Raising the Happiness Bar, Let’s Stop Caring About What Sharma Ji ka Beta Is Up To

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Haven’t we started to believe that it is normal for children to cross a 20 feet chasm in one gigantic jump? Haven’t we coloured their perception and rated ‘being successful’ as the most important thing in life? Haven’t we set delusional high standards for them to be well settled. The famous ‘Sharma ji ka beta’ have been shoved down their throat since the time they are up on their feet. The environment stimulus is urging them to keep pace with everything, be it the global education, job prospects, pay packages, flourishing career, or the oozing fitness level. Picture perfect we idolise them to be. Look good to feel good. Do good to feel good.

The feel-good factor is getting insane significance without realising the consequences of it. Behind the ultra-stylish shades, and Snapchat filters there’s a deadpan face of a troubled urban youth, trying to make sense of his existence. What is he supposed to do for being liked and loved by his parents? What is he supposed to do to get through and get ahead of the competition?  What is he supposed to do to fetch the validation from the outer world which has nothing to do with his mental, physical, or emotional health. People aged 15 to 24 years have the highest suicide rate in India, which is consistent with international trends in youth suicide.

The youth is pining and yearning for things they cannot have at once. There must be a reason why we are ranked 136th in the World Happiness Report, 2022 released by the United Nation Sustainable development solution network. The report placed a total of 146 countries on the list and invariably year after year we are lagging behind. There’s something that we are doing enormously and evidently wrong.

Let’s try to change the narrative.

What if I say, 20 years from now we can have a generation of people who are empathetic, compassionate and kind. People who consider mental peace as priority. What if I say, this is possible if we bring some significant changes in the way we nurture them. All those who are in the business of bringing up children, understand that it’s the toughest job on the face of earth.

With our limited knowledge and experience, we try to raise them. As we move from one milestone to another, it’s important that children get to know what’s happening inside them, understand their emotions, identify their emotion, learn to deal with strong emotions and behaviours and be empathetic towards other’s emotions and perspectives.

Vast evidence of research has shown how social emotional skills have a long-lasting impact on the relationship children have with others as they understand what they want and are able to connect and communicate better with people around them. Things can turn out better when children learn to make mindful, responsible and informed decisions.

In the ever-expanding competitive world, where everyone is chasing the “feel good factor”, the feel good has been completely out of the text books. Survival of the fittest is something we have taken too seriously. When was the last time somebody was applauded for being the kindest in the class and not the most intelligent?

We are raising a generation of young people, who are thriving on insecurity and self-doubt. The element of happiness and self-discovery is a far-fetched. Kindergarten starts at a tender age of 2.5 years and all throughout the childhood we regale kids in the narrative that do well in academics and you would do well in life.

May be what will work as magic would be introduction of Social Emotional Learning interventions at individual level, school level, community level to bring that ocean of change. This will help them achieve academic success, lowers the likelihood of maladjustment, failed relationships, interpersonal aggression, substance abuse, and dissatisfaction in general. It increases the likelihood of being peacefully settled at the face of adversity. It strategically improves cognitive skills, which results in the ability to apply logic and reasoning to situations.

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With a change in pedagogy / teachers’ approach, students centered activities, focus on experiential learning, creative thinking; it will boast emotional intelligence of children which would lead to fostering academic performance. Integrating social emotional aspect in education would prepare a generation of adults who are compassionate, kind, and empathetic. In the countries where social emotional learning is a part of academic curriculum and community living, it has yielded best results in terms of student’s prosocial behaviour, pointedly reduced the cases of bullying or substance abuse, interpersonal violence and hence coping mechanism has helped children to be more socially adjusted and academically effective.

A structured layout of SEL interventions at primary level would help to lay down the foundation of SEL application. For higher education, we need solid support of social emotional competencies to help young adults stand in good stead to face the competition, challenges of the future and prepare them for a well-balanced life.

Let’s try to change the narrative “Sharma ji ka beta/ beti is happy in life” and that should matter the most.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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