#WeTheParents – My Fears In Raising My Child – Voices From Parents
Parenting never was a cakewalk. But if it is possible, the role of being a parent has become harder than ever in the current day context. Children today are born into a digital world, and into an era of social media. With the entire world at their fingertips, there are very few filters that will really keep them away from the information they have access to. Onset of early puberty, increasingly unpredictable behaviour, peer pressure, and exposure to and the possibility of violence against children are all very real fears parents today are grappling with.
So what are the dominant fears that parents today have in raising their children? And how do they deal with them? Here is how some parents responded to these questions.
“I have a son who is six years old, in the second grade. I feel like he is growing up way faster than he is meant to. There is a certain precociousness in children these days. I guess one of the reasons for this is the extreme amount of exposure they have today. Especially in terms of access to social media and various gadgets. There is a lot of stimulus for children to grow up faster than their years. My son knows that “fuck” is a bad word, but he has used it a few times to test us, feeling rebellious or to just prank us. One doesn’t use that language at home and he has in all likelihood picked it up from school. I also feel that the so called “elitist” schools have a flair for flamboyance, and children who go there feel a sense of entitlement which is not part of my household dynamics.” Mother of a Six-Year-Old Son.
“I have a fifteen-year-old daughter. In bringing her up, I have been realizing how differently I was brought up, and that those days are now gone. Today the world is becoming more open, with more options and choices than ever. Addiction to mobile phones and social media has increased tremendously. Children don’t think before sharing photographs of themselves on platforms like Snapchat, and get into trouble because of it. A major loss in childhood is evident in how they behave, how they dress. Puberty hits them way earlier than it is supposed to – when they are as young as ten-eleven years. It is important for parents to develop a sense of compassion while dealing with children these days. They need to understand the hormonal changes the child is going through which results in the rebellious attitude children have these days. If you stop them from doing something, they will do it even more. It is important to give them space. But it is also important to learn to identify threats children make to get what they want. Today it is necessary to have open conversations with your child about sexual attraction, problems with peers, and insecurities they may have, just like a friend.” Mother of a Fifteen-Year-Old Daughter.
“As a parent, I feel that children today are affected a lot by media. This affects their attention span and in a lot of cases leads to other disastrous issues. This is a big challenge for parents. Today, there is a lack of resilience and patience in children. The way the world has changed is a big reason for this. In our time we had to wait for a whole week before we could watch the next episode of our favourite TV show, today in the age of internet and live – streaming, children don’t have to. This is just a small example. Children today are not used to reality checks, but it is also true that there is too much of responsibility and pressure on them. And of course, safety is a big concern. My utmost priority is for my girls to be safe, wherever they are.” Mother of two daughters, fourteen and eighteen-years-old.
“In today’s age, social media and digital access are part and parcel of everyday life and one has no choice, but to embrace it. There are huge benefits from this technology, but clearly there are issues to be concerned about. As parents, we have tried to guide our children towards being safe in this online world, but we are dinosaurs in this ever-evolving universe, and our outdated knowledge is probably irrelevant to our tech-savvy kids. One tries to install net-nannies and other shields, but when one hears of 10-year-olds being able to hack into their neighbour’s wifi, one realizes that this is futile.
Our approach, with our kids has been a combination of old-school methods along with discussions. So, while our girls do not have access to their own phones, while their access to a laptop is only when a parent is physically present, while net nannies are installed, we have tried to supplement it with conversations around being safe. Despite that, there have been foot-faults already where our kids have pushed or crossed the boundaries, and we believe that engaging them further in a discussion is the best (and perhaps the only) way to equip them to handle this. It is tougher when most other parents succumb to the demands of their kids, and peer pressure pays its toll. Time alone will tell how successful this approach will be, but frankly, we do not see another alternative.” Father of two eleven-year-old daughters.
“As a parent, I am constantly on the vigil, and keep myself informed – as far as possible. I read about potential dangers, track what’s going on. This paranoia may be because we have been victims ourselves or know someone who has been a victim of child abuse/ other dangers. There is no doubt that we are more conscious today – more than ever before. Social media is a looming presence, it’s a big issue as far as safety of our children is concerned. As parents, my husband and I have instilled a lot of trust in our daughter. She is constantly made aware of how the usage could harm her. To lead by example, we ourselves have stopped using social media the way we used to, and don’t post things on Facebook without giving the content serious thought, we know she is watching and learning from us. Who doesn’t want to be ‘cool’ – kids will use virtual games or dress up & pose a certain way – not even realizing who’s watching, what’s captured, where it is going – who can use it and god alone knows for what! As parents it is our duty to educate our child about the perils of being that kind of ‘cool’. And no doubt, they emulate the behaviour of parents. I do think the best way you can teach children is through leading by example and keep those gentle lines of communication open!” Mother of a twelve-year-old daughter.
“Personally, I don’t share the paranoia that several parents today have with regards to their children. I feel that parents today are overprotective and are not willing to take risks, they hover like “helicopters” over their children all the time. As a parent I let my child take her own risks and come back to me and tell me if she has gone wrong somewhere. Today parents have access to a lot of information which perhaps adds to the paranoia, and they think too much, and doubt their children too much. My focus is on raising an independent child, and investing in giving her the right value system. The best you can do is make them aware of the choices they have, explain the consequences and let them be.” Father of a twelve-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.
Photo Credits : NY Times
Words By : Shreeradha Mishra
Shreeradha is a child rights professional at Leher, a traveler and a cheesecake eater. You can follow her on instagram @cheesecakemunky.