One of the saddest things is hearing people say, “I need help but I don’t want my family to know…”It says a lot about the person, the situation and the family; especially the parents. It is a messed up society. The youth are afraid to speak up about their struggles and depression because they are afraid of their parents’ reactions. The situation is such that depression is almost becoming a trend now. And the parents? They remain oblivious of how much their children are struggling. I am not pointing fingers at anyone. As I said, it is a messed up situation. The youth could be unnecessarily worried about speaking up. Perhaps their parents would in fact listen and help them get help. Perhaps they would be supportive. Perhaps you speaking up would be a wake up call for them. How would you know if you never approached them? This generation is so good at hiding so we can’t entirely blame the parents for not miraculously knowing you’re in pain. The family on the other side could be playing a role; sometimes a major role, in the problem itself. Carrying on with the same old traditions and customs, our parents seem blinded on how much they actually play a role in facilitating depression amongst their children. Here are some ways in which parents, unintentionally cause unnecessary pain, struggle and hopelessness.

1. Forcing them to take up courses/careers they aren’t interested in: I was talking to this 18 year old girl who just completed form four. She says she HATES maths, she FAILED maths and she doesn’t want anything to do with it. Oh well guess what, her family still thought that being an accountant is the only way to succeed in this life.I couldn’t understand how anyone could see her misery and still force her do this. It is sad, so sad, that parents have this one track mind. Parents believe they know what is best for their children (which majority of the times is true) but sometimes this is not the reality. If someone despises something that much, what kind of life do you expect your child to have at university? Sleepless nights, over-working themselves, breaking down cause of constant failure…what for?? Is it really worth it?? Even if they indeed work their sweat off and pass their exams, what kind of a career will they have? One whereby they deal with numbers for eight constant hours, seven days a week…do you expect your child to lead a happy life? Will they be any less valuable or worthy if they didn’t become that person you expect them to be or that they didn’t follow your footsteps?? Go ask around the students at university, ask them what they study and majority will tell you they do it because they had no option. Because their parent chose this course for them. Because becoming an artist or a chef or a journalist won’t take you that far. But would it give them a chance to grow? A chance to go after their dreams? A chance to be happy? So long as it is something that can still earn them some money and is decent enough then why not?? WHY NOT?!

2. Imposing their beliefs/opinions on their children: This happens a lot. A child is rarely allowed to have his/her own opinions. So a father would tell his son, ‘A real man marries from his own tribe’ or ‘A real woman should know how to carry firewood on her back’…This and that and that..Opinions are fine but imposing them on someone else is what is wrong. What if your son would love to marry someone from a different far-off culture, does it make him any less a man? What if your daughter knows how to sew clothes instead of carrying firewood, what do we label her? As much as we’d love our children to think in a certain way or to be our copies, it is wrong to force to them think in a certain way. The best a parent can do is advise. If a child follows their own path despite your words, they’ll be the ones to face the consequences of their actions; whether good or bad. Let your children fly. If they bump into a tree and fall down, they’ll come back to you crying and seeking your wisdom. Yet still, don’t cut their wings. You can’t protect them from the word, you can only guide and pray for them.

3. Forcing/Pressurizing them into marriages: ‘I got married at 18, you are 28 and you are still single’ ‘I was a father at your age’ ‘This is the best bride you could get’. I get it, parents get worried about their children; where they are headed to, whom they’ll have a family with, whether they’ll settle down like their mates or not. We get it. It is a scary world and it’s natural for them to be worried or desire to take control of their matters. But the reality is that your son/daughter is the one who will live with that person, that it is them who will handle the responsibilities, that it is them who will live that life. At least give them the chance to choose their paths; what time they decide they are ready to settle and who they want to settle with. Don’t make them any less human for not not being married yet or for not wanting the person you chose for them.

4. Comparing them with other children: This includes comparison amongst siblings. We are all built differently, with different personalities and different emotions within us. We experience the same things differently and different things the same way. We come from different backgrounds and the words we use in our home could be banned in yours. Your child could start speaking at two years and another at four. Your child and your neighbours’ could go to the same school since kindergarten and live in the same environment, yet they’d still perform differently and have different opinions. That is how it is, even for siblings living under the same roof with the same parents. We are different. Parents tend to make this mistake to always compare their children with others. It could be in performance, achievements, beauty, neatness, skills…anything really. Yet this is how they slowly ruin their childrens’ self esteem from a very tender age.

