A new report entitled Raising Canada revealed rather alarming findings about the physical, mental and emotional health of children in our country. Released by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, it is based on data from several government organizations such as Statistics Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
Among the many grave concerns was the deteriorating mental health of children and youth between the ages of one and 17 years.
Going by 2012 data, the report found suicide to be the second leading cause of death in this age group. Furthermore in 2017, Canada was listed among the five countries with the highest teenage suicide rates.
There is no silver lining to peg our hopes on as the report estimates 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian children may develop a mental health disorder at some point in their lives based on CIHI data. The CIHI also reported a 66 per cent increase in emergency department visits for mental health concerns in the past 10 years. What’s worse, Health Canada suggested that only 20 per cent of children and youth impacted by mental illness received the treatment they needed.
This news sent shivers up my spine as we had yet another round of discussions on youth suicide at a social gathering last weekend. A friend had just returned from a funeral of a young suicide victim. Several others who knew the deceased (and had children of the same age) couldn’t make sense of it and were visibly disturbed. My heart bled for the family, in this case parents and a sibling who were already struggling with other issues life threw their way. Questions about how they missed the warning signs and what they could have done to prevent this tragedy are likely to torment them for the rest of their lives.
As the friend pulled up the deceased’s photos on her phone, the attractive face and beautiful smile became haunting memories. Here was yet another troubled youth who believed death was the only way out and as in many cases the unfortunate parents never saw it coming.
An article I read on old-school parenting a few days later raised questions about whether the new ‘strategies’ we are using to raise our kids are more harmful to their mental and emotional health. Considering the structured lifestyle children have today and all the micro-managing parents do, one can’t help but think it could be true. In trying to stay on top of everything we seem to be losing perspective of what normal life is.
As the author pointed out, our parents cut us loose without overthinking situations and seemed less stressed by their responsibilities of child rearing. They didn’t see danger at every turn and attempt to shield us from it. In doing so we prevent our children from exploring and experiencing life. By giving us this freedom, our parents helped us develop important life preservation skills.
An observation made by the author caught my attention and is probably the crux of our problems. Our parents didn’t compare their parenting skills to anyone else or feel that they had to be better at it. They relied on instinct and didn’t plan every move.
Family and friends have often discussed how our parents were less involved both in our academic and social lives. That is not to say we weren’t held accountable for bad grades or behaviour. Just that there was a consequence for poor choices and we learned the hard way. Fast forward to our kids and helicopter parenting which simply keeps them from getting into such situations and robs them of the learning that comes with it. Not allowing them to experience disappointment and rejection is probably what causes them to be unprepared and unable to cope. Depression, mental illness and suicide could well be the results.
In structuring their days with academic and extra-curricular activities and planned play dates, we teach them to be uncomfortable with free time spent on their own doing nothing. My sons would go out of their mind if asked them to just sit idle. I on the other hand find it extremely relaxing.
At the end of the day it is important to admit that our parents and grandparents got a lot of it right. After all we turned out okay, didn’t we? Our child raising strategies on the other hand seemed to bring forth self-centred, over-indulgent and insecure adults. We don’t have to be the friend who explains and negotiates every move. It’s important to let them fail so that they understand there are consequences and will be more responsible, rather than bail them out. We won’t be there all the time. It’s also a more effective way to build character than all the lectures you can give.
It’s time to bring back family meal times and promote doing household chores ‘together’. When you work side-by-side, you talk and get closer. It’s the ideal way to bond, help kids relax and share what’s on their mind. Above all, encourage interaction by making them part of social gatherings rather than allowing them to go up to their room.
Our parents raised great kids, so its alright to follow their approach!!! -CINEWS