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In today’s ever evolving world, there is significant concern, dialogue and response for flagrant problems affecting children and youth, such as malnutrition, lack of education, child labor and child abuse. This is understandable as these issues pose a serious threat to children and youth throughout the world, and, as a result, have been observed and documented.
Current findings suggest that 30% of children from low-income and middle-income countries are suffering from malnutrition ; around 59 million children are deprived of a basic primary education; an estimated 150 million children are engaged in child labor, many who are forced to engage in highly risky work; millions of children are abused.
However, there are less conspicuous problems affecting children and youth that still go unnoticed by most of us because they are ingrained in social customs and family expectations. And truth be told, these issues are no less important. Being condoned by the majority, these problems are thwarting future generations from leading the world to greater purpose and prosperity.
While we all have to work whole-heartedly to ensure that children and youth receive basic human rights, we must also pay heed to the other side of the coin! Those who are not deprived of these basic needs, are they allowed to grow and flourish in their own right, or are they confined to the social constructs laid out by their families and society? Do we not hold the responsibility of ensuring that children and youth are allowed to reach their maximum potential by pursuing their own choices for their future?
Dr. Pramatha Chowdhury, an eminent Bengali writer, once said, “the deaths of bodies are always registered, but those of souls are not.” This is a profound thought on human nature and individuality, and the ability to pursue a path in life that leads to self-fulfillment.
As research suggests, more than 300 million people around the world now suffer from depression, and the number of children and youth suffering from this is significant. But as strange as it may seem, children and youth who receive their basic needs are contributing the most to this number. Of the many factors behind depression, society’s obdurate attitude towards a youth’s choice in career is one, though we are the least concerned about that.
Every child is born with immense potential and innumerable possibilities. As he or she grows up, genetics as well as nurturing play a vital role in this process. But as a human being, every child creates his or her own world apart from all those family teachings and school lessons.
As children grow, they develop their own sense of ethics, moral values and mannerisms. They learn to distinguish between right and wrong, what kind of interests they have, and develop a sense of purpose in life in their own way.
This is quite a natural phenomenon. Obviously, family as well as other elements of society take part in the process; however, problems arise when children and youth are forced to abide by certain beliefs and expectations in life. Parents and society’s expectations should never be the deciding factor in the path a child takes when he or she is ready to pursue his or her own life goals.
It is quite illogical as well as immoral to force a child to make a certain career choice. The problem is more blatant in the under-developed and developing countries. It is a common scenario that parents make their children take science/commerce/humanities courses during high school without taking the child’s own choices into consideration. And when they fail to demonstrate their adeptness and proficiency in those fields, these children get admonished and eventually they find themselves drowning in abysmal despair.
Statistics don’t always tell the truth! Despite being provided with all their basic needs, these children suffer from the anxiety and stress of meeting expectations and being forced to take paths in life that are not their own.
There is a saying that, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is a stupid.” We should keep this in mind. Society needs both the artists and the artisans to thrive.
Parents should never force their own path and expectations on their children, they should consider supporting them with their own interests and endeavors. When one can work with whatever he or she likes, and nurture their passions, it becomes possible to make meaningful contributions to society in his or her own way.
In his famous book “The Prophet,” Kahlil Gibran writes, “they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you, but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
This delineates the actual responsibilities of parents and society’s expectations towards children, and it is sage advice for those who attempt to control a child’s future. We have to ensure a safer world for our progenies. In the meantime, we should value their opinions too.
Guidance is, of course, necessary; but, it is important that family and other social elements do not create a shadow over a child’s ability to thrive in their own right. A plant under the shadow of another tree can never grow enough. Imagination should never get strangled by reasoned deliberation.
All should show their sincere-most attitude for the nourishment and total betterment of each and every child around them. For a better world, we should all work harder to ensure basic human rights for all children as well as the ability to let them nurture and grow in their own way. Hence, we will be able to keep accelerating the growth and prosperity of human civilization.
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