Just Because Children Are Little, Does Not Mean Their Problems Are Too
There is always the assumption that children are free from the worries of the world. But being young does not necessarily mean that children live in a carefree world. Like everybody dealing with their issues of daily life, children are no different.
As babies, children do not have a lot to be worried about. All the needs are timely met by their parents or guardians. Hungry? Food is provided. Tired? They can sleep the day away. Want some attention and playing? The loved ones are ready to be their court jester. But, once they grow up and enter the real world, children start encountering their own set of problems and they are at a stage where they require guidance to overcome them.
In the eyes of adults, squabbles with friends, or getting a lower grade than anticipated would indeed seem inconsequential. Issues like competition within peers, teachers commenting, peers pranks and comments and etc, are treated as trivial. But for children, going through that specific situation, it seems like the most important thing in their lives at that time. They could be immensely involved with the situation emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically. It is wrong to believe that children have nothing to fret about. Underneath their childish innocence, their impulsive actions, they do hold worries relating to their families, school, friends, about grades, their bodies, even the future.
They are still in the process of learning. Everything comes new and inexperienced to them. Thus, uncertainties of life seem even more daunting as they are unequipped for dealing with them. And in times of such apprehension, curiosity and unawareness, when parents underrate the gravity of what children might be facing, parents invariably take away that one source of reliability leading to alienation. In simple words, alienation can be defined as ‘withdrawal or separation of a person or a person's affections from an object or position of former attachment.’
As children grow older, the distance between them and their parents seems to exacerbate with time. While some of it stems from their need to be independent, other factors include parents being critical, treating the children as infants i.e. spoon feeding, unwilling to hear their children’s thoughts and opinions, while at the same time demanding them to be more mature. Over time, even less time is spent together as parents and children become busy with their individual lives, leading to a greater emotional detachment. Development of children, while biologically is the same, holds a vast difference in the social and cultural settings that may hinder parent-child understanding. Lack of time spent together with one or both parents being full-time employees, and children having hours of their day filled with school and recreational activities and classes. The only quality time where everyone tends to unite is during the dinner time, which is probably not enough for discussions and solutions. In the course of ensuring children are well-rounded, parents are taking away an essential need for them to bond with their children.
Once the children sense a lack of attention from parents or feel being ignored, or their issues not being considered vital enough, they slowly stop coming to their parents. They tend to become their own decision makers or start reaching out to their peers. Eventually, conversations between the family limits to general and superficial things as the children no longer trust their parents to be open minded to their problems and help them reach realistic solutions.
Another notion that proves to be a barrier for children approaching their parents with problems lies in the parents’ preconceived notions and stringent opinions. There might be some topics children may feel nervous bringing up, like taking about their likings for a classmate, relationship issues, peer pressure to involve in activities that might be new to the child like drinking, smoking, ideas about intimacy, sex, etc. And if they see their parents having uncompromising and rigid views, they would hesitate to have these conversations. Unfortunately, adolescent years are fraught with such thoughts and issues, and with lack of support from parents, they choose to deal with the situations all by themselves. Changing times requires parents to be adaptable. In times of trouble, children should never fear going to their parents. Parents should be the first and primary approach for help and guidance. Our society witnesses the complete opposite. The parents are usually the last ones to find out what ails their child, or sometimes they are completely oblivious of something going wrong in the lives of their children.
India, being a collectivist society, holds great importance to the thoughts and opinions of others. Parents tend to have certain expectations out of their children. So does the society. This becomes another obstacle for families to work on problem-sharing. Children develop fear of expression. They double think their words, thoughts and actions. They fear that if they act in any way that deviates from what is being expected out of them, the situations will be dealt with negativity such as disappointment or scolding from the parents and other punishments. An example of this is choosing streams in high school and colleges. The child may have hopes of pursuing their interests, like a sport, or media, or dance, music etc. Are the children provided with the liberty of even thinking about opting not for academics or not so appreciated academic fields and look out for their passion and interests? Do we welcome their ideas?
There are tremendous amounts of daily encounters that children have with their parents where their ideas aren’t welcomed. This only leads to children then keeping their thoughts and opinions to themselves because they begin to presume it is of no consequence to others, which may even lead to them being socially detached. Parents, who previously used to be the greatest source of safety and comfort for their children, eventually are not even a last resort.
As per 15th century proverb, ‘children should be seen and not heard.’ This is where we go wrong. This generation is a whole new tech-savvy world. Children need constant supervision. The simplest thing parents can do is to listen. Listen to your child babbling, listen to them chattering about their day. What all complaints they have? About homework, mean teachers, or rude friends, or even their annoying sibling/s. Are they facing any issues like peer pressure, attraction towards somebody? It is beautiful how children open heartedly portray their emotions. That undivided focus will help the children gain faith in their parents. When parents are completely involved in listening to how their children feel about things, it shows the child how they are a priority in the eyes of their parents, how anything they say is noteworthy, accepted and valued. It helps them reach out to the parents for help for they feel the emotional security. Give your children that safe space without offering judgments. Sometimes just having a listening ear is so much more encouraging for the children than words of advice. It also becomes necessary that parents stop treating their children’s issues as trivial, unacceptable or blunderous (times when they are not able to believe that their children can have such issues). It is a whole new world for the children; let’s embrace our children’s innocence. They need guidance, lots of guidance. Be all ears to your children, they would definitely reach out.