Can Parents Be The Cause Of Depression In Their Children?
Apart from the pressures this fast-paced, highly competitive, social media-dominated world imposes on our kids – which in itself is a challenge for them to deal with, we as parents knowingly or unknowingly push our children to the brink of depression at times. Being a parent is not an easy feat by any yardstick and sometimes even the most well-meaning parents land up making mistakes their children end up paying for.
Let’s examine some of them:
1. Running the rat race and forgetting what is important:
Children need our time and attention. There are no two ways about it. If we as parents justify not spending enough time with them because we are caught up in “making a better life”, then we are not doing justice to our role as parents. This does not mean we should sacrifice our jobs or our career aspirations. What it means is that we are required to maintain a proper work-life balance. Yes, sometimes it is hard when work pressures inhibit our ability to spend time with our kids, especially when both parents are working, but it doesn’t take away from spending “quality time” with them whenever the opportunity arises.
Parents who are bogged down by pressures on the work front often take it out on their children. In a fit of rage, when children do not meet expectations, parents often hurl hurtful words at them – “I am slogging for you and this is what I get in return”, “You are useless and I am wasting my money on you” and so on. Understand that your children did not ask to be born. You have brought them into this world and it is your duty to give them the attention they need.
Scheduling a time of the day to just be with them, listening to how their day has progressed, taking an interest in their studies – not just leaving it in the hands of the tuition teacher, and finding out if they are facing any challenges will make them feel important and not neglected. It will have a positive impact on their self-worth and esteem and they will thank you for it.
2. Emphasis on marks and comparisons made:
Especially in our Indian society, we are brought up with the notion that the abilities of the child are determined by marks only. Marks equal Intelligence. And this is a misconception that needs to be corrected. Most parents want their children to be “toppers”. 100 on 100 is the perfect score they aim for in every subject. 90 or 95% is still unacceptable because the neighbour’s son scored more or a relative’s daughter got half mark more. The “brag” factor takes precedence. We as Indians have this unrelenting need to “show off”. We adopt the “my child is better than yours” attitude. Scoring centum puts the family on the top of the social ladder somehow and becomes a table topic for discussion at gatherings. The “image” and how the child or family is perceived in the social circle take precedence. Why go so far? Parents make unhealthy comparisons between their own children. “Why can’t you be like your brother? He used to score good marks always,” or “Why can’t you be like your sister? She was the school topper”. Comparisons between siblings with reference to academics, behaviour, participation in activities, and so on very often result in feelings of unworthiness in children, affecting their psyche in the bargain.
The tendency to compare your child with others without understanding that each child is different with their own interests, capabilities, and individuality puts additional pressure on them as they struggle to meet the expectations placed on them. Understand that some of the successful people in the world dropped out of formal education to pursue areas of interest, or were not seen as being “up to the mark” and yet went on to make huge contributions to society. Einstein, John D. Rockefeller, Richard Branson, Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni are some of the recognizable names among many. Now, are we saying we should encourage dropping out of school? No, it simply means that there is a plethora of career options out there other than the conventional doctor, engineer, or lawyer – the “respectable” professions according to society.
3. “Bribing” children for marks:
Very often we see parents “bribing” their children to secure good marks, promising them the latest gadgets if they fulfill that requirement. This is so superficial. Emphasizing the value of education, in terms of how it will benefit them, how they can become more knowledgeable, and more skilled, and how they can potentially use that knowledge to contribute to society will be a better approach than just making them study for a gadget. A value-based approach to education needs to be adopted. And then, of course, go ahead and reward them.
4. Insisting on continuing the legacy:
Most children are expected to continue the legacy of their parents’ professions a doctor’s child should be a doctor; an engineer’s child should take up the same profession and so on. Sometimes children are not given a choice, individual aspirations are ignored and they are pushed to study for professions they care very little about. In reality, they might want to pursue the Arts or the Creative field. Today, one can make a career out of just about anything as long as one has the drive and the interest to succeed. Our mindset as parents needs to change to accommodate our child’s interests and encourage them to fulfill a vision that will ultimately lead to the next generation of leaders emerging with the capacity to think and make decisions effectively.
5. Going abroad for studies. Is your child mature enough?
There is a clamour to send children overseas for education because we believe success will follow them. No doubt, this is a wonderful opportunity for the child to gain exposure and break boundaries, but the question is “Is your child emotionally ready to take this on”? Have you understood the maturity level of your child before making a decision to let him or her go?
Going abroad at a very young age requires children to be mentally and emotionally strong enough to face the challenges of adjusting to a new environment and doing things independently. Sometimes, children are not ready to fly the nest but are pushed to fulfill the aspirations of their parents. When out of their comfort zone, anxiety and depression overtake those who are not capable or ready to face these challenges. If the intention is to send your child abroad, the “training period” should commence way in advance so that the child is prepared.
6. Cramming your child’s day with activities
School and extra classes at school, then evening tuitions with more drilling of theories, concepts, and exercises, then back home to finish homework. On certain days, early morning classes too. Coaching classes crammed in on Sundays in preparation for IIT JEE , NEET, UPSC, and other competitive exams. The list goes on. As a result, kids lose interest in other activities like music, sport, dance, and reading because the academic pressures do not allow them time to focus on anything else. Then we cram in their day with some more. We force them to enroll in classes that do not interest them – piano classes when the child is actually interested in dance. Why? Because the piano is a better option as it stimulates the mind and dance is seen as a frivolous passion. Or because again, your cousin’s child is in piano class. Children need time to “breathe”. Being an all-rounder is as important, as just focusing on academics. Giving them time to de-stress and also explore their other passions will give them the much-needed impetus to exceed in
academics as well.
As a parent, it is time for some self-introspection. Do you find yourself falling into any of the above categories? If so, this will be an eye-opener for you. Know that as a parent you need to be a mentor, a friend, a confidante, and a motivator for your child and not just approach parenting from one angle. It’s time you realized that you could also be the cause of anxiety and depression in your child and that it is imperative you take steps to correct it.