Here I sit writing about parenting, noting down the ingredients that help develop physical and mental health of those, whose innocence and energy we are supposed to channelise into constructive creativity, by the time they are big enough to be called citizens! This week I thought I would write about baby massage and bath. But my mind goes haywire, given that the country is ablaze with issues, either created or corrupted, and as a conscious citizen, I feel responsible for each one of them.
I had been thinking about Rohith Vemula. Words associated with this fateful name are caste, religion, bureaucracy, protest, unrest, suicide, murder, politics, authorities, students. The entire incident stands on three legs — the authorities, politics and students — of course each leg blaming the other two. Getting into a logical analysis on the role of stake holders doesn’t fall within the boundaries of my theme, which is parenting. But the insights I derive out of it and the impact it leaves, does!
As a parent, my concern is how do we ensure that our children don’t ever have to live a life slaughtered by prejudices? Or, if I consider the other side of the story, then how do we ensure that they lead a life of discipline and don’t create unnecessary nuisance inside campus and into their lives? More importantly, how do we build the strength of mind and character for our progeny so that whatever they face in their lives, either as a result of their own misdoings or because their world is unfair to them, they don’t retort to something as terrible as suicide! Statistics says every year 15 people in India commit suicide every hour! And every year, between 30 and 40 people per 100,000 Indians, aged between 15 and 29 put an end to their lives.
Suicide isn’t another way of avenging others. People take this step only when they give up on themselves. It is an end of hope. And it is extremely unfortunate that educated individuals, who have a family to go back to, would choose this path to battle the evils of their lives. Every life has problems; no one is having it easy and hassle free. Every life has to go through the grill that makes it difficult to sustain, and yet, that is the experience that shapes personality and integrity. Failing might be an acceptable option, but giving up is not!
So what is it that dawns upon some of those young minds who chose the path that defeats not only themselves but also those who love and care for them? Would there be some parenting guidance we are missing out on this issue, which can stop the youngsters from walking this route while voicing their displeasure towards the depressions they are going through? Are we bringing up our children with the kind of incomplete and weak values that they succumb instead of fighting out their fates? Or maybe I can rephrase it as, would there be a solution or prevention to this from the parenting angle?
Are they growing up tough enough? How well are they handling their failures? How open are they to try again and not give up easily? It’s fine if they feel embarrassed by a failure, but it should not lead to harassment or shame by any stretch.
The last few days I have read endless articles on youngster and youth suicide, and research papers on child psychology. Most of them say that such cases happen due to
  • Bullying and peer pressure.
  • Some or the other kind of physical or mental disorders.
  • Domestic abuse.
  • The effect of drugs and alchohol.
  • Emotional neglect.
  • Cyber bullying and crimes
  • Excessive stress.
  • When they have come across and followed a suicide case too closely.
  • By accident, when they try to replicate something dangerous on themselves.
After reading the theories of many experts and talking to countless individuals on this issue, I have been able to jot down some points which reflect upon a parenting attitude which has to start at a very early stage and goes on for a lifetime. These are probably the stepping stones for the society to ensure that our children don’t adopt this ultimate and horrific mean to tackle the problems of their lives. However, none of these can be approached drastically or abruptly, to change things overnight. All of the following would need much time to settle in and develop further the trust between parent and progeny.
As a parent ask yourself, are you doing too much of their jobs? Does your child expect you to intervene and solve their problems each time? If yes, then they are not taking that personal initiative to take life ahead and are emotionally stagnant somewhere. They need to be brought out of the habit and encouraged to take charge of their own journey. They need to be simultaneously communicated that parents are there forever, for their support.
Are you completely and constantly in touch with their lives, their company and their social status? As much busy you are, it is important for you to know about the external environment that envelops them, the people they interact and spend time with, the topics they discuss, and the values they are picking up from there.
Are they growing up tough enough? How well are they handling their failures? How open are they to try again and not give up easily? It’s fine if they feel embarrassed by a failure, but it should not lead to harassment or shame by any stretch.
From a very early stage, talk to them about their importance in your life. They need to know how precious and indispensable they are, and how incomplete you have been till they appeared in your lives. With gestures and words, give them that positive reinforcement regularly. Nothing boosts confidence more than a child experiencing her parents feeling happy and proud about her. However, know where to stop and don’t overdo it, encouraging over-confidence.
When they try to communicate something, listen to them very attentively. Don’t shut them off, however busy you are. Right from a very early age, they should be encouraged to speak their hearts out. If you are not available for them to hear out their tender concerns, they might pick up that clue and withdraw into their shells. This often causes a distance between the two generations.
Firmly follow the kind of moral education they are receiving. Talk to them directly about suicides and show them how families are devastated because of this. Also educate them on important issues like sex, aids, drugs, homosexuality and everything else that might be a social taboo but young minds need to be hand-held there by someone responsible so that they develop the right attitude towards those.
Give your child a happy environment at home, whatever be your financial, social or personal status. They need to grow up feeling that love and positivity around themselves; they need to laugh enough and enjoy themselves in the company they have at home, so that they can always “come back home” when they are stressed and not run away from it!
You can include yourself in their lives only when you include them in yours. Keep absolute transparency about your journey. With our generation and those that follow, patience is not an easy word. In a very non-preachy way, tell them about the battles you may have gone through and how you applied your brain and sourced some support to pull yourself victorious through those. Let them accept you as a human being who made mistakes and emerged stronger rather than Godfathers who are an image of perfection! And let them love you and be proud of you; they shouldn’t be scared of you.
Don’t hesitate to go for professional help the moment you find the signs of depression overpowering their minds. That includes dramatic personality changes, withdrawal from pleasant activities, strange sleeping or eating patterns, taking unnecessary risks, giving away personal possessions, sudden dip in communication, etc. Please don’t try to do the job of a psychiatrist yourself; it might just make things worse. What helps rather, is asking them directly and constantly about their plans in the days to come. This includes them in a future that seems bright for them and is just an initiative away, left to be explored.
As I conclude, my only request to Indian media is, please don’t call this unfortunate boy a martyr. You never know how your language is interpreted by other immature minds who are battling myriad issues in their schools and colleges. Treat this as nothing more than a parental concern.