I recently read an article about an 11 year old boy who committed suicide because he thought his girlfriend had died as a result of a social media prank orchestrated by the said girlfriend. Unfortunately this was a prank gone terribly, terribly wrong and I genuinely feel for the parents and family of the young boy.
Besides trying to understand why someone would think that it would be funny to fake her own death and put her family and friends through all of that grief, it also got me thinking about why the boy felt as though the only response to his grief was to take his own life.
As parents we often try to protect our children from every disappointment, every heartache, every bully, every negative thing that could happen in their lives. It hurts to see our children hurt. But when we raise our children in a bubble and are not open about all of the not so wonderful things in the world, we fail to prepare them for life itself.
Now I am not sure if this was the case with this little boy, but on a regular basis, I read different stories or hear about situations that would suggest that the younger generations are not prepared to cope in the real world.
When faced with their first rejection, or their first failure or even their first time dealing with death, they are not equipped to handle, in a mature and self assured way, what is thrown at them. They crumble under the pressure and become either violent or depressed and ready to throw in the towel because, up until that particular day, life always seemed to be on their side.
But life isn’t always on our side and as adults, we cannot fall apart or give up as soon as things do not go our way.
Dealing with disappointment and failure
My husband and I constantly try to encourage our son to never give up and to keep trying when he “fails” at something. Last year my son entered a running race and did not place. His friend who came first got a medal and my son was extremely heartbroken that he did not get to take home a medal as well. It broke my heart to see him sad and disappointed because, well, when they hurt we hurt and a small part of me wanted to go out and buy a medal just so that he could have one too.
At the same time, however, I was glad for this teaching moment. I told him if he wanted that medal he had to keep trying and continue practicing so that he could run faster. He hasn’t stopped running since.
That disappointment was necessary to make him a stronger and more determined person. This would be the first in many disappointments to come and he needs to know, from now, how to accept it and move forward with his life.
He knows that he cannot always get his way or everything that he wants (although at 5 years old that is a lesson that doesn’t always stick especially when there is a toy involved). But he is learning that getting angry, lashing out or pouting will not change the situation either.
Dealing with bullies
Bullying is not a new phenomenon, however, social media has definitely put a new spin on bullying. It is never a nice feeling to feel ostracized, ridiculed or humiliated in public and most children probably feel as though the embarrassment would never go away. But like all else, that too will pass.
My husband and I encourage our son to always tell us if he is being bullied and to be brave enough to stand up for himself and for others who cannot stand up for themselves.
We encourage him to be his own person and to not let the approval or disapproval of a group determine his self worth.
We tell him to unapologetically be himself and to never let the words of others kill his spirit.
Dealing with death
Death is never easy. Whether you are a child or an adult losing a loved one can be extremely crushing. Unfortunately, death is an inevitability and at some point our children will experience losing someone close to them.
Last year, my son’s kitten died and this was his first experience with death. He handled it pretty maturely but I still used the opportunity to talk to him about life and death. I was honest about the fact that one day mummy and daddy will not be around but he still has his life to live and his purpose to fulfill and should never, no matter how difficult things may get, wish death on himself.
Every now and then he gets a bit sad when he thinks about us not being around, or when he remembers the cat, and that is ok. I let him know that it is normal to feel sad and to cry when he misses someone but to think of all of the fun times that he had with the person (or the cat as the case may be) and to be grateful for all of the many other good things in his life.
Providing support for your children
Although we should not completely shield our children from the world, we should be there to offer support when they need it. Our children should never doubt or question whether or not they could come to us for advice, help or if they need to vent.
Having a good support structure makes it easier for anyone, children and adults, to deal with all of life’s difficulties and disappointments and allows our children to face the world with confidence.
As a mother I can only hope and pray that my children are spared the worst that life has to offer. But it is also my duty as a mother to prepare them to face with courage, strength and determination the worst that life has to offer.