The lonely road to marginalization

Few children brought to psychological counseling centers have learning difficulties or low IQs. The vast majority have given up on the learning process and school, which fail to imbue children with the desire to learn; «on the contrary, they destroy it,» said Roussou. «It is a failure of the school and not of the child,» she added. «School does not inspire the children, does not stimulate them, does not prod them. Quite a few children tell us, ‘I don’t want to learn.’ That’s tragic.» Some children have other kinds of psychological problems. Others have buckled under the pressure placed on them by their parents. «But parents don’t come to us and say, ‘I see my child is very anxious and depressed because he or she’s unhappy that we’re quarreling.’ They just say that he or she isn’t doing well at school.» The pressure to do well is harmful for the children, she said. «And the remedy that a society of parents and educators have found is the outrageous – and I mean this word – pressure on children to learn through endless hours of forced labor, which is what private lessons are.» Coaching colleges that function as crammers «feed off pressure. They are not simply the result of schools’ shortcomings; they are the cause. Why would so many people have private lessons if a pressuring climate did not exist?» But school was not the only factor involved in causing anxiety disorders. There was a predisposition to anxiety. «You grow up in a family in which there is anxiety and consequently you learn to function anxiously.» Parents and children are under extraordinary pressure to meet expectations, Roussou feels, and this may be coupled with financial problems. Children are often under pressure to learn. «I saw a child not long ago, a very good student who did two languages, gymnastics, drama and so forth. We analyzed her weekly program. She had half an hour a week which was not programmed. This is a crime, which adults commit to eradicate their feelings of guilt. «Play is not simply enjoying oneself, it is a very important means of socializing a child. They learn about themselves, the world, how to communicate, to obey rules, how to be a member of a team, how to lead a team. Play cultivates imagination and creativity. «Where can a child be socialized in Athens? On the balcony, in the apartment, which is small and where it annoys other people?» Spaces where children can play are very important, she concluded. All this leads to marginalization. «When the normal routes are blocked, you have to go somewhere,» said Roussou. A survey on smoking, which involved 4,000 adolescents, asked the respondents who they discussed problems with, friends or parents. Those who replied they discussed them with their parents were far less likely to smoke. «And children are defenseless before the scourge of drugs. Life on the margins means failing at school, drugs, smoking, sex without limits, alcohol, anxiety and depression,» she said. Children did not have these problems; these were problems that adults created for children. Protection, not independence Children loudly demand independence on the one hand, and on the other insist on protection from their parents – rather less loudly, said Alexandra Roussou. The response may be extreme strictness, which then justifies the adolescent in calling for greater independence, or the other extreme of absolute freedom. «In this case adolescents don’t say, ‘Protect me.’ They do dangerous things, harmful things, hoping their parents will hear their need for protection. «In a city which is basically out of their control, parents are walking a tightrope. The only thing they can do is to form good relations with their child from the moment it’s born. An attempt to develop good relations in the throes of adolescence is doomed.» Parents should talk with their children and be aware of who their friends are, she said. Also, children should neither be lied to nor unduly troubled. There is a ray of light in this darkness. «I have confidence in the kids themselves. Sometimes, you see children that have survived incredible adversity,» she said.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.