Our great­est par­ent­ing con­cern

As a clear ma­jor­ity we are not help­ing our chil­dren to be­come mas­ters of their own lives, and we are now wit­ness­ing the most de­pressed, anx­ious, and sui­ci­dal gen­er­a­tion of all time.

Living Now - - Editorial - by Tam­syn Rosen­berg

We need to start help­ing teenagers to be­come the mas­ters of their own lives and it starts in the home.

As I sit in a café in the morn­ing, dur­ing that win­dow where new mums and their ba­bies get to sneak in an out­ing be­fore nap time, I sense the old yet fa­mil­iar smell of baby pow­der and wet wipes in the air. I am re­minded of a dif­fer­ent time when the strug­gles were so real, and so dif­fer­ent; when the wor­ries of par­ent­ing were cen­tred around sleep­ing, burp­ing, feed­ing, and poop­ing. Now af­ter 17 years of be­ing a mum, my mind will wan­der to how safe they are behind the wheel of a car, fear of drugs, bul­ly­ing, and ca­reer choices. The strug­gles have changed and the stresses are still present. I won­der if it’s part of the par­ent­ing path.

But what if I told you that the things that worry us as par­ents are not where we should have our at­ten­tion? What if I told you that our pre­cious ba­bies, our teenagers that leave us with a few more grey hairs as they speed down the road with that ‘ P’ plate to cel­e­brate, are three times more likely to com­mit sui­cide than have a road ac­ci­dent? The high­est cause of death is by their own hands.

Would this change any­thing for you? Would you look at your child’s men­tal well-be­ing any dif­fer­ently? I know that’s what hap­pened for me. In my 12 years of work­ing with teens’ men­tal and emo­tional well-be­ing, I’ve learned that the great­est con­tribut­ing fac­tors to a teenager’s hap­pi­ness are en­tirely life­style choices. It can all be in­flu­enced by choice, by dis­ci­pline, and by con­scious de­ci­sion – what they eat, how they in­vest their time, if they ex­er­cise, and how much time they spend glued to a screen scrolling through life, rather than liv­ing it. What if th­ese sim­ple fac­tors were the es­sen­tial ‘ food pyra­mid’ for their men­tal well-be­ing?

What if I then told you that th­ese life­sav­ing skills are not cur­rently be­ing taught to our kids in all 12 years of their hard earned ed­u­ca­tion? While some for­ward think­ing schools and teach­ers touch on th­ese sub­jects, as a clear ma­jor­ity we are not help­ing our chil­dren to be­come mas­ters of their own lives. This is not an as­sump­tion. It’s a fact – and we are now wit­ness­ing the most de­pressed, anx­ious and sui­ci­dal gen­er­a­tion of all time.

I share this with you not to add to the long list of things for par­ents to be­come anx­ious about. I share to help you shift your cur­rent per­spec­tive and fo­cus to cre­ate a much needed ur­gency to at­tend to th­ese ar­eas of life – and then to teach to our chil­dren.

THREE CRU­CIAL STEPS

Here are three cru­cial steps to get you off to a great start. While th­ese may seem in­cred­i­bly sim­ple, it’s amaz­ing in our ever in­creas­ingly busy lives just how many chil­dren have never learned th­ese sim­ple life skills.

Step 1: Prac­tise grat­i­tude ev­ery day

This shifts the chem­istry in your brain and is sci­en­tif­i­cally proven to make you happy.

Step 2: Help your chil­dren to sched­ule into their week the things they value

Help them start to in­vest their time wisely. You can colour code a cal­en­dar to in­clude en­dor­phin re­leas­ing ex­er­cise at least three times a week, good diet prac­tices (in­clud­ing break­fast), and cre­at­ing a bal­ance for healthy use of screen time and hob­bies that they love, or time to dis­cover them.

Step 3: ‘Do slow’

Have time that you do things slowly with your fam­ily. Use car time for one-on-one con­ver­sa­tions; be avail­able where you can. Let your­self and your kids get bored.

There is gen­eros­ity in the bore­dom and there is no need to fill the spa­ces. Clear off the pa­per­work from the din­ing ta­ble and have din­ner to­gether with­out a TV or phone to dis­tract. Cre­ate your own fam­ily time, in what­ever way works for you. n

Con­nect with other read­ers & com­ment on this ar­ti­cle at www.liv­ing­now.com.au

Tam­syn Rosen­berg is the au­thor of #LLF The Move­ment, Twelve Life Hacks for Teenagers to Live Life Fully; and CEO of ‘Alive’, an Aus­tralian char­ity ded­i­cated to end youth sui­cide, by em­pow­er­ing our com­mu­nity to be the tribe our chil­dren need.

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