By Prof. K.V. Satyan, Camp: Texas, USA
Some time back I had an important conversation with a parent or one of my students. He was very disturbed because his only daughter was behaving in a very strange manner.
The girl in her teens, usually bright and outgoing, had suddenly become silent, sullen and sulking. She looked worried and tensed, had lost appetite and perhaps sleep too. Any casual talk or suggestion would irritate and annoy her. The members of the small family were greatly worried, naturally since a spirited child had become a total stranger.
This kind of report by worried parents of adolescents was not new to me. My association with this very sensitive group (adolescents) is a long journey, of over four decades and I have some experience in dealing with such emotionally disturbed kids, and helping them to regain the lost stability. Two or three sessions separately with the child and parents opened up details of improper handling of the child, which can be termed as wrong parenting, though not deliberately. Positive results started showing with successive counselling, which brought relief to all concerned.
In this regard, it may be of some use, for parents and children in similar situations, if some of the following issues are given some attention:
- Teach children to identify positive values, by talking to them with prudence, about self-esteem, honesty, personal effort, goal setting and, of course, about correct focus in life. Try and make a personal example.
- Maintain loving relationship by spending time with them REGULARLY.
- Help them to build self-confidence, so that they can support themselves in troubled situations.
- Listen to their complaints. They may reveal if they are being bullied or blackmailed by class mates or others.
- Remove their feeling of insecurity and fear and sadness by positively responding to their feelings and reassuring them that you are there ALWAYS to help them.
- Train them to be in the company of good friends because bullies will be looking for lonely individuals.
- Avoid giving smart phones to school-going kids. If you cannot help, then at least keep an eye on your child’s internet and chats and e-mails because these reveal a lot of information about your own child. Build a friendly and positive attitude with the child so that your eye on the chats etc., will not be misinterpreted as spying.
- Do not criticise their dreaming or idealism in public, but gently correct them when they are dogmatic, intolerant and impatient.
- Do not always sermonise or insult in whatsoever manner, that may hurt their feelings and image.
- Look at the warning signals like sudden drop in academics, losing friends, losing books and other materials like watch or calculator (I mean thefts), torn clothes, small physical injuries (They could be the results of fights with peers). Your child may not open up and disclose all details at once, but gentle handling of the situation will gradually reveal some aspects of the trouble. It all depends on how you have built your bridges with your children.
- Most of the time bullying or ragging takes place in the school bus or while on ground during free time, cheating even the most watchful eye of the staff. So try to know who are your kid’s friends and with whom the child is not comfortable. It will help. Train them to report to you any unpleasant event big or small without delay.
- Have no doubt in your mind that adolescence is a period associated with conflict, challenge, tension and turmoil (more now than when you were of that age).
Therefore, all of us, teachers, parents and relatives have to understand that it is our combined responsibility to see these children safely through this period of transition, when they will be facing social and emotional challenges, where they experience more than normal anxiety and fear not able to know how to reason it out. It is very important to monitor them carefully because they are unquestionably the future of our society.