This week’s topic is one that I have been contemplating writing about for a while. I was recently watching an episode of Dr. Oz, where the topic was how easily children in our society (and by ‘our’ I am referring to North American culture), are getting lured into the web of feeling like they always need to be ‘on’.
They have to strive for perfection. They have to continue to push themselves, and compete with their friends and peers to be the best in school, at sports, at everything. This places them at higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, conduct disorders, and addiction to drugs in the process of trying to improve their test scores, but also in an attempt to numb themselves if they are not successful.
So what effect is all this pressure having on the next generation?
Guests of the Dr. Oz show described their experience with their high school aged children who were taking drugs, namely Adderall, to enhance their performance on tests. The little I do know about Adderall is that it is often over-prescribed to treat symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but without proper monitoring and evaluating, it can be an extremely dangerous drug.
Although proven to help improve school performance (by increasing periods of concentration and alertness), if taken in the wrong dosage, it creates periods of delusions for many, as well as episodes of psychosis.
Clearly, children in our generation are feeling a lot of pressure to be ‘perfect’. Perhaps parents are putting more pressure on them to succeed. Or being accepted into their preferred universities is a lot more difficult than 20 years ago. And perhaps some of their pressure is self-imposed as they compare themselves to their friends or classmates.
Regardless, our children are struggling. Our society is a difficult one to live in. Now, I cannot account for how life is in other parts of the world, nor will I attempt to guess. What I do know, as I feel it myself, is that societal pressure in Canada is huge. Adults feel it everywhere. It is evident in the high level of strokes and heart attacks experienced by citizens of this country. It is evident in behaviors such as traffic road-rage, constantly running in emergency mode, making quick decisions in poor judgment, and for many, being in a constant state of irritability.
We all seem to need to be rushing around, to be doing something else, something more, and getting absolutely everything ‘in’ by the end of the day. A task, which is virtually impossible. So no wonder our children grow up to continuously feel as if they need to be accomplishing more, and that what they do accomplish is never quite good enough for themselves or for the people from whom they most likely seek approval…their parents.
So what are parents to do?
Parents need to learn to recognize this behavior in themselves before they are able to help their children. As a mother and as a therapist, herein lies the key to successfully ‘getting through’ to our children. Children need to see that their parents are not perfect, and that we too can be vulnerable and sensitive and tired without completely falling apart or looking at ourselves as if we failed in some way.
As parents we must be able to sit down at the end of the day, and realize that we can only do our best, and that has to be good enough. Our children see us running around trying to multi task, and they learn by example. We need to convey to our children that it is alright to stop. It is alright to be frustrated, and tired, and that tomorrow is another day to get up, pull ourselves together, and try again.
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