Over-Exposure & Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO)
Parents everywhere in the world are the same, wanting their child to have the best of learnings and variety of experiences that can be given in their childhood. The intent can’t be doubted, however the way we go about achieving this today can be quite a task especially if one’s time is tied up with professional or personal work and with little time to observing our decisions and actions.
Whenever parents of teenagers or young adults approach or consult us on their children’s behaviour, or their approach and attitude towards life, it keeps recurring to us that many children predominantly by their late adolescences and early adulthood are completely jaded with life i.e. seen it all, no curiosity or wonder in anything; prefer to be spoon-fed with regard to knowledge and information rather than seeking knowledge; lack observation skills to gauge the situation or emotions, opportunities & some simply lack courage to express their true thoughts, ideas and emotions.
Bigger issue is the ‘Lack of Perseverance’ to complete what they have started – they do appear flighty, switch tasks frequently, procrastinate frequently – all of which is a concern and rings alarm-bells, not to mention the inability to handle uncertainty and the strong need to know the entire day’s plan before-hand and any deviations being resisted strongly.
The reason I picked these 3 behaviours was their link to each other – Observation-Wonder-Perseverance, from my understandings and interactions with the children is that all these have arisen from “Over-exposure” to many activities and too frequently. i.e. Sugar-Rush for the head-heart-hands in realm of education.
Parents or children want to enroll in as many programs or courses, wanting to take them to as many events or sessions. We (it appears) are quite terrified of boredom, especially if our children should raise this matter up. Boredom is the river which we must cross to go towards creativity and is by itself is another blog-worthy topic and for another day.
We are all familiar with sugar rush and damage caused to our bodies by soft drinks like the colas or packaged chips and fructose-rich packaged foods, apart from the mental sugar rush that arises from using smart-phones, video gaming and media addiction. We also need to become more mindful of the sugar rush type feeling happening to the subtler elements of the children’s growth and its effect on their head, heart and hands.
Sugar-Rush (like a dopamine high state) or Over-Exposure of new activities and their effect on the head-heart-hands on a growing child
Head Overexposure – Variety of new learnings and experiences, actually a bombardment of them, including tons of information and again no soaking of any experience fully, rather novice level learning of a multitude of things; although counter-intuitive – children actually enjoy when the same learning experience is repeated again and again and each time a new level of their own understanding builds up within them and without an adult having to explaining it (boredom is more for the parents or adults and not for the child, they usually cope with it by becoming creative with how to use their time – provided no new-age toys are given).
The question we must ask each time we want to take a child somewhere or want to enrol to a course is ‘What is it that I want my child to experience or learn; How many days of engagement; How are the facilitators or mentors bringing it out to my child; Does it inspire them i.e. do they want to come home and do more of it; What is the negative consequence of this learning experience (cause the positive ones are already listed in the marketing flyer)’; is this activity right for my child’s age and developmental milestone. You could add some more questions which may make sense to your specific situation.
Heart Overexposure – Lack of spending sufficient amount of time in any one particular activity or discipline creates a false sense of ‘I Know’ and it also lacks of solid, good bonds of friendship which can only happen with long term interactions, positive social-emotional learning and well-being. There is no soulful connect with the activity and soon within a few days or weeks all is forgotten.
Heavily instruction led activities with little room for playful imagination stifles the heart-element of education. We can only do so many things in a day or a weekend or in a lifetime. We shouldn’t restrict to accounting for every minute of life, slow-learning approach allow us to immerse in a deeper learning experience, encourages learning encounters with people and most importantly builds imagination. Learn few things and learn them well.
Hands Overexposure – Muscle memory is a knowledge body in its own right when it comes to music, skill-based work, similarly sports (one cannot calculate what speed the tennis ball is approaching us and then move the racket at the appropriate speed, rather we move through intuition which gets better with practice) only through doing the same thing again and again – repeated practice – the body builds its own knowledge bank “Intuition” and develops the necessary muscles and signals needed to guide it. The intuition ability gets strengthened.
The real observation skills, wonder-awe and perseverance come from working with hands. Recently our apprentice group of children planted watermelon saplings in a commercial farm and working there was a true eye-opener for them and whatever false notions they had anticipated or imagined was shattered and made them more humble.
With summer round the corner, summer camps are not far behind. A little mindfulness in what and where they getting enrolled, how many such courses should they enrol into or an even bigger question is if it’s even needed or can they enjoy a well-earned summer break with minimum courses to attend.
Fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) is a real fear of people and parents in particular, we want to attend with our children every possible program or event there is to attend and we especially don’t want the children missing out on any new learning or new experiences and this it comes at a cost in later years by depriving them of wonder-awe-perseverance-observation – been there and done that but not truly – only superficially. This over-exposure makes these adolescents lose their spunk in life, become disillusioned; lack will to get things done. We must become mindful like all the other sugar-rush illusions.
To sum it up;
- Take it Easy! It may be one life but hopefully not the last, let’s do our very best in whatever we do in this life; immerse ourselves in whatever we learn (rather than float around between different experiences), it’s not possible to experience everything and that’s ok. It’s not possible to be an expert in butterflies or birds and also climb all the mountain ranges in the Himalayas, to get good at one – let go of the other, if there is time why-not but don’t chase it.
- Less is more – when it comes to courses, events, etc. etc., if you must attend; then go for the same one on multiple days or times – go for one (max two) type of coaching/music/any class and for a whole year before trying out another.
- Check your reasons why you’re doing something – Is it fear-of-missing-out; are you living your childhood through your child (I didn’t get to do all these – let me give them to my child, I can afford to).
- What is it that you’re trying to build or cultivate in your child – i.e. when you enrol or visit all the exhibitions, programs, courses, sports, music etc.? Among other things, do ask;
- Will this cultivate ‘Original Thinking’ (Scientific temper, Out-of-the-box thinking etc.)
- Does this build their ‘Courage’ (theatre is one of the great ways to build this quality – although there are many other ways too)
- Does it build discipline and perseverance to follow through their ideas with actions, to build a sense of love for their work and sense of duty to complete it.
- Does it build a community spirit, collaboration and personal development
- Is it another sugar-rush course or program – which neither the child nor you will remember in a few days or weeks’ time and neither would it have left any lasting imprint on the child or you.
- Assess the child informally and through observation – to see if you can meet the child’s need through one of the activities of head, heart or hands so as to balance their growth and development.
The blog’s intent was to make us become mindful of the forces of over-exposure and FOMO and how they affect our parenting and teaching styles and possible consequences if untended or unnoticed.
As part of Skills Beyond Education team of mentors or simply as person working in this realm, this is something I enjoy deliberating on whilst observing and working with children and young adults through their behavioural patterns in the age group of 13 to 24 years. For us, each parent-child combination brings in their own uniqueness, strengths and challenges.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s an evolutionary advantage to be born or to grow up in a rural setting today.
Capt. Preetham Madhukar
pH: 9845 390 160