Counselling doesn’t get its due
Children are delicate souls. We can think of them as mouldable clay – soft putty that has yet to harden. What shapes this clay is the experiences life brings with it – sometimes they are good and some are extremely bad. What happens when the bad experiences are internalized? The clay hardens for life, eventually turning brittle and breaking. This metaphor is all too true in today’s world where children are not given enough time and attention by busy parents and are left to make their own decisions and deal with their own problems.
Children have a lot to deal with nowadays, since the world is not as simple as it was before. Many come from broken homes, struggle to form an identity that fit in with the established peer group and more often than not, are constantly struggling to keep-up-with-the-Joneses financially. They want the latest gadgets, branded clothes and fashion accessories which their parents might not be able to provide thanks to limited means. Acquisition of these objects plays an important role in their lives because they feel like lesser beings if they can’t have it.
Childhood is not a carefree and easy time like we would like to believe. More and more cases of suicides among young children who have been jilted in love, haven been given something they wanted or who have failed exams are increasing in number day by day. Children suffer from excessive mood swings and temper management issues. They also suffer from depression and other emotional issues. They don’t play games outdoors or watch cartoons, they prefer to sit in front of their PSPs or Television sets and while away their time. Channels of communication might have opened thanks to the internet and cheap messaging facilities but real conversation has taken a backseat. Busy parents gift their children expensive items to make up for their absence. Children are asked to perform very well in their exams without a thought for their capabilities and skills. Thanks to increasingly nuclear families and the rise in single parenting, children also suffer from loneliness. So as we can see, emotionally, in their school life and at home, there is a lot that is going on.
Counselling might help the child address his issues and will ease the mental and emotional pressure he is going through. In schools, it is wise to have a career counsellor as well as a psychologist who can offer therapy to a disturbed child. Taking a child for counselling will always have a negative connotation for parents, especially in our society because of the social stigma attached to mental health. The child spends a lot of time in his formative years in school and it is here that counselling should be introduced for his benefit. School based counselling, will help the child be happier without bringing with it the pointed fingers that counselling outside of school might result in. Within the school system it will be a normal school activity.
Schools should notify the parents if they notice children showing signs of emotional disturbance. Fighting, problems with discipline, lack of concentration or being extremely introverted are signs that the child may be harbouring issues within himself. Largely, not only do schools neglect to provide counselling for the students, they don’t report these signs very actively. As a result, they go undiagnosed and ignored at home too.
Exam time is a crucial time for children who are already burdened with issues. Both the school and parents should be extremely aware of their children’s behaviour at this time. Career counselling aside, it is important children are allowed to talk about what stresses them and scares them. They should be told of the importance of good grades but not at the cost of their health. They should also be encouraged to follow and develop their strengths instead of being chided for their failings.
Albert Einstein once famously said, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.” All parents, teachers and students alike should remember this – that everyone is talented in their way, not conforming to the normal benchmark of good grades and intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean a dull mind. This will take a lot of pressure off a student to perform well beyond his abilities. Counselling at school will also allow the child to channel any insecurity regarding his home, parents or his duties.
Till date the importance of counselling is largely ignored both at home and at school. This is perhaps the reason behind increasingly dysfunctional behaviour among young children and left unchecked it will have terrible consequences in their later lives. In schools, academic results are applauded while emotional needs are meant to be kept under control and suppressed. Counselling will help the child counter academic stress and deal with the harsh circumstances he is bound to encounter in life. Schools and parents should sit up and take notice of this fact.