Why is there a mental health decline in our kids? And why does it seem to be getting worse?
How often have you said or heard someone say – ‘it wasn’t like this when I was young’? So there we must start our inquiry. What has changed between now and then?
When we were kids – we were allowed to get hurt. We were allowed to get dirty, to get cold, to explore, to climb, to run, to jump, to build, to fall – we were allowed to play. And when we were bored – we were left to be bored or think our way out of it. Boredom was our problem – not somebody else’s. This developed neural pathways in our brains. And when we stuffed it all up – it was our fault. If we got hurt, it was our fault. If we got in trouble, it was our fault. And if we broke it – we were responsible for fixing it. We were held responsible and this taught us accountability and responsibility.
Today’s kids have grown up very differently. Wrapped in bubble wrap and shielded from all ‘danger’ – their ‘fun’ has come from their parents or carers or siblings or someone else keeping them amused. They have been taught that whatever happens to them – it’s not their fault. They have been shielded from all things bad in life, like not winning and not getting their own way and being disappointed. They have never had to feel the wrath of accountability and have never had to right their wrongs – we ‘protected’ them and jumped in to do it for them. If we didn’t – we failed as a parent or carer. And with the whole world watching and commenting – the pressure is on to be a damn good parent and protect our kids. From life.
As a result – our kids have no resilience. And BOY to they need it.
In our technological world where they are always ‘on’ and forever ‘accessible’ – our kids need resilience more than we ever did. We left our bullies at the school gate – they have theirs in their home, in their bedroom. Where we took on our predators in a visible world where others could see and hear – they take on theirs in an anonymous world where they can only guess who it is that is causing them grief and anguish. In a world where their social being lives ‘online’ – our kids are surrounded and suffocated by others – yet have never been more alone.
Our kids are being bullied and harassed in a somewhat invisible world – and in today’s world, where we have literally ‘protected’ the life out of them, our kids simply cannot cope. They haven’t experienced the world in which a young person learns to be the ruler of their own domain, make their own decisions and accept the consequences, thus building the resilience they need to survive – because we took it away from them. They haven’t learned to solve their own problems or think around them – because we never let them be bored and experiment and develop the skills to do so. They have never learned to communicate their problems and talk them through, because the online world is more real to them that the physical one. And mentally – our kids are suffering. Badly.
So what do we do?
If your kids are young – let them play. Like really play. Let them be bored. No screens. Let them build and climb and swing and dig. Let them get dirty and be noisy and make a mess. Let them figure it out. Let them get it wrong. And let them get into trouble. Consequences are real and kids need to learn them in a safe protective environment, like home and school – NOT in the big bad real world where consequences can be so much more costly and detrimental.
If your kids are older – OWN THE TECHNOLOGY. Talk with your kids and limit their access. Eat dinner at the table and ban the technology. Talk. Play games. Get them to work with you. Take them shopping with you. Make them accountable for their decisions and allow them to experience the consequences. Get them to contribute to the running of the household – WITHOUT a reward. And remove the technology from the bedroom. NEVER EVER LET THE TECHNOLOGY INTO THE BEDROOM – you just never know who they have in there with them.
Will the kids like it?
If you feel it’s already too late – seek support. You talk with someone who can help you and get your kids to talk with someone who can help them. Then talk to them together. Never give up – if you try something and it doesn’t work – never give up. Our kids are important and the effort is worth it. You are important and the effort is worth it. Never give up, but do get the support and help that you need.