Is the younger generation oversensitive ?

It seems to be common to read in the press, statements about today’s generation of children being oversensitive and pampered. Articles often put forward a view that youngsters do not know how to handle criticism or failure and hence they react to situations violently. Sometimes taking extreme steps like self-harm, suicide or murder.  

The conclusions drawn seem to be shallow- conclusions such as - A child commits murder because he gets only Rs.100 of pocket money a day. A teenager committed suicide because she did not pass her exams. While we sensationalize these issues and label the child as “oversensitive” there seems to be very little desire to get into the child’s shoes and try to figure out what was going through his mind to make him take such a strong action. What is going on in the child’s life - at home with his parents and his sibling or at school with his teachers and his peers?

Yes, the truth is that children are reacting very violently to some situations, but why is that?  We want to blame them instead of questioning a whole culture that has robbed them of their childhood. We have created a society that puts children under extreme stress to perform. Not to just perform in studies but to excel in every sphere of life. If we stand by the swimming pool in any coaching class, we can watch the parents shrieking at their children. Swimming is not done for the joy of it, it is a competition.  Everything in life is a race that must be won. Failure is unacceptable. It’s not ok to make mistakes. Every child is expected to be good at everything - studies, sports, drama - even handwriting must be perfect, else the child is sent for a handwriting class! 

This pressure makes children live under stress and creates a fear of failure. The child thinks, ‘If I do not do well I am not good enough’. 

Can we imagine what is going on in our children’s’ heads with these messages constantly being bombarded at them? The world they live in is a place where there is no scope for relaxation or unwinding. Every minute must be used ‘productively’ – productivity that is defined by the parents!  He must strive to be something better. In addition to that, children today rarely have adults who have time to listen to them, allow them to vent their feelings and help them cope with life. When we had joint families and close communities there were always people around to give the child a sympathetic and loving ear. If not parents they had grandparents and cousins and neighbours. In today's world  whom does the child turn to when angry and frustrated?

They live life on a high-tension wire. Even the things they do for entertainment like watching TV and playing video games do not relax the child’s mind. It’s like a volcano waiting to erupt.  And finally, it could be a harsh statement, a punishment, or a humiliation that acts as a trigger. Something snaps within the child. We have created a world where the child lives on the edge and it is very easy to get tipped over that edge! While environment plays a big role in the child's mental state, there are times when they may even be facing a medical condition like depression. 

It is time for us to wake up and take responsibility. . If we want to see less suicides, bullying, aggression and violent acts the responsibility lies with us adults to create a nurturing environment. When we bring up children with understanding and compassion they will have the emotional strength to face whatever hurdles life throws at them. Children do not need less sensitivity from us. They need more! 

Author: Kesang Menezes is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.