Note to parents about pressures children are facing
Our young adults and teens are feeling overwhelmed. They do not seem equipped to handle the pressures of life. There are one too many examples of increased mental illness leading to extreme actions such as suicide and attempted suicide. Last year, I heard many cases of young adults between 19 and 21 who have suicidal thoughts. Below are some of the pressures our children are facing.
Parents: Many of the young adults and teenagers feel they cannot really talk to their parents. Why? They feel their parents don’t get them, are judgmental, are not emotionally available and do not listen to them. Quite a number have issues with self-esteem after years of exposure to social media. They are comparing their lives to other people’s social media pages and they feel inadequate. They cannot readily tell the difference between real life and what they see on their feed. Yet, they do not feel comfortable sharing this with their parents.
Pressure from Parents: Many are under pressure from parents who have cleaned out their savings and retirement to send them to expensive schools. They feel they cannot mess up. The parents remind them everyday that this hustle is for them. They graduate and can’t find jobs and still rely on parents’ pocket money. More pressure.
Past Abuse as Triggers: Many have actually been sexually abused by someone they know. Worse yet they cannot tell their parents. The predator knows this and many times the abuse continues, because the predator is a family member or family friend. The abuser is hardly ever a stranger. All the #MeToo #TimesUp movement on social media is a reminder that triggers the bad memories. But they can’t speak to anyone about it. It’s a horrible feeling. All unresolved or untreated trauma from past or present abuse haunts and lingers.
It is not about ‘in your time’: Parents lets stop the “in my time” narrative; your time and their time are very, very different. You really have not walked in their shoes before. Did you grow up in a world saddled with 24/7 connectivity? Or constant bombardment of content both the good and the bad, the fake and the real? Constant requests to send nude photos of themselves in an overly sexualized world? The pressure to always show up with face beat ready for a selfie? You don’t understand their world.
Screen-time: I remember sharing a post about the importance of screen time management. A young mum lashed out that we should stop making her feel bad. She commented that her child is learning online; so it is okay. Question? Do you leave your child in school all day because they are learning? The truth about apps, social media etc. is that screen time is created to be addictive. It is not about your willpower. Letting your child consume hours and hours of screen time daily is irresponsible *period*. Would you expose them to drugs and say they can self-regulate? They need to be monitored.
What can parents do?
Open lines of communication without judgment is critical. Spend time understanding their world but be firm and set boundaries. Keep them off social media as long as you can. If your children are older and already active on social media, discuss digital wellbeing and help them set healthy boundaries. Realise also that unhealthy body image is on the rise; talk to your children about this. Model a good example. You cannot be on your devices all the time, everyday. They are watching you. Once you seem like a hypocrite, they tune out.
Parenting is leadership and good leaders ensure that everyone has an enabling environment to thrive. For parents the most important people you will lead are your children. Children need the same basic things they have always needed- love, nurture, a safe home environment, good nutrition, adequate rest, parents who affirm them, and who are emotionally available. They need positive influence, a sense of responsibility, feeling of belonging and a healthy self-esteem. All this work is done in real conversations and fostering connections from the home. If you are struggling to talk to your older kids, by all means find a trusted, experienced and trained person to do so and help you bridge the gap. Then work on mending your lines of communication.
Question for Parents
Ask yourself do you know your child’s love language and is your parenting style effective? Are you flexible and firm at the same time? Do you use friendship as a tool while not trying to be a friend? Children today are facing a lot. The only way parents and the adults in their lives can help is to be there for them and show up in the way they need.
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