Friday, 4 May 2012


An email this morning from one of our most committed partners in Kiducation, Ms Vaidehi Arun (Bangalore) got me thinking, fuming and typing. Here are my thoughts on why our children are committing suicide. And given below this article is Vaidehi’s email. Thanks Vaidehi, lets spread the message to all parents.

The recent spate of suicides by young children should not only be the topic of hot discussion and debate but it is time the stakeholders of childhood sat up straight and looked at the real issues and brought about change however small. The stakeholders are parents, school and society. Here society encompasses other family members, friends, the larger community in which children live and the media.

Why are kids committing suicide? Let’s really think of what suicide means, it means taking one’s own life and the methods are always quite ugly, - jumping from a height, hanging by rope, swallowing poison. These are young people who are otherwise very careful about their appearance and how they treat themselves or are treated by others, and these very youngsters reach a stage where they are able to inflict pain and hurt on themselves. Imagine the conditions that must be driving them to take such harsh steps.
The solution is not as simple as blaming the education system or the child. The solution is quite complex because the solution is ‘linked’. It is linked to a lot of factors and we will be able to bring about the solution only when the ‘links’ work together, the links being- schools, colleges, family, parents, media and the child.

And it is in this ‘linking’ that lies the problem as each one gives up expecting the other to bring about the change.

Let us understand what has gone wrong in the ‘links’-       
  1. Parents- the fact is that parents today do not have time for their children, however much this sounds ‘unacceptable’ it is a fact, and the only way to deal with facts is to act. Parents need to spend time with children, not only asking them about their exams, or whether they have studied etc. Communicate and allow children to communicate. Parents have to stop focussing on the implied rudeness in children’s conversational styles and understand that sometimes what they think is rudeness may be ‘buried hurt’ coming out strongly. When discussing issues with young children, let them talk, then give solutions or support and when things are calmer then talk to them about ‘how to talk to elders’.
  2. Family- the breaking of the joint family system to some extent has led to children feeling lonely, driven them to become loners and ‘keep things to themselves’. To add to this single child families are on the rise, which leaves the child with no one to talk or confide. Connect with your children often in the day and let him connect with family members regularly. Use Sundays to meet grandparents and others.
  3. Media- media cannot stop sensationalising incidents of murder, rape, suicide etc, but with the sensationalisation should also come the remedies, when flashed regularly such remedies through media can play an important part. Secondly how we watch television with our children is also important- watching news of suicide and rape and death, while having food is just not done, also after watching such stories whether on a news channel, a movie or a serial it is important that parents talk and discuss with the children about what they saw. This will give children an insight on how the family thinks about such issues and how to react and what not to learn. It also helps solve a lot of questions in the child’s mind about why people do what they do, or behave the way they do. This kind of family education is a must.

  4. Schools and colleges- education in itself is not stressful, if it was the generations gone by would not be surviving successfully. What is stressful is the excessive competition among schools/colleges to be the best which in turn takes the stress to the child. When children do not perform a parent is called to school and blamed for it, ego of the adults’ hurt- they retaliate by taking it out on the child. The child feels both school and parents are against me and feels cornered, now where to run and in a moment of frustration ends his life. Parents need to go ‘soft’ on ‘non performance’ in exams or low marks, parents will have to work to come out of this rat race that lead to ‘death race’.

  5. Childhood- stress does not happen suddenly in the high school or college years, it builds up gradually. It starts as early as the kindergarten years when kids are interviewed and then rejected and then starts a journey of stress, frustration, defeat, inability to cope, hostility, irritability, anger and hopelessness.

What we as a society need to do is create better help lines within the family and school
Teach adults about emotional development in children so that they are better able to understand and support growing children
Reduce stress by reducing senseless competition and expectations
Parents and teachers to have basic knowledge of counselling
Look out for ‘signs’, they are always there, early intervention can save a life.
Take interest in the websites your child visits or now the face book sites, recently there was a group on face book called- ‘we are not scared to commit suicide’, (told to me by a youngster) so be aware of such sites and discuss and debate the pros and cons with young children and young adults.

The world is not such a bad place, so why are children finding it so? Give them love, understanding, a patient ear and we will have a better world. Lets understand that children maybe just 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future (David Tyack), lets take care of the future today.

Swati Popat Vats
President- Podar Education Network-

President - Early Childhood Association -India
National Representative India, World Forum Foundation-
Leader Asia - Nature Action Collaborative for Children (NACC)

Dear Swati mam,

Hope you are doing fine. I guess you are all set to attend our POP in Bangalore. Looking forward for the same. It was a long pending experience I wanted to share with you , if you wish might address the parents on this issue.

