-frontal Cortex is not fully developed, so its function is being carried out by Amygdala, which is responsible for emotions. That is precisely the reason, why parents often find their teenagers decisions to be rash and lacking deep thinking and we often want them to act more maturely e.g. you give them car keys and also advise ‘drive slow my dear’.
There are other factors which are responsible for depression and helplessness among teenagers, which drive them towards the unthinkable by elders and parents! Let us analyse these factors:
- Growing Identity: During teenage, one develops his / her identity. They want more acceptance and acknowledgement for their work and contributions, but mostly elders still consider them as children and often overlook their views / opinions as being childish. Such acts hurt their egos and self-esteem, which lead to resentment. If such acts are repeated often where their identities are neglected, it leads to feeling of worthless and disappointment.
- Environment: Surrounding Environment is fundamental to their wellbeing. Often, we elders fail to recognize the need of providing them with the right environment.
- Pressure to Perform: In today’s age of competition, everyone is facing this issue, which often assumes gigantic proportions in tender minds of students. Add to this, high expectations of parents and teachers for their academic performance lead them to believe ‘end of world’ in case of failures! Most parents also commit mistake of comparing their children with others, who might be performing better. Such an act of comparison, leave a feeling of inferiority among the students whose performance is below expectations.
The list can go on. But it is more important that, let’s look at some hints which can help us improve the situation and make our students full of hope, belief and confidence!
- Be a Good Listener: In cases of confusion, the first step a teenager would do is to communicate with someone. Most parents fail on this count of being a good listener, and jump on to be judgmental! When the child is a baby, everyone in the house give careful attention to their every word as there is an element of fascination in words of toddlers. But, as they grow up, often parents tend to neglect their communication due to one reason or the other.
- Be Patient: It is the biggest virtue while dealing with children, irrespective of their age groups. As per the neurology experts, the brain of a child grows until the age of 20. Till that time, they are dependent on parents for decision making. But, if parents fail to display patience while dealing with them, they may choose to take their own decisions, often influenced by peers or some outside factors.
- Be Empathetic: Accept the fact that, they have not lived numbers of years you have lived in this world, so in most probability, their judgement or decision making will never be as good as yours. Encourage them even if they make small mistakes. Give them confidence that they can fall back on you, whenever required.
- Be a Support: Develop a genuine friendship with your ward. Provide them with the environment that, they can share with you all their secrets, confusions, questions and fears. Don’t be judgmental due to some of their actions or mistakes. You will never be able to find anyone, who has never made mistakes in life, even you must have, so what’s a big deal? By allowing open communication between you and your ward, you will make sure to be aware of things influencing / happening around them and intervene with right guidance in case needed.
- Praise your ward: Particularly applicable for teenagers, many parents think that, by praising they will spoil their wards. But in reality, it is just reverse. You develop a very strong bond with them by praising, which can also serve as motivation tool to channelize their huge energies towards positive activities.
- It’s Okay to Fail: Almost all of us have failed at some point of time in our lives, so it’s not a big deal if teenager fails. Encourage them to learn from their failures. In this way, they will develop their own experience base and help them grow as matured adults. Embracing failures with ease will also help them in risks analysis and management.
- Understand their minds: Teenagers are full of energies and enthusiasm. They have their own way of looking at things and often, even if supposed to be vices to elders, they want to try out themselves. Often encouragement and pressure comes from peers. Keep a check on what companies they keep. Encourage free discussion on all types of queries they may raise. In this way, you get chance to know their inclinations and also provide them with the right information on every issue / query.
In effect, invest your time and energy into your wards with patience and you will be surprised to see the results. Choice is yours; do you want to give positivity to your ward for positive results or keep on pushing them harder choices, sometimes undesirable and I should say god forbid, traumatic.