Cross posted on educatorslog.in

It is dreadful when we hear of children choosing to take their own lives. This is about suicides committed by young children, usually in their teens. How would you as a parent feel when you read about such an act been committed? Does it not conjure up images of the goings on in that family? Most of the times it is human interactions that are in question. The first reaction is shock, followed by sympathy. Then we rationalize, wondering about the hows and whys. It is devastating for parents to lose a child. A lack or a wrong style of communication, excessive expectations, isolation, peer pressure, being unable to cope with study related stress, or stress related issues at home, being bullied at home or school... what could be the reason? The reasons for teen suicides could be many.

Each person is a unique individual, and craves to be understood and recognized accordingly. Society needs to respect that feeling. So which are the adolescent years? The years between 11 and 18 are considered as the teenage/adolescent years. It is the pre-adulthood period in a persons life. Adulthood as such differs from country to country. Every society has their own voting age, or the age when the child can get a driving license, while some countries have even other ways to identify the individual stepping into an adult group. The time when a child is entering into his/her teens is considered as a tumultuous span of a few years. It is synonymous with "difficult", "rebellious", "rude", and "OH-SO-CRAZY". But the child does not have any control over the hormonal changes that are taking place in the body, which could be a a reason for erratic behavior. The onset of puberty brings in various internal and external changes in the body. The child is emerging as a unique individual. We need to understand that and cherish as well as appreciate it.

Now how do we handle this so called troubled times that a child is going through, and in turn changing the scenario of the homes they inhabit? To bring the child to the path of righteousness rather than being success oriented is the point in case. For a child to commit suicide there has to be a background.

Societies are changing worldwide, and there is a divide among parents and children. Many a times the young , sensitive mind, unable to communicate his/her thoughts, rushes to take this extreme step. It is so unfortunate, especially for their near and dear ones, who are left feeling terrible, lamenting the rest of their lives, wondering that maybe if they had a better mode of communication, maybe if they had not nagged their child, maybe if they had tried to recognize the signs that led to this, maybe then they would still have the joy of seeing their child growing up in front of their eyes.

It is so important to talk with children these days, be more friends rather than tight lipped autocratic parents. To be flexible, to understand the needs that a child may have, and yet is unable to convey. Sometimes these problems take a serious turn, and sometimes they tide over. When a child is suffering from failure in school, he suffers from low self esteem and loses all motivation to do anything seriously, with the end result being poor relations with the family and school/society. Adolescence is a very challenging time for the youth. Millions of families are struggling with their troubled teens. In all of this, the pressure falls on the teenager. They are the ones coping hard, while we wrongly imagine that it is us. It is an oft heard topic of conversation among parents of the young uns (or shall we call it a volley of complaints?). The common factors here vary from their youngsters choice of friends, the amount of time that is spent on the phone/internet, issues of being no help at home, besides it being so sad for a parent who feels that "oh, now my child, who used to hang on every word I said is now thinking and arguing with me as if I know nothing". I say, enjoy this period of your child's growing up years. Parents have to make their child feel wanted, to encourage and be very liberal with praise. The child needs it from the people he loves most.

It all has to do with the correct style of parenting. They must be made to understand that it is their right to get clothing, food, education, safety and oodles of love and affection. But it is their privilege when they get designer clothes, telephones of their own, money to spend on the things they like, etc. SO should they feel obliged for the privileges that they get? Not grateful maybe, but certainly thankful. Maybe many of you feel that they must earn these, like the good points and bad points that they get in school. Well I differ in my opinion here. Reward and punishment has been often touted as a successful parenting style. It has but short term effects. The side effects are not very neat. It is conditional parenting. Will a child not start to expect gifts for every job well done? When does he learn that there is something called duty? When is that sense of duty inculcated within the child's mind?

We must encourage children to have friends, with whom they can talk on their own level. Besides, parents themselves should invest in a meaningful relationship with their child. It is essential for the child to know and be confident of the fact that there is a place to always return to, even if he has messed up in life. Whether the situation that the child has got himself into is reversible or not, the young mind must know he has a home where he is wanted. Maybe there will be a reprimand, but love and help too. So here the important quality is a forgiving nature. Do not create impenetrable walls for the child at home.

Many times teens are unable to enter a preferred institute for further studies. It builds tension in the child's mind. Be understanding. In todays world opportunities are numerous, and of many a variety. Children should be made to understand that. It is never the end of the road. Out of shame, the child might begin to isolate him/herself. Immediately embark upon your duty as an adult to make the child feel good, get him/her to make friends and to meet people, and also to be involved in group activities.

Several times it is the parents who are culprits when they psyche the child to be the best. The parent does not realize that he/she is isolating the child. Problems start when the parent wants to make the child special. Let them lead normal lives. If the child has to, he will excel. Let them seek the path of being an independent social being. Let them learn to appreciate people with all their differences, be it the cobbler, the carpenter or even the old man who lives across the street. Let them learn to relate to all kinds of human beings, and empathize with each one of them. Teach them to excel in whatever they do. Here, there is a difference in being competitive and excelling in whatever one does. John D. Rockefeller, a wealthy American businessman and a philanthropist, said, "Competition is a sin". Every child is different. Let them have ambition, but then being over ambitious is also a recipe for disaster. It can so easily breed jealousies, too much cut throat competition, and create so many negative vibes around. The child has to learn to take every thing in his stride, and to reduce self projection at all times.

There are times when the family cannot take success and failure normally. There is too much rejoicing on successes and too much remorse during failures. To be able to take it normally without these bursts of emotions, is what we have to teach the children. To quote Bill Gates, "Success is a lousy teacher; it reduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."

Above all parents need to be supple like the bamboo shoots that grow, accommodating everything, and bend with the times. Do not be like a banyan tree under which nothing grows, but which grows huge and wide on its own. Nobody said parenting was easy, it is a process of learning to take joy in even the toughest of situations.

Teen suicides in India are on the rise. I have attempted to point out a few causes, and some solutions. We, as a society must be supportive of our new generation and make the most of their abundant energy, their spirit of adventure.These can constructively be put to good use. They need all the guidance, and understanding from us.

I would really appreciate some feedback in the form of a discussion or comments..

Views: 39

Tags: adolescence, and, competition, failure, parenting, punishment, reward, success, suicides, |

Comment by Shuchi Grover on May 13, 2008 at 9:13am
I'm at a loss for words, Varni. This is a very touching and beautiful write-up.

As a mother of a 12 year-old my mind kept making connections with my own personal situation. Parenting is certainly not easy, and one has to be guided by intuition and common sense. There is no manual to tell us how to react to situations. I really appreciate some of the sentiments that you have described from the child's perspective, and also practical issues that you have described that we are all cognizant of (to varying degrees) but are not always accommodative of, and so we don't temper our reactions appropriately enough.

Thanks for sharing this here with all of us... // Shuchi
Comment by Varnika Kapoor on May 13, 2008 at 11:57pm
I am a mother of two youngsters too, and am at a loss several times. Its tough and we may not always be correct. Thanks for the appreciation and encouragement, though I do feel I could have elaborated on some more factors that can cause difficulty in children to cope. Like the socio economic status. In todays world children feel a need to be equipped with the latest gadgets,etc, it may decide the group they are in.

I am sure many parents may confess to a trial and error style of parenting, am I right?

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