Lending a helping hand

Growing concern

Lending a helping hand

The case of a 13-year-old girl running away from home, fearing that poor academic performance would invite the wrath of her parents, once again underlines the pulls and pressures a growing child has to negotiate.

Psychologists and educationists say adolescence is a phase that needs to be dealt with very carefully. Children in their teens deal with multiple expectations besides peer and academic pressure. Their biggest support system should be at home where they should not end up facing more pressure from parents, experts assert. Dr Chittaranjan Andrade, professor and head, department of psychopharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), feels that if parents really want to have well-adjusted children, the best time to start is early childhood. “Parents need to spend quantity time as well as quality time with their children. The children need to feel loved and respected. They need to feel secure in their homes and comfortable knowing that if anything goes wrong, they can talk to their parents about it,” says Dr Chittaranjan. 

Some like Indrani Baruah, an employee at Accenture, agree that children fall prey to all kinds of pressures and it is only parents who can help them cope with the demands of a very competitive society without driving them into depression. Indrani says, “While education is a priority, parents must understand that extra-curricular activities are just as important as academics. This will help the child strike a balance between academics and other activities.” Indrani adds that children must be given the freedom to choose what they want to do and guided in that direction. “It is better to guide children well rather than getting them to fall in line with what parents want,” she says. Indrani feels parents must make time to spend with their children because youngsters are capable of thinking independently.

“It pays to be friends with them and guide them rather than be authoritative and get things done,” she adds.

Dr Chittaranjan feels parents must not put any kind of pressure on children. He warns about what happens if the child has a vulnerability to stress or has an actual psychological disorder. “Then every additional stress such as high parental expectations or failure in an examination can be a predisposition to a rash act. Such rash acts rarely occur out of the blue. There are usually many warning signs that the child is unhappy and cannot cope, and both parents and teachers should be alert to such signs,” he cautions.

He feels parents should look out for any signs of distress in the child and seek professional help rather than leave the child to his own devices.

There are a few parents who feel freedom comes with responsibility and that applies not just to children but parents as well. Rajesh Krishnan, father of a teenage son, thinks parents and educational institutions must work hand in hand towards moulding children into complete individuals. “We live in a competitive world where multitasking is the key to success. Most parents like me fear that if we don’t give our child the right kind of balance in education and other related activities, they may just get left behind,”he says. Rajesh points out that it is better to instill a healthy competitive spirit in children from a young age rather than put them through a lot of pressure.
 
Dr Roshan R Jain, senior consultant, psychiatry, Apollo Hospitals, feels that the Indian society lays more emphasis on quantity rather than quality. “Parents always ask their children what marks they’ve got and tend to compare them to that of another child rather than seeing if the child has done better than the last time. This puts an enormous amount of stress on the child and he or she is forced to meet the expectations of the parents,” reasons Dr Roshan. He says undue pressure or stress can make people act and behave in an impulsive manner. “Children must be given the freedom to learn from their mistakes and grow,” he states.

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