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Parenting Challenge: What's Wrong with Kids Today?

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We seldom want to look at the statistics about suicide in children and young people, but they are important to consider. As parents and educators we tend to ignore this subject, pretending it doesn't happen in "good" families. The belief is that suicide happens only
in troubled families to troubled children.

At the ChildSpirit Conference I attended in November, Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of numerous books including The Magical Child, gave us a startling statistic. "Suicide is the third leading cause of death among children and young people". This number includes only the young people who succeed, not those who attempt and live.

He said this is unprecedented in the history of humankind. Never before have we witnessed children ending their own life in such numbers.*Additional figures from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: "Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds."

These are shocking statistics! They cry out for us to wake and to pay attention. Most of us never think of children ages 5 - 14 committing suicide.

Child and youth suicide is important because it is the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath the water's surface are all the other expressions of emotional dis-ease in children. These include ADD, teen's dropping out of school, over-weight children, depression, anxiety, excessive time playing video games, defiance, tantrums and emotional upsets.

The fact that suicide rates in young people are higher than they have ever been in the human history indicates the pervasiveness of the problem. It demands our attention, not because your child will commit suicide some day, but because your child is being raised in
the same emotional cultural stew.

In the last two months, I heard about the suicides of two men in their early twenties that shocked their families and those who knew them. Both men were highly successful and were leaders in their field. To everyone around them, they appeared happy and to be living full lives.

Yet something was seriously wrong with their internal experience of themselves and of life. Reason tells us, suicide is not something that is done lightly and for insignificant reasons. It is an act of desperation, of seeing no other way. It is the ultimate expression of profound loss, futility, failure, powerlessness, hopelessness, or anger.

Our culture tends to ignore emotional pain and discomfort. We ask children to suppress their unhappy feelings and then place extreme pressures on them to succeed and to meet society's and our standards. We ask them to be someone other than who they are, and then wonder why they do irrational, hurtful things.

We all love and enjoy the innocence and tenderness of young children. We want them to keep it forever. This innocence and tenderness is based on their emotional sensitivity, their connection with their feelings and their awareness of the feelings of others.

Acts of suicide and violence in children are cries for us to wake up as individuals and as a society. What's wrong with young people today? Nothing. Children are as loving, brilliant, and joyous as ever.

What's wrong with young people are their relationships with important adults in their lives, their relationship with themselves, traditional models of education and the emotional environment in which they are being raised. When we ignore a child's emotional wholeness, we do it at our peril.

In order for young people to flourish emotionally, they need several things. They need safe relationships where they can be who they are and where they can honestly talk about their needs, desires and feelings.

They need internal strategies to handle the emotionally painful times. They need people who believe in them always. They need a strong, positive ground of being within themselves.

How can you give this to your child and to your students? Begin today to pay attention to the emotional wholeness of your child. Gain understanding and develop approaches that nurture his positive experience of himself and of life. Give him the nurturing and tools he needs for a joyous, fulfilling life.

Your child's emotional wholeness is the foundation for her life. When her emotional wholeness is strong and clear, she can accomplish so much and be fulfilled and happy as a person. This is the most important gift you can give your child and your students.

You lay an emotional foundation for your child, whether you are aware of it or not. Every interaction with your child and every experience she has in life creates the emotional environment in which she develops.

These experiences help her build strong emotional resources or they weaken her internal resilience and ability to flourish. This is true whether your child is six weeks, 6 years or 16 years old.

Commit today to making your child's emotional wholeness a priority. Then watch what new things you discover and what experiences occur in your child's life and in your own.

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