Dr. Xu Kaiwen, former Beijing University Student Mental Health Education and Counseling Center, brought attention to the concept of “hollow heart syndrome” at the 9th New Oriental Family Education Summit six years ago.
On April 22, 2023, we once again invited Dr. Xu Kaiwen to speak at the “Mingde Zhihe” Haidian District Family Education Forum. When discussing the current mental health situation of teenagers, Dr. Xu stated, “It may be the worst time since the reform era.”
“Based on statistical data, many college students have experienced self-harm or even contemplated suicide. In recent years, such conditions have become increasingly severe among primary and secondary school students. The pandemic has had a significant impact, with the occurrence of extreme incidents among primary and secondary school students being 2 to 10 times higher before and after the pandemic.”
When the water in the pond is contaminated,
the fish will inevitably have issues.
Let me share some basic data with you.
According to a national mental health survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the detection rate of depression among middle school students is 24.7%, meaning one in four children has depressive symptoms.
An epidemiological survey conducted by the National Health Commission revealed that 17.5% of children and adolescents have psychological and mental disorders.
Research conducted by Nanjing Brain Hospital indicates that the incidence of non-suicidal self-harm among middle school students nationwide is as high as 27%.
These data indicate that severe mental health problems are afflicting the adolescent population. It is no longer an isolated issue but affects one-fourth or even more of the population. What are the underlying causes behind these problems?
One of my basic points, this really needs the attention of the whole society. Every family has children, and children are our most important people.
For example, in 2015, the haze was very serious all over the country, which directly led to the soaring incidence of respiratory system diseases and even cancer. Yesterday I read a paper that the incidence of esophageal cancer increases by 18% with a 10% increase in the concentration of PM2.5. Therefore, it is not enough to rely on doctors to treat respiratory system disorders without proper treatment of smog.
In the 26 years that I have been in practice, the problem of children and adolescents is getting worse and worse. This is not going to be solved by increasing the number of psychologists.
When the water in a pond goes wrong, the fish in the pond can go wrong no matter how long they grow.
I’m sure every parent feels that kids today are really unhappy. Now, a strange phenomenon has appeared in the education of teenagers: although we can meet the material needs of children, but children seem to be less and less happy.
Children’s scores are getting higher and higher, but their motivation is getting lower and their creativity is getting worse.
When I was in Peking University, I felt that our classes were getting quieter and quieter, students were getting better at writing notes and writing more and more beautiful assignments, but I rarely saw unique insights, and the courage to challenge teachers and challenge authorities.
Let me tell you something typical that I experienced. Two years ago, I opened a course in Peking University called “psychological trauma treatment,” students will have two weeks audition time. Two weeks later, a student came to ask me, he said, Teacher Xu, I think your class is particularly fruitful, especially good, and has a wide range of knowledge, because it talks about human historical trauma.
You are welcome to take this class. But his next question made me very angry. He said, “Mr. Xu, do you score high in this class?” My final grade is very important. If you don’t give me a high grade, I won’t take your class because it will affect my GPA.
The reason why I am angry is, don’t you go to the best university, you can listen to the best teacher’s class, the best thing is not important, the important thing is only the score? Grades are the least important thing, but it’s becoming more and more common why children put so much emphasis on academic performance.
Our learning conditions are getting better and better, but children’s weariness is becoming more and more common.
Haidian parents, for example, Haidian can be said to be the country’s most leading education district, we do everything possible to exhaust the family money for children to buy a school district housing, to participate in expensive cram school, but the children dislike, refuse, and even become enemies with their parents.The harder the parents work, the worse the relationship.
In the past few years, we have done more than 10 forums with directors of education bureaus, principals and teachers across the country, nearly 100 interviews, and I have done at least tens of thousands of hours of psychological counseling for thousands of children. Walking into their inner world, I found that children are more and more bitter, teachers are more and more tired, parents are more and more anxious, how hard you try, children do not cooperate, the situation is lost.We are still in a state of more involution and more internal friction.
In this regard, I would like to talk about three things.
More and more kids are lying down.
Today’s children suffer from academic hardship, academic fatigue, and more homework.
I have a deep feeling that the whole society is very anxious. From a psychiatrist’s point of view,we all have generalized anxiety, alarmist fears, undue worries about something that hasn’t happened.We fear that if our kids make a bad move, they lose, and their lives will be ruined.
Now the high school entrance examination is more pressure than the college entrance examination, the high school entrance examination should be diverted, if the child can not go to high school life will be destroyed. Children feel that there is no happiness in life, because he has no time to be happy, and even feel that life is meaningless, and all his time is given to study, homework, and exams.More and more children are lying down.
My daughter’s third year, the day before yesterday she cried, a mold out of the results are not ideal, compared with good friends, my daughter has not made much progress. I talked to her about 12: 00 last night.
I have three questions for parents –
- Our love for our own flesh and blood, will not because she finally failed to enter the ideal school and therefore less?
- Can you accept that your child is not as good as you?
- We can accept the children’s education is not high, I do not have good grades, I do not earn more money, they are not as good as us this generation?
Imagine such a scene, if as long as the child’s academic performance is good, you can go to the north, I am willing to turn against him, you are willing?
I don’t think people would. But psychological counseling, I found that whether it is high school students or college students, this situation is too much.
Today's kids have changed. Parents haven't kept up.
I especially want to talk to you about the parents of the sword.What is the most typical performance of this sacrifice?
Just mentioned, we can not accept the children as we, but you have to understand how to call “not as good as,” is a certain degree higher than you, academic performance better than you, earn more money than you, is a generation better than a generation?
