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Yet another life lost, yet another set of parents grieve; how many more? The recent news of teen suicides allegedly as a result of online games needs introspection.
Recently, the country witnessed its one of the most shocking suicides by a 14 year old teen Manpreet Sahans on 31 July 2017 when he jumped off from the terrace of his building – allegedly as part of a challenge-based underground game called ‘Blue Whale’ (although the case is under investigation). To my horror the deceased had taken a picture of himself just before taking the last plunge of his life, sitting on the terrace parapet. In the picture which was captioned ‘soon the only thing you would be left with is a picture of me’, one could see his legs hanging from the parapet.
On July 19, the country woke up to the tragic news of another suicide – by an 18 year old boy, the only son of a senior IAS officer at Mumbai. The boy had allegedly jumped off from a 20 storey building in a posh locality at around 7.30 am (as per preliminary investigation). I clearly remember the picture of the whole family (during happier times) attached with the article, with prominently happy looking parents on either side of boy. Shortly before this, news of a techie who had committed suicide after he was handed over the pink slip by his company was doing the rounds on media.
Yet another life lost, yet another set of parents grieve; how many more? Social acceptance, social pressures, peer pressure, breakups, job traumas, examination results and now some horrific online games are just few common reasons I can think of for young people deciding to commit suicide. I am not trying to undermine the problems faced by the youth of this country; however, I feel that no problem in this world justifies taking a life, even if it’s their own.
Parenting is neither a cake walk, nor does it have any set rules. Just like electronics engineering, it’s a dynamic subject in which parents need to keep devising new ways and means, according to the changing social environment of the offspring, in order to reach to a logical conclusion. Adaptation is necessary for surviving, pun intended.
Pressurising a 6 six year old to come first in a race on sports day or perform that impeccable act on Annual Day is the beginning of an unhealthy stressful environment at home for the child. We must accept that while some children might perform exceedingly well on sports day, our own may not be able to follow suit. Focussing on a child’s area of interest or talent and not following the rat race may be a better preposition. However it has to be kept in mind that no one can excel every time and success is only achieved with its fair share of failures.
This is where it all starts when the child feels he has to perform not to enjoy but to live up to the dreams of his/her parents, else he would let his parents down. The first step in bringing about a change would be to lower our own expectations and let the child know that you would be happy with whatever he/she achieves or does not achieve. Lower the expectations, lower the pressure and thus lower the tension.
I would have loved to be a journalist; alas I am 35 now.
This is a characteristics commonly attributed to Indian parents – a child becomes the future project of his/her parents into achieving something they themselves could not in their times. A father who once wanted to be a doctor but couldn’t, due to financial issues, now wants his son/daughter to fulfil his dream. This is a very dangerous trend since children tend to get motivated by their parents at a tender age into following a profession which in the first place was never of their own choosing.
Though unconventional career prospects are becoming more and more acceptable to new generation parents, the IITs, IIMs and IAS still remain immensely attractive. ‘Listening’ to one’s child’s talent and area of interest along with proper guidance is the need of the hour, even if he/she ends up earning lesser than your neighbour’s son.
The single-child-and-double-income family trend is on the rise. We have fallen into the trap of providing everything to the child even before it is demanded. Life is good and cosy as a child; however later in life, he/she gets used to not listening to ‘no’ leading to dissatisfaction. Life is harsh and competition steep; with one fall the child feels the end of the world is near and his whole world crashes. I have started practising saying ‘no’ more often to my daughter, so that she understands that she doesn’t have control over a lot of things in her life. Limiting toys, television, pocket money, smart phones and many other new-age luxuries is a good way to begin with.
We have to make ourselves as well as our children understand what stress is, its signs and how it affects them. Once it’s known that the child is undergoing stress, it becomes easier to work around it. The importance of sensitising the environment towards his/her needs during that phase cannot be undermined. The same can be achieved through regular interaction, involvement and acceptance. Thumb rule for children: A job lost, a year wasted or a subject failed are bad phases of life which will all pass, but a life taken can never be brought back.
There is no shame in failing. Children only see successful entrepreneurs earning crores, but are generally oblivious of the struggles they had to undergo to reach where he/she presently is. Frankly, nobody had it easy; all renowned and successful faces failed before they could rise up again to greater heights. Big names have bigger stories of struggle behind them. We all make choices, a few of which may not be the best ones of our lives, but we have to learn to work towards improvement. Our children should be made to understand that failures are normal and completely acceptable as long as they try hard.
The older generation often turned a blind eye towards ‘depression’ and tagged it with humiliation and gossip; addressing the issue was a far cry away. Things have changed now. I once saw an interview of Deepika Padukone wherein she boldly accepted having been in depression after a break up and having undergone medical help for the same. So when film stars can get depressed, get treated and talk about it publicly, why should we or our children shy away from accepting it? We need to tell our children that it’s completely okay to sulk or feel sad or depressed at any stage in life, and also that it is equally important to share the same. Depression is for real and can be addressed with professional help.
Last but not the least, we all know how addictive smart phones, Internet and associated applications have now become for us and it’s literarily impossible to keep our children away from these distractions. However we can aim at firstly limiting the use and secondly practising introduction of these gadgets at a delayed stage. Selfie deaths and now death games are the last things we ever want our children to come across in their lives.
There is an urgent need to nurture a dynamic parent child relationship in line with the changing socio economic environment. Parents should acknowledge failures as stepping stones to success and not push their kids off the cliff. With more and more youth using this language of death as a solution to distress, the need for parents to be more involved and accepting of changing times cannot be stated enough.
Dear children, please speak up and confide in your parents. Shun this language of death and embrace imperfections and failures as part of a normal yet progressive self.
If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, here are some of the helplines available in India. Please call.
Aasra, Mumbai: 022-27546669
Sneha, Chennai: 044-2464 0050
Lifeline, Kolkata: 033-2474 4704
Sahai, Bangalore: 080 – 25497777
Top image via Pexels