Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

Conformity will be the death of us. More specifically, conformity is killing our kids.

I’ve been seeing more than the usual number of teenagers/young adults with anxiety issues recently. This kind of trend is always massively concerning, though not remotely surprising. The current social environment in which our kids have to “find themselves” is terrifyingly shallow.

Who to emulate?

On the one hand, air-brushed celebrities appear to be serving as role models (think Kim Kardashian would make a wholesome mother?). On the other hand there seems to be a general absence of old-time, personal-value-driven parenting. Whether this is either because parents “don’t have the time” to parent properly, or because they have no idea how to create a stable, loving and disciplined environment for their kids, I’m not really sure.

But when it comes to emulating self-assured, principled and conscious adults, what chance do our kids have? How else do they discover their own unique ideas and feelings around who they are and what they want to achieve in life?

Other influencers

Couple this with two monstrous influencers. The first is peer pressure. Never is there a time when kids are more influenced by their peers than in the teenage years. If they haven’t been given permission (i.e. actively taught) to think for themselves, hold their own opinions, and be confident about their beliefs, they’ll easily be swayed by others (there goes your average reckless teenager).

The second influencer is our current sausage-machine schooling system that teaches conformity and academic perfection above all else! Sit down, shut up, learn the syllabus, don’t rock the boat, and live only for the year-end mark. Forget the journey – it’s the destination that counts! What a bloody disaster.

I learned recently that the number one cause of death in kids aged 14-19 is suicide. This shocked me to my very core. The anxiety our kids feel in trying to achieve it all – the perfect grades, the perfect body, the perfect life – is taking its toll. How do we help them survive their childhoods?

Changing things

I think we should show them that they matter more than ANYTHING else. We should show them that they have a right to love, respect and honour themselves. Oh, and for the record, you can’t teach them this unless you’re able to do it for yourself. So, if you regularly bitch about the shape of your body, or treat it like it’s a trash can, or let your kids/partner and/or anyone else treat you like a doormat, don’t even think about trying to teach them the value of self-love. Sort your own shit out first.

Parenting is an honour; not to be confused with a right. In my opinion, becoming the best parent you can be (thereby “creating” a most beautiful little human being) is a journey of self-discovery, extremely hard work, and massive personal change. Kids don’t listen; they watch. So be sure that you show them how you’d like them to treat themselves and then love them (and yourself) with everything you’ve got!