One of my basic observations is that people of my generation did get into universities from rural and urban areas through their own efforts. In the end, we have a good job and career, we have a good income, we are satisfied with our life, and then we have an idea, hope our children copy our success, but can life be copied?Times have changed dramatically.
Once there was a visitor, a high school girl, who twice went to the roof of the school, which was very dangerous.After we rescued her, we went to family counseling.
Their family just sat down and began to quarrel, what is happiness?
The parents of the post-60s generation are professors at a university in Beijing, and their answer is that life is very happy if they are well fed and well dressed.
The child listened to this word on the anxious, “no wonder you think I do not know the blessing in the blessing, the original you feel full of food, warm clothes should be happy, I have not been happy for this!” Because she never lost, never lacked these things.
She said,“My happiness is very simple. It has nothing to do with money. I want to talk to my parents on an equal footing and with respect.”
When she finished, her parents were also anxious and said:” How can we treat you unfairly, disrespectfully, and undemocratically? We are a democracy. You have to make all your own decisions. What else do you want?”
The child put the parents back in a word, let the parents speechless, she said: “You let me decide, but if my ideas don’t match yours, You will convince me to accept your argument, so you are all fake democracies, I already know that, so I guess what you think every time I give you the answer, but it is not my decision, it is not my life, it is not my life.”
What is the most grievance for parents when there is conflict between parents and children? I gave him the best road, I gave him the best thing, why didn’t he want it? Why would he make that mistake, try that mistake?
I answer parents like this:Young biggest capital is can make mistakes, you let him wrong once, he is nothing but want to do this thing, perhaps you think this is not the best choice, but this is his choice.
I would rather choose a choice that I want than the best one that someone else has arranged for me. The more you arranged it, the more you controlled it, the more he resented it, the more he felt that it was not my life, nor my life, and that I could take it away at any time.
A person should have a lot to support their own things, in addition to academic performance, interpersonal relations, sports, labor, friends, this is a great wealth of life. If none of these things matter, the only thing that matters is the score, and we narrow our way.
Why are children hollow? Because they feel that life is worthless and meaningless.Because we don’t give our children the best, they even deny themselves and degrade themselves.
What do parents do best for their children?
When Peking University students enter the school each year, they must do mental health education.
What I findmost difficult is patriotism.Why patriotism? What is our relationship with the nation?
We may feel that what we have now is the result of our own efforts.
But let’s not forget that we built on the foundation of national rejuvenation and national prosperity over the past 40 years. Because the country is getting stronger and stronger, everyone’s good life will be guaranteed.
What is culture? The soul is weak and weak.
What is the heart of Tao, Confucius clearly explained: Theway of the university, in the clear Germany.
What is Mingde? Mencius further explained, what is the core idea of Confucian culture? It’s Jen. What is Jen? Compassion, the end of benevolence.
Therefore, altruistic behavior, people and born only good altruism, can help others, can contribute to the country, this matter is a great self-affirmation, do not need to be taught, there will be human nature. Wang Yangming said, “the man who is kind is the heart of heaven and earth.” This is a very great difference between Chinese and Western cultures.
In Chinese culture, there is a conscience.
But why are our children hollow now? Why they are anxious, depressed, and self-denying.
Professor Yan Liangshi of Hunan Normal University and I cooperated to study the relationship between conscience and emptiness of middle school and college students. The results showed that conscience has eight hearts: gratitude, filial piety, responsibility, right and wrong, compassion, shame, forgiveness and honesty.
We should teach our children to have these eight hearts, which is the instinct of life, but also the wisdom of life.
Our children are unhappy because we are doing the opposite.Family and school education should return to learning as adults, calling and helping our children to upgrade their minds.
Now the material has been getting better and better, the country is getting better. The next step is to make everyone more and more noble and beautiful people.
The Solution of Contemporary Adolescent Mental Illness
I think this affects everyone in every family, so we must use the determination and thought of governance haze to govern the pathological environment of education.
Learning can’t compete.This sentence was said by Mr. Gu Mingyuan of Beijing normal University and honorary president of the Chinese Society of Education, which benefited me very much. We are now too competitive, lose the initial heart of education, the examination is to better learn, is to master knowledge, not for the final academic performance. Study is only for the exam, and at the end of the day you will be tired of learning.
Reduce your child’s stress and deal with parental anxiety first.In clinic, we found that parents are more anxious than children. The most important reason for children’s problems is that parents pass their anxiety to their children.
So, to summarize,what parents shouldn’t do
First, parents must not put their anxiety and pressure on their children.
Second, do not involve the child in the relationship. If you have a disagreement with your spouse, don’t let your child be a sandwich cookie.
Third, don’t give money without love.
Fourth, don’t over-protect, spoil the child and break the rules.
Fifth, don’t use grades as the only criterion for judging children.
Parents must do:
First, accompany children to grow up and enjoy the role of parents.
Second, our wealth is to give children more freedom of choice, we must pay attention to protect children’s creativity, and passion for learning and life, not academic performance.
We often force children out of anxiety and depression because of the results of academic performance, but the most important thing is his lifelong passion for learning, love of life and creativity.
Now that ChatGPT is popular, will we be replaced by AI? I’ve talked to a lot of top experts, you know the last thing human beings can be replaced is to create something out of nothing. We must cultivate in our children a passion for gratitude and exploration of the world, and not be destroyed by results.
Third, listen to the child. There are education and rules, but also understanding and respect, to understand that their world is much worse than ours, so listen to children.
Finally, act in the world, practice. Qian Liqun, a famous professor at Peking University, once said that colleges and universities are now cultivating exquisite egoists, who are villains in terms of Confucian culture.Because we don’t train our children to be gentlemen, I think our family education should train them to be the gentlemen of our cultural identity.