Sometimes I think the human race is slowly hurling itself off a cliff. We’re all engaged in one enormous, gradual push towards extinction.
I read this morning about the World Health Organisation’s prediction that depression will be the biggest health problem in the western world by 2030 – even bigger than obesity, our second favourite slow-suicide nemesis. And if that’s not bad enough in itself, I also read that thousands of children aged ten and under are being referred or treated for depressive and anxiety related conditions in the UK.
I can see that it seems our children are under more pressure than ever before: pressure to succeed, to fit in, to look good. We readily blame a ‘toxic, online 24/7 culture’ for what our children face. But that’s just too easy. Yes it’s true that bullying may no longer stop on the street outside the house and that children are now exposed to more challenging circumstances, more assessments and more social demands, but we must shoulder responsibility as parents. Simply blaming the digital world doesn’t cut it. If we think carefully about the things we say to our children, what we ask of them and the examples we set them, we have to realise that a lot of that pressure comes from us. It’s likely that the weight of our parental expectations weighs more heavily on the minds of our children than the pressure to be size-8-fabulous.
We all want happy, confident young people who feel comfortable in their own skin: people who know who they are. Our teens grow away from us and are hard-wired to pay less and less attention to what we say. Our role as parents then, is to give them the tools and the context they need, so they can work things out for themselves.
A non-judgmental home, where children are valued, listened to and loved is a refuge and a source of strength for all who live there. Our homes should be places of convivial solidarity, where happiness comes from a sense of security and from simple pleasures. The Danes – officially the world’s happiest people according to a recent report – call this hygge (hoo-gah).
We don’t have a word for it in English.