Are Our Children Losing Resilience?
Children and our youth seem to be lacking in self-confidence and strength of character to face adversities of life. Our school system with an emphasis on academic scores and high expectations set for them by teachers and parents are often blamed for the increase in the number of suicides among students in India, according to a consensus view that emerged from the 60th Rajagiri International Round Table Conference on the topic ‘Are Our Children Losing Resilience?’
Our children fail to imbibe life skills essential for survival in this dynamic world. Society puts too much pressure on them to get admission to top higher educational institutions and secure good jobs or follow careers that are not suited for them.
With overprotective parents and stressful school life, children grow up unable to face the adversities of life. Their academic and co-curricular attainments are celebrated and hence they fail to learn how to accept failure. The holistic development of the child is dependent on four important personality quotients- intelligence quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), Social Quotient (SQ), and Adversity Quotient (AQ). IQ is a measure of comprehension ability to solve mathematics problems, logical thinking, memory power and recalling subject matters taught while EQ refers to the ability to maintain peace with others, be honest and considerate to others and SQ refers to an individual’s ability to build a network of friends and maintain it over a long time. While AQ is about developing resilience to go through a crisis or a rough patch life with a balanced mind. School education puts emphasis on IQ at the cost of developing other personality quotients simultaneously thereby putting the child at a disadvantage later on in life.
Role of Parents and Teachers
Parents and teachers have an important role to play in developing resilience in the child. Each child has unique talents and abilities. They should not be compared with other children. The school should expose them to the realities of life including those of marginalised sections of society. Visit to orphanages, care homes, old age homes, those suffering from dementia, mental illnesses and cancer can help them understand and appreciate the blessings they have. Students are driven to suicide when education fails to import moral and spiritual values and glorifies material attainments. Children should be involved in decision making in family matters including finance. How to make create healthy relationships, handling finance, and seeking help when required has to be taught to children. Parenting is not about protecting your child from all the problems of life but making them evolve from whatever challenges they face as they grow.
The media has been blamed for extensively glorifying and romanticising suicides. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has given clear guidelines to media for responsible reporting of suicides. They should not give graphic details of how the suicide was attempted or completed or the description of the bridges, railway tracks or other vulnerable places chosen by victims. The word ‘suicide’ itself should be avoided from the headlines and excessive caution should be taken in reporting celebrity suicides as glorifying it may convey that society honours suicide.
Dr Elsie Oommen, Consultant Psychiatrist, Medical Trust:
How many children can fearlessly share their emotions with their parents? How many parents spend time to listen to their children? When the classmates are seen as competitors and not friends, how can a child let out his bottled emotions?
CN Manoj, CEO, Pelican Biotech, and Chemical Labs:
Education should focus on good outcomes. They are having a good environment, good physical and mental health, peace and happiness rather than developing greed, material aspirations, selfishness, and temporary fame. Students need to be taught about the finiteness of the world which requires inculcating value education and spirituality in the curriculum.
Ruby Antony, Vice Principal, Rajagiri Public School:
As educators, we need to let our students evolve as independent learners. Allow them to pause, allow them to fumble, gradually they will be steady, for every baby step they take, lead them forward. Resilience may be in short supply yet this young generation does surprise us with their open-mindedness and focused thinking. They identify with world problems and ‘ woke issues’.
Dr Arun B Nair, Psychiatrist, Govt Medical College, TVM:
Life skills education has to be included in the curriculum. It is a set of adaptive abilities every person should imbibe, internalize, and practice to face new or difficult situations in life. We have prepared a life skills education module in Kerala called UllasaParavakal published by the State Council for Education Research and Training. It has 20 hours of activity-based training every year from Standard I to XII and we have published 12 different books also. It is a participatory, experiential, and process-oriented training.
Thomas George, Corporate Trainer:
Let us impress upon the young the concept of Universal Brotherhood, by stating the concept of One World, One Religion, One God. Ensure all levels of education, right from kindergarten to college is co-educational. Let us get the youth back to nature with nature walks, meditation in the woods, organic farming while explaining the benefits to nature and mankind. Hold community kitchen events, where the young learn to cook and serve the needy while identifying what toxins and colours to avoid in our diet. Have compulsory exercise and yoga sessions daily, possibly even a compulsory 6 months’ stint in the army to get a taste of discipline. Hold an hour silence class, have discussions on how to solve particular problems affecting humanity.
Dr Job Kuruvila, Academician:
All schools should have qualified counselors for every 200 students. Girl students should have lady counselors. In the BEd curriculum, Cognitive Psychology and Development Psychology should be included with real-life case studies. Economically backward students should be provided with free hostel facilities to ensure inclusive education.