We read about various suicidal deaths which has become very rampant in the recent past. I keep pondering about each of these incidents and perplexed about some incidents where children are loosing their precious lives for trivial issues. We earlier used to think it was only exam pressures and results etc., but if you look at a lot of suicides happening across the city it is not even for exam results. The emotional quotient is getting lower in our younger generation. There is strong need for approval from their peer group.

When we were young,  friends were meant to have fun, share study ideas, share homework complexities and enjoy walking into some extra curricular activities together. Contrary to the earlier days, friends now mean everything to our children.  There is now a need for approval from friends in all walks of their life. Right from the way they look in the photos, to what they wear, to how they talk what they think !!! which is very scary. This is further influenced by the sociall / digital media like FACEBOOK.

I do not realise whether what I am explaining further could also be contributing to some extent and has an impact on the above said facts : Most of our parents have the urge to push our children to the next level and next level in everything whether required or not. The following examples assert what I am trying to explain

1. According to the age cut off in Karnataka it is June but most of the schools relax until sept born after which they need to take up the previous level. This exists in all states and countries the dates just differ from place to place. We have parents going to the extent of even bribing and changing the birth certificates in order the child move to the next level.

2. Summer camps : Certainly not meant to achieve short term goals rather allowing a child to explore / express / experience new talents, meet new friends , adapt to new environments. Parents here too,  worry that their children  be placed in the next age group than actually where the child belongs. They worry if a child aged 6yrs is placed in the group 4-6yrs they are rather very happy if the child is placed in 7-8yrs. Isn't all this an indirect pressure for the child to grow up too soon??

3. I would like to share couple of experiences in the day care recently. I had a father who was transferred from Pune to Bangalore ( child is not from PODAR ) he had come to select a AFTER SCHOOL DAY CARE as both parents go to work. I was casually chatting with him when I asked him where is the child going to join for regular schooling when he mentioned he has selected three schools but the final choice is going to be made by his son who is 7yrs old !!! I asked him is he comfortable in asking the child to make a choice of the school he said " My son has a mind of his own mam, so I better ask him" , but soon did not forget to add " I am pretty sure you must have heard this from a lot of parents , but I truly believe my son is matured enough to make a choice". To my surprise when this child joined our ASDC (after school day care) team I realised he was so matured he just could not make any friends in his peer group but rather choose to sit with me or some senior teachers and chat. ( he was a very nice kid) but had lost the 'child in him' to be with his peer group. He was more a mini adult !! I have a lot of such incidents to share with you may be when I meet you in person but I am wondering are we doing it right?? Why are we in a haste to push them to adulthood ?

Why are the parents trying to push young children to attain so much maturity that they loose their childhood?
Are these parents ready to handle the adult in him as he/she grows up?
Is this having an impact on the balance of the child's mind ?

These were few things just wanted to share so you can address them in your talk with parents.
Looking forward to see you soon.

Warm regards,
Vaidehi arun


Shilpa said...

Hello Mrs Vaidehi and Mrs Swati,

Thanks for voicing your opinion, it is truly regrettable the kind of peer pressure young children have to face. Imagine the plight of the students who are continously brought to such pitiful state. We as parents and educators own certain responsibility. Government apathy is a well known fact. The system is made in such a way that student has no other options.

Is getting good marks only way of achieving career goals? Why is our syllabus so ancient, dull and boring? Why is teaching and learning not made interesting?Why dont we have compulsory moral science for students till higher classes? Why dont we have sufficient number of good colleges in India? Why do we harp on cut off marks so much? Delhi university cut offs are as high as 95% and I have heard cases of students committing suicides since they lost by some 0.1%. Atleast Delhi colleges only look for merit unlike Mumbai colleges where there is always scope for back door entry thru connectins.

Anyway I am going overboard with all sentiments but yes I want to change lives of our innocent next gen. I want them to enjoy their childhood. Let us try to make it a better world for them. Hope we dont see many cases of suicides and hope we can make children understand that there is more to life than percentages. Failure is a part of life. It does not mean to stop life.

shruti ramani said...

Hello Mrs swati
I have read your blog on suicide of the younger generation, it is really sad to know that this younger generation is only on compettion, the competition is from all the four sides , like parents, the school, and he himself , actually it is not inbuilt, it is forced by the parents on them,
The parents should give a thought that how was their performance when they themselves were studying , It is should be taken lightly, I have seen the parents putting pressure on the children to bring the marks or come first come in class.
Childhood should be enjoyed it is not going to come back, you will never bring a child in him later, and i have seen everytime parents say beta bada ho jaa, abhi tu chota nahi, but he is still a child, let them enjoy their childhood,