We need to stop putting all the blame on our kids

MAY 22 — As I settle into middle-age, I find it disconcerting how many youngsters and 20-somethings I meet with have some kind of anxiety.

A quick dig for current statistics turned up this disturbing factoid from the Health Ministry: mental health issues among students saw an increase from one in 10 individuals in 2011 to one in five in 2016.

Worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, 62,000 adolescents died in 2016 as a result of self-harm.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents ranging from 15 to 19 years of age.

I kicked someone off my Facebook for asking, why, when boomers have gone through things such as wars and various recessions, that mere children already felt so put upon?

It’s a tiresome refrain — the older generation using their experience to demean youngsters. “I suffered, so can you.”

Truth is, I think it’s tragic that all that so-called suffering hasn’t taught these people empathy.

Older generations have stripmined the world for prosperity leaving our kids to clean up the future mess.

I say this as I swelter in the heat brought about by global warming, wishing desperately that I won’t need to turn on the air-conditioning to sleep later.

Job security has instead been replaced by the gig economy and contract work. In my day, my poorer peers worked part-time to put themselves through university but that is no longer an option for most students right now.

Wages haven’t gone up but university fees have. Technology changes in a blink of an eye and despite being a former tech editor and coder, even I struggle to keep up.

It’s not as simple as the old days — the dream used to be finish school, get a job, make a family and hope to die a peaceful death.

With the weight of modern age complexities as well as familial/societal expectations, of course our kids are out of their depth. The world’s gotten ahead of them before they manage to grow up.

The world has changed and I think our kids know it has. Yet at the same time, we keep telling them the same old lies when in reality no outcome is truly guaranteed.

It’s not about protecting them from life’s harsher realities; helicopter parenting cripples instead of empowers children.

The world has changed and so must we. We need to better equip the younger generation with tools to empower them, in a world that has become too quick to tear them down.

It’s also time we embraced the reality that mental health support needs to be emphasised just as much as physical health.

We can’t keep blaming the kids for our failings, and for the failings of those who didn’t know better or should have known better.

If the world is awful for our kids, then maybe we should think about changing the world. After all, that’s what we hope they will do. There’s nothing that says we shouldn’t help them get started.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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