We all know the saying "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". Well now apply this rhetoric to children and their worries.
"I'm here if you ever need me". We either heard it as a child, or have said something similar to a son, daughter, niece or nephew. We think we're doing the right thing, and in part, we are. As a child I knew that I could turn to my family if and when I needed to. But did I? No.
Actually, that's not entirely true. I did tell my parents once that I was being bullied at school. Were comments like "sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt us" or "just hit them back" good coping mechanisms? No. Did I stop taking my problems to them? Yes, because what they were telling me wasn't helpful.
We, as adults, not only have a natural obligation to support our children when they need us, but (perhaps just as importantly) help build their coping mechanisms and strength...for when we're not there.
Today's children are growing up with anxieties and worries that we won't fully understand. Yes we were children once, but as we fondly tell others, we didn't have the Internet or apps "in our day". Today's digitalisation is having a profound effect on children's lives and futures - both good and bad.
In an interview about Millennials (the generation born in and after 1994) motivational speaker Simon Sinek talks about how the age of instant digital gratification is affecting a child's preparation for the real world of work and life. You may not agree with his comments about this generation's self-interested, narcissistic feeling of entitlement. But I believe his comments about them being addicted to their dopamine-creating devices and growing up with lower self-esteem (than previous generations) is spot on.
As he says "to compound the problem, we're growing up in an age where we're good at putting filters on things. Which means we're good at telling people life is amazing....even though I'm depressed." He continues "when significant stress appears in their lives they're not turning to their [superficial] friends...they turn to social media for temporary relief."
Sinek's "there's nothing wrong with cell phones and social media... it's the imbalance!" echoes comments I've made in previous blogs about moderation. The problem isn't the time children spend on devices, it's the content consumed that is. Indirectly learning coping mechanisms in an app is better than hours of selfie filters or searching unmoderated support sites for "temporary relief".
Simon's right when he says there isn't an app for job satisfaction and strength of relationship, but there is an app to teach children coping mechanisms. I may be biased, but with hindsight I really do believe I could've benefitted from an app like The Worrinots in my childhood times of need.
So it's our duty as parents to give our children tools that don't just support them in the short term, but provides them with vital tips and tactics to cope with life's long term pressures.
In other words, don't just give your child a fish that relieves their worries for a day. Give them a rod that will feed their wellbeing for a lifetime.