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The psychological vaccination

As soon as my morning chores are done and children leave for school, it’s the most desired time for me to relish my favourite ginger tea, disconnect myself from the boundaries of my home and get connected with the rest of the world. I recline on a couch and grab a remote. As I change the news channels to get the latest updates, in a flash a disturbing story appears on screen that makes my heart sink.

Youngsters defying rules, indulging in violence and substance abuse, and committing suicide. What is more distressing to know is academic achievers, brilliant students of the country’s renowned professional institutes, committing suicide? For what? Not qualifying in the exams, getting poor grades, failure to secure a job or because being not able to bear the narrow-minded attitude of some people?

Is life so worthless?

Who knows these young could have been geniuses and accomplished personalities of their fields, but became a victim of frustration and anxiety instead. Is this the loss of only a family or the loss of the larger society as well? Isn’t it something very alarming yet very much avoidable? Here the bigger and more important question is: is this stress or pressure that leads them to take that horrible step or their inability to deal with stress or pressure?

As parents, we give our children the best we can, keep running for their smallest need, provide them excellent education and health facilities, that sometimes exceed our resources. Then where do we fail?

I lean on a pillow and close my eyes. The question whirls in my mind and a cascade of thoughts engulfs my whole being. To protect our children from various diseases, we give them all kinds of vaccination. The physical vaccination that protects the body. What about a psychological vaccination?

We teach our children to strive hard for their goals but never make them accept that failure is an inevitable part of success. We pamper them and always make them feel so special that eventually they develop a deep fear of rejection or we give them so much guidance that they never learn to trust their intuition. Isn’t it also true that we are putting so much emphasis on academics these days that we ignore everything else not realising that these too matter?

Undoubtedly, these unfortunate incidents give us a clue that today, our children are lacking the core life skills, the ability of problem solving and coping with stress and emotions, resilience, critical thinking, self-awareness, positive attitude and empathy, which is making them weak and vulnerable, especially in unknown situations. There are many instances when even after learn these life skills to a certain extent, they lack the abilities to use the correct skill at the appropriate time and to the right extent.

I strongly feel that all persons involved and concerned with child development, including parents and teachers, have a big responsibility to nurture and enhance life skills in children, that serve as a “psychological vaccination” against mental health problems. It is practical to teach them from the very beginning that in life sometimes things will not go the way they want it, that failures and being disliked by people is also a part of life and that life is much more than just a competition.

Today, due to the changing scenario, it has become more important to spend quality time with our children, giving them age appropriate development tasks, making them responsible for their own actions and also correcting and reinforcing them in an interactive manner as and when required. That will definitely give them a leg-up in handling issues and problems encountered in daily life and equip them with positivity and confidence.

Realising the importance of learning these skills, life skills learning has been made a part of school curriculum, which is of course a commendable step, but this should also be understood that life skills are not only something to be read in books and discussed in classroom but also something to be applied, practised in day to day behaviour and inculcated, especially during the developmental phase of a child, so that later in life they are able to adapt to the frantic pace of modern life, bounce back from the setbacks and succeed in an unpredictable future.

I was totally absorbed in thoughts, when the chime of the doorbell brings me back to the present moment. I realise my tea went cold. It’s time to refresh myself with a fresh, hot cup of tea. The words of Bob Talbert come to my mind as I stand up to open the door: “Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best.”

shalinibrkee@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 9:47:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-psychological-vaccination/article29309271.ece

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