Janani Ramanathan, Research Analyst, The Mother’s Service Society:
The goal of education is not just imparting knowledge but using it to solve problems, improve existing conditions, and ensure universal welfare and well-being. Without a view of the whole, they tend to lose their way in the fragmented parts and take unwise, even harmful decisions. As parents, educators and policymakers, we need to overcome our obsession with giving our children more and more information faster and faster. Let us include in our education elements that increase children’s happiness, resilience, courage, and values.
Philip Daniel, Corporate Trainer:
It is important that the home, as well as the schools, have support systems to develop the adversity quotient (AQ) of the students. The parents and teachers should not set unrealistic goals for the children. They have to create an atmosphere, where the core competence of the child is understood. After that, guide them to take subjects and career paths that match their core competence. Educators and parents should not prepare the road for the children, they should prepare the children for the road.
Saiga Sukumar, Student Counsellor:
Professional counselors can help a child in distress and having suicidal tendencies and look into reasons behind depressive tendencies. They can assess them, analyze, and find possible contributory factors and alternatives to handle the situation. Academic issues can have their origin in learning disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The child should have a person to open up his worries, apprehensions to get support, maintain confidentiality, and at the same time to feel relieved and comfortable.
Dr ND Sanjay Kumar, , Psychiatrist, Hyderabad:
Parents should try to provide thinking space for the child and provide support in making decisions. Try not to list out what you have done for them, this will make them less committed to doing any activity. Parents have a major role in disciplining the child. The teacher has a major role to play in bringing out the uniqueness of the child.
Mridula Praveen, Principal, Craft World School:
Children are not allowed to take risks and parents do everything to keep their children safe and comfortable. They expect worse things to happen when the child is not supervised or protected. When the parent is fearful, the child becomes over scared as well. A normal, healthy risk-taking is often discouraged and as a result, children grow up to be adults who take risks that come with a much higher price later in their lives.
Jose Thomas, Teacher of English, DPS- Modern Indian School, Qatar:
The education system should not choke the creative spirit of the child. They should be allowed to speak out. Instead of criticizing and ridiculing their suggestions and new ideas, let us encourage them to dream and be daring enough to think differently; let us just help them to analyze and make corrections and learn the art of decision making. Show them how to accept defeat with a smile.
Dr Anju Tresa Andrews, Psychologist, Elite Hospital, Thrissur:
No one is born resilient. It is a skill that we learn. Parents and teachers can play a great role in nurturing resilience in children. Model gratitude, nurture optimism, and teach kindness. Help them develop a positive self-concept. Help your child learn to trust himself to solve problems and make appropriate decisions. Instead of being a helicopter parent, be a guide and confidant. Let them know it is fine to ask for help. Help your child remember ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past and help them understand that these experiences strengthen their character preparing them for future challenges. An optimistic and positive outlook enables your child to see good things in life and keep going even in the hardest times. Appreciate and acknowledge their accomplishments. Even if they don’t succeed in meeting their goal, appreciate them for their efforts, and encourage them to keep going. Our words can make or break them.
Elizabeth Ann Thomas, Volunteer, Research Writer & SDG:
In a research study, I had conducted titledThe Gender Bias in Education, the medium to a majority of my respondents from the STEM background stated that they had chosen their particular career due to parental and societal pressure, as opposed to their own personal preference. This is yet another stressor that children grapple with, which tends to lead to personal and professional dissatisfaction, and can further cause depressive tendencies. It is important that students pursue careers that are in tandem with their interests and capabilities.
Impart skills to students rather than information and knowledge
Involve children in discussions and decision making in the family including finances
Parents should not be over-protective and not expose them to tough situations.
Media should play a responsible role in reporting suicides and attempted suicides, not glorify or sensationalise them.
All schools should have qualified counselors and girl students should be directed to lady counselors
Help children evolve as independent learners and choose a career based on aptitude and skills
Values, ethics, and spirituality should be taught to students in school
School curriculum should develop Intelligence Quotient, Emotional Quotient, Social Quotient and Adversity Quotient
Consider each child as unique, avoid comparisons and unnecessary competitive spirit in children
The media should follow the World Health Organisation as well as globally accepted practices in suicide reporting. Avoid putting such news on the front page. The suicide news should be accompanied by a statutory warning with the helpline numbers with contact details of doctors or medical workers should be provided. The the tendency to glorify suicides of celebrities should be avoided.