Are we creating an anxiety-ridden and helpless generation?

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By Sabrina Almeida

Last year the Supreme Court of Canada made a landmark ruling about the appropriate age for kids to be left alone. In case you aren’t aware… it’s 15 and not 10 or 13 as many believe! Moreover, Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act states that a child under the age of 16 may not be left unattended “without making provision for his or her supervision and care that is reasonable in the circumstances.”

That’s right you could get into trouble for leaving a 14-year-old unsupervised in your house. Last time I checked, kids generally begin high school at this age. Many use public transit to get here and most will spend their lunch break unsupervised, outside school premises for upwards of 40 minutes (80 minutes in our home school)… but need a babysitter if you have to run errands as per law.
This just doesn’t make sense.

While lawmakers no doubt have good intentions, it is time to revisit this thinking. After all, kids born from late September to December will be 17 when they go to college or university and no longer live at home. Which means that these children in Ontario have just a year to shape up before they ship out. How realistic is that?

Between helicopter parenting and fear mongering by both parents and the authorities—the stage is set for raising anxious and helpless kids.

What would you do if your offspring had a problem on the school playground or local park?

Most likely, intervene to protect your child! Not stay out of it and advise them on how to deal with the situation. In the event they’ve tried go it alone but have been unsuccessful, chances are you would scold them for not coming to you earlier. Fast forward to the work place and your now grown child feels threatened by competition from peers or pressured by a demanding manager. As in many cases—they will look to HR for protection, take stress leave… rather than find positive ways to cope.

Growing up in India, I could not even think of taking playground issues home. I was likely to get in trouble irrespective of “who started it”. This forced me and many others to learn how to navigate these situations. Unfortunately, we do not give our children the same opportunities here.

It is also ironic that in a country with a higher crime rate than Canada, kids have more freedom to explore and grow. We were made aware of the dangers (there were many) and learned how to deal with them. We didn’t have to sacrifice independence for safety.

Studies show that depression and self-harm is on the rise among adolescents. As one teenager revealed to Time magazine, cutting herself was a coping mechanism. She never went to her parents with her problems even though she knew they would be supportive. Why? Because she couldn’t bear to see the worry on their faces. This leads to a critical question—is our anxiety being manifested in our child? After all research shows that Generation X (which many of us parents belong to) gave “stress” legitimacy.

My parents never talked about “being stressed”. They just took challenges in their stride. Perhaps because anyone who said they were stressed was considered incapable.
Today “stress” has become tool that can get you attention and many privileges in the work place.

Saying your stressed means you have an important job, not that you can’t cope. And for some, “stress leave” is a way to postpone the pink slip.

Our parents also didn’t keep us in a bubble. They expected us to fend for ourselves. And look at the outcome—we’ve made a country across the world our home but many of our children are struggling to navigate the neighborhood. Who’s to blame?

Also, there’s medication for everything—even for worrying. And we prefer to use it rather than find ways to cope.

Forcing our children to run ragged accomplishing accolades both in and out of school might also cause them to become anxious. The truth is that we need to teach them to be comfortable with themselves rather than be occupied all the time.

Pre-planning our children’s every move stifles their growth. Taking risks on their own teaches them to deal with different situations and the consequences of their actions leading to better decision making.

It is also important to teach them that not everyone is going to like them instead of forcing everyone to do so.

Whichever way we look at it, the finger is pointing in our direction.

It’s time to change our game plan!

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