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.
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
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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.