You only have to turn on the TV to see why the mental health of our youth is suffering. If our politicians, the leaders of our state and country talk to each other with such contempt and disgust, how can we expect our children to talk nicely to each other?
Reality TV continually broadcasts people manipulating situations, using and abusing each other, all the while talking with disgust to achieve something for their own benefit. With the backstabbing, cast member brawls, and tear-filled confessionals, the majority of reality TV isn't exactly known for its ethics or for showing kindness to others. Social media platforms portray a false sense of reality and are glamourised by users and influencers. This is having a hugely negative effect on users’ mental health.
So why then are we in a society that chooses to watch these shows and interact with these social media platforms that depict such a bullying culture? To quote Lisa Curry "Be careful who you follow on Instagram. Be careful who you aspire to be. Because not everything is as it seems on social media. The world at the moment is a funny place. Humans are ruining humankind. We need to be kind to people, we need to know that every second person is struggling in some way."
Is it any wonder that the mental health of our youth is deteriorating rapidly. The statistics on bullying continue to rise which in turn leads to mental health issues. Why do we band-aid everything? Why are we not looking at prevention or at the very least, early intervention? Let’s start at the source and change what is obviously not working. The source is clearly how people are treating each other. Bullying is the ongoing or repeated misuse of power in relationships, and we as adults are seriously letting our children down.
Adults, especially celebrities in the spotlight, leaders, teachers, parents all need to think how their words and actions are interpreted by children and the youth of today. We are currently doing children a great disservice by continually playing out these self-destructive behaviours. Suicide is now the biggest killer of Australian youth.
Identifying and providing effective change in the way we role model, can and will, help prevent bullying and mental health problems from occurring. We need to be responsible for our actions and we have the power to make a difference. We all need to role model positive behaviours, kindness, empathy, compassion, consideration, gratitude and respect.
There is a region in our brains known as the Cooperative Centre. It’s a part of the brain that allows us to positively collaborate with others and to be kind to one another. We are all born with this innate capacity for kindness. But, just like any part of the brain the Cooperative Centre is flexible. If it is used often enough, it’s maintained, but if it’s not used, it will shrink away. Kindness is a part of our nature, but education allows us to maintain our Cooperative Centre.
If we have kindness education in schools and foster a culture of kindness in society, everyone will be surrounded by examples of kindness from an early age and learn to make kindness a habit. This strengthens the Cooperative Centre and the youth of today will grow into kinder adults.
Are adults not supposed to model good behaviour? Monkey see, monkey do. Surely the only way to change and influence behaviour is to model it. We are our children’s role models.
I often find myself thinking, ‘gosh, I am turning into my mother.’ But I am lucky because my mother spent her life showering us with love and kindness. She gave her time, her guidance and her words of wisdom which have shaped me into who I am today.
How we speak about people, how we show kindness, how we show up, be present... these are the things our children will take from us and duplicate in their own lives.
So, what can we do now as parents and role models?
Take the lead in your children’s lives to celebrate and hero kindness. After all monkey see, monkey do.
Image by Lisa Fotios