The Other Side of Childhood

The Other Side of Childhood
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/18/2018 7:30:29 AM IST

 “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children” (Nelson Mandela). 

Childhood is time of innocence, where children are sheltered from the harsh realities of the world and they enjoy a carefree existence, filled with joy, laughter and excitement. Their time is spent making friends, attending school, enjoying playtime and sleeping. We often make the mistake of assuming that children aren’t observant. They do understand what is happening around them, more than we give them credit for. 
It was only after Sigmund Freud that psychology began accepting the importance of childhood. Freud, through his revolutionary ideas about the unconscious and sexual needs, highlighted that childhood is perhaps one of the most important periods of an individual’s life and children are impressionable beings. Children have the innate capacity to soak pieces of their environment like sponge. 
There was a time when parents could keep them protected and dealing with the world wasn’t such a challenging task. A lot has changed in the last century. 
There has been a drastic change in the very fabric of our society, leading to a very different and sometimes dangerous environment for children. Let me spell out some salient aspects of our world today that significantly impacts the lives of children. Technology is everywhere. Children at a very early age have access to boundless information and multiple social media platforms. Family systems are breaking down with a very high rate of divorce rates involving heated custody battles. Addiction is very commonly observed in one parent or both, often associated with domestic violence. Working parents who become so occupied in their work, leaving a nanny or at best, a grandparent as an attachment figure. The list can go on. The idea here is not to place blame on anyone but to help people understand that we have to change our approach. 
What happens at home affects the child. If a child grows up, observing a parents always drinking and hitting the other parent when angry, the child may indulge in the same pattern of behaviour in the future. 
If the home atmosphere is coloured with conditions of acceptance such as “have to get good marks” and “have to be a good student,” children begin to think of themselves as inadequate, eventually leading to low confidence. 
If the home environment is not warm and supportive, the child is not likely to tell his/her parents about the bullying or incessant teasing. 
What should have been some of the most stress free years becomes a nightmare for the child, often leading to depression and addiction in adulthood.   
Parenting is hard and there is no right way to do it and neither is a one stop solution available. What can be done is, maybe we focus on broadening on our perspectives. 
All the stakeholders- parents, teachers, other school authorities need to give equal importance to mental health as to physical health. In the world we occupy today, children are prone more than ever to emotional, behavioural and other psychological issues. 
It would only be cruelty and ignorance on our part to not address it and push it under the table. Schools need to foster an environment where mental health issues can be openly discussed. 
Holding regular workshops for teachers/parents and interactive sessions for students with the aim of building awareness and overcoming stigma. 
Identifying stories that have a mental health theme and discussing these in class so that children learn to accept differences and become empathetic in their interactions. Having counsellors, of both the genders, for different sections of the school such that issues can be targeted according to age category, children don’t feel shy to go to the counsellor and workload is reduced. 
The ideal solution would be aimed at prevention. 
Every step of the way, we try to do what is best for the chid. 
Have a stable, warm and loving family environment and a school environment that integrates children of different abilities.  This is much easier said than done. So till the time that we can work on repairing the fractures in our social system, we have to focus on immediate intervention as the best solution. 
As a parent or as a teacher, if you see some behavioural changes in the child or if the child has difficulty sustaining attention on multiple tasks or if the child has problems with impulsivity/aggression or if the child is being bullied or bullying others or of the child is taking some form of harmful substance, there is no shame in seeking help. 
You would go to the hospital if the child had a fever or an injured limb. When we know how to care for the body, we have to at least try and care for the mind in the same way. 
For children to progress in life and be happy, being mentally healthy is of absolute importance. 
We might not be able to shelter them from the world anymore but we can definitely prepare them for it. 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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