5. Getting children mixed up with adult problems: This is in the case of divorce or separation or just parents having frequent fights amongst themselves. Many times the parents never consider the effects of these fights on their children. Many children from broken families end up having trust issues or being depressed or unable to commit to any relationship. Parents would fight over custody of children, make them choose whom they want to live with, keep repeating to them how their other parent is worthless or is a bad parent, comparing the bad habits of the children to their other parent and so on. Children end up being exposed to unnecessary drama and chaos, traumatizing them psychologically and the effects would be seen way into their adulthood.

6. Rarely showing appreciation: A child could be responsible, obedient, hardworking…but the parent would never take a minute to praise them or show them appreciation or tell them how worthy they are. But once this same child does a mistake, he/she would be lectured, insulted and maybe even not spoken to. There is no balance and as such, the child ends up feeling worthless despite everything else good that they do.

7. Absent parents: These are the worst. Because you can barely tell if these children have parents or not. They are either too busy working, or too busy fighting, or too busy travelling, or too busy with their own business, they rarely have time for their children. They could be providing for them their basic needs but they don’t offer the emotional connection they desperately need. Sometimes they are forced to take up responsibilities, bigger than their age to cover for their parents’ absenteeism. This sometimes leads to the children seeking love or any emotional bond elsewhere to compensate for what they lack.

8. Never involving children in family decisions: It all starts with the small things. If a parent involves his/her child in decision making with regards to the house issues, then the child automatically feels valued. Even if it is by asking them what food to cook today or what colour they think will be best if painted in the room. The child feels that his opinions and thoughts are welcomed, wanted and appreciated. Even if their suggestions won’t be accepted, the children will still feel proud and their confidence will obviously boost. Yet what happens when the opposite happens? A child gets home and is just informed that the next day they are moving to another town. A child gets home and his father has traveled abroad without a word. A child gets home and some of his clothes have been given out. As much as parents have the right to do whatever they want in their homes, it does certainly have an impact on a child with regards to whether or not he was informed/involved or asked his opinion. Unfortunately we tend to think asking for children’s opinions is too Western but children often surprise us with their thoughts. And it is by these small decisions that children get to assume how much their opinions are valued or not.

9. Never supporting their ventures: So your child decided to open a furniture shop instead of the tiles shop you wanted them to. You decide you won’t support them. In fact, why talk to them even? They disobeyed me. But maybe your child believes that this will work out better for them. Maybe they love dealing with furniture and decors. Maybe this is a risk they must take for them to know what they are capable of. Sometimes all a parents needs to do is show support despite the differences in opinions. One can’t say the support doesn’t matter. It definitely does. One becomes more confident when they know they have their family backing them up.

10. Parents who are too proud to accept their mistakes: Indeed we are all human beings with so many flaws. Parents sacrifice and do a lot to ensure their children have good, stable lives. No one can delete or ignore their efforts. However, parents sometimes ignore their own wrongdoings and mistakes despite them having an impact on their children. They wouldn’t accept they are wrong when they publicly embarrass their children for lack of some skills, they wouldn’t accept their mistakes when their children’s teacher complains of their absenteeism to the parents’ meetings. They wouldn’t accept they are wrong when they demoralize their own children or when they send their young children to buy them weed. So first they make the mistake and second, they demand that no one questions the way they raise their children. Having stubborn parents like that, a child may end up having low self esteem, or have the wrong view of life or themselves. The child may end up thinking that accepting mistakes means one is weak, so they follow suit. There are many ways in which this could affect a child.

As much as we love and respect our parents, maybe it is high time we said it out loud that many are the reason their children are undergoing depression or being constantly sad. They also play a role in silencing the screams from within due to the children’s’ fear. Maybe it is high time we are open about these things so that maybe, just maybe, the future generations can have better, understanding parents. Ameen!

P.S. I dare you to try talking to your parents about what’s stressing and eating you up. You never know. You just never know. It could be your gateway to a healthier relationship with them. Plus, they could help you through your dark times, who knows?!

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A freelance writer, journalist, poet and blogger venturing mainly in social and community issues, study and analysis of behaviour and life, and the plight of the under-dogs in the society. 'I feed on human stories.'

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