As a society, I ask what are we doing to our children to make them so anxious, depressed, and willing to take their own life? Where did this society go wrong with the most precious gift we have? I struggle with the idea an 8-year-old has to be in a hospital for violent or depressive behaviors. What has happened that our 8-year old is not all playing outside, finding bugs, or make princess tea parties?
Greg is 7 and struggling with social anxiety. He sits on the school playground and plays in the sand. His teachers overlook the fear and sadness in his eyes. They see a dirty kid playing in the sand. They don’t realize that sand is a coping mechanism for Greg. He uses it for calming and sensory input. The smooth sand/dirt feels cold and comforting to him. He looks around as he navigates his path to the swings. He notices one of his friends playing and begins to run toward the swing. He falls as his shoes are too large and he scrapes his hands. He beings to cry and quickly brushes it off and continues to run to the swing. The teacher yells: “recess is over line up.” The disappointment of not making it to his friend is too much for him. As he walks into the school he bumps into a peer, the peer yells and hits him. Greg begins to cry which leads to a meltdown.
Spring is in the air, birds chirping, squirrels chattering, flowers popping, and excitement for what this new season holds for us. All the new life colors and life unfolding into expectations for something great. Plans for the spring planting and summer vacations are swelling in people’s heads. The idea of winter finally over and new life blooming is something everyone finds excelling and fills us with hope. Giving hope for the future. Keeping the hope when the rain falls, the floods come, and the storms rise is where some of us run into problems.
Peter is awkward around girls, at 15 he is finding himself. He is not confident with his body and all the new things going on with it. The changes he is noticing is uncomfortable and uncertain. His father is distant and not a good communicator. Peter is embarrassed to ask his father about these new developments as his father is rough and has the motto ‘you will figure it out. This laissez-faire attitude is difficult for most children and extremely difficult for Peter. His mother defers ‘boy stuff’ to his father.
Life happens and bad things happen to good people. Some parents forget they have the hope of our future in their hands. We are not promised it will always be easy, exciting, or enjoyable. We are not promised a new day. Children know this also; they understand families are different. Moms and dads are not always the same. Children make special prayers and wish for their parents, they also make wishes for ‘good’ mommies and daddies who are not mad, mean, or hurtful. One little boy says to his friend: “I don’t think anyone is taking good care of that kid” when he sees him in the winter without a coat.
Not given the security of knowing everything will turn out good. Some of us have tragedy in our lives, we have divorce, death, illness. We may have a child who is special needs, angry, or withdrawn. When we don’t know what to do -what do we do? What do our children do when they see parents struggling and life turning upside down? I have noticed most children understand this is their life, they love their parents, and if they were better things would get better. A heavy burden on our children.
Peter is in a position of searching for answers himself. He makes mistakes and blames himself. He is not an adult, but he is not a child. He struggles with identity and self-esteem. This is not unusual for a child this age. Finding their own identity while navigating through their daily experiences in school, community, and home can be very hard and may lead to depression. Does it have to lead to suicide attempts or gestures? Is the pain enough to cause self-harm for the endorphins to release and give them release? Allowing your child to grow and become themselves the person they want to be can be hard for everyone. Rules change, friends come and go, new adventures pop up, and finances begin to matter more. Having the clothes, toys, and activities that put them in the click they want to be can be perplexing. Who is there to help him make the decisions? School and peers play a big role in our children’s lives. Do parents allow them to dictate who our child will be or what they can achieve? Do they prophetic over our children and stereotype them according to behaviors or diagnosis? Who is there to help Peter find himself without killing himself?
If as adults we struggle with anxiety, stress, demands of success, and peer pressure what are we putting on our children? Children feel as deeply or deeper than we do. They feel what we put on them and what we feel. Studies have shown children’s stress hormone increases when parents are stress and according to parenting styles. I wonder if this has to do with the number of children in the hospital for depression and self-harm. What part of this has played a role in our teenager’s suicide rate?
I wonder if video games, reality television, and YouTube are making life look so easy and full of happiness, success, and easy money. No one talks about real life. How long it takes to make it big in any career or business. They forget to tell the kids how many cans of beans they ate or how they worked for minimum wage until they finished school, got a big role or pushed up the ladder.
Kids get big ideas of being famous, making easy money, drafted to a national sports team. These are ideas are good dreams and with most dreams require some hard work to achieve them. Are we teaching our kids that nothing replaces hard work, good manners, and healthy relationships? True friends do not bully or taunt you. They accept you as you are.