Ask your counsellor - Attitude of gratitude

Ask your counsellor - Attitude of gratitude

(photo for representation)

Dear Madam,

My sixteen-year-old daughter is hooked on to the internet and television. So much so that she doesn’t even engage in family conversations. However, she is well-behaved and good at studies. Whenever we enquire about her internet habits, she gets irritated and says that we shouldn’t bother about how she studies as she is achieving good results in all the activities she participates in. We are confused about how to respond. Please suggest.

Amala

Dear Amala,

Most teenagers distance themselves from grown-ups in an attempt to create space for themselves and carve out their own identity. These days a common way for them to do that is to escape into the virtual world. While this increases isolation and reduces the amount of “human” connection, it creates an illusion of being well-connected and belonging. If she is doing well and is focussed on her goals and what she needs to do for herself and her career, you should be thankful for it. The way to connect with teenagers is not to expect them to meet you where you are, but to meet them where they are.

Which means don’t expect them to join in on conversations that are of your interest but make the effort to have conversations which of interest to them, as an example? Being instructive, judgmental and directive often does not work; being accepting, non-judgmental and empathetic has a better chance of success. Having said that, the teen years are never easy – not for the parents, and not for the teenagers themselves. So good luck and remember to enjoy the journey because this too shall pass before you know it.

Dear Madam, 

There is a tendency among students now to just ignore whatever we say. They don’t even bother to respond. We as teachers feel so helpless and don’t know how to take the conversation forward. Why don’t they understand that we wish them the best and only want to guide them to the right path? 

A teacher

Dear teacher,

When we feel helpless is a good time to introspect and understand that feeling. Essentially, we feel helpless when we try to control something that is intrinsically not within our control – and our students definitely fall in that category. As a matter of fact, everything and everyone around us falls in the category of things we cannot control; we may be able to influence some but definitely not control them. If that is the case then, we need to remember instead to focus on what we can control because that reduces the feeling of helplessness and angst. And the only thing we can really control is ourselves, our thoughts, our behaviour, how we interpret the world around us, how much we allow it to impact us, and how accepting we are of things outside of our control.

So, when we are not able to control our students, can we do something differently ourselves to be able to influence them and connect with them. Can we analyse our own thoughts and behaviours towards our students, can we remove our biases and judgments and replace that with acceptance, understanding and connection, can we allow them to make their mistakes and still be accepting of them (with all their strengths and weaknesses)? Unfortunately, the way into the head and heart of a teenager can be quite complex and establishing an empathetic connection and communication often hold the key.

Dear Madam, 

I am a teenager. Though I like my parents, I am not able to connect with them these days. We have frequent quarrels at home and it is really disturbing all of us. I have the tendency to react negatively to whatever they say, that too in a raised voice. This is because they turn silent whenever I raise my voice. Though I feel that I should follow their advice and be a good boy, the decision evaporates as soon as we get into a conversation. 

Akash

Dear Akash,

I am really impressed by your honesty and the courage you have taken to put this issue forward. What you are experiencing is probably not that uncommon. Many teenagers, and probably many of your friends as well, may have similar issues. Some of this is due to the way the teenage brain is developing. Having said that, it does not mean that you cannot get help. You could possibly have some family counselling sessions where all of you learn to understand and respect each other’s point of view. But you could also take the help of a counsellor individually to help you navigate your relationship with your parents and understand your own emotions and thoughts.

I am sure that will end up making a difference in how you interpret what they say and that will reduce the need for you to end into a dysfunctional argument. Our behaviours and responses to events are really a function of how we understand an event and what meaning we attach to it. So if our understanding and the meaning we attach to it changes, our behaviour also changes.

Dear Madam, 

I am a merit student and am doing my engineering in a reputed college. I am not from a privileged background and I feel a bit hesitant to mingle with other students. Also, I feel that others talk about me, my dress, conduct etc. This is impacting my behaviour at home and I keep on telling my parents that they are not wealthy enough to meet my needs and that they didn’t teach me how to socialise.

Deepa

Dear Deepa,

If you just for a moment took the time to focus on what you have, instead of what you do not have, maybe the world would not look as bleak. I am sure your parents are giving you the best they can. You are privileged in that you have parents, in that they are providing you an education, in that you have the opportunity to go to college, in that you are intelligent and are therefore able to be a merit student, in that you got admission into an engineering college, in that your education at an engineering college has the potential to open several doors for you and change your life and that of your family. There are many who are less fortunate than you. The world and our parents do not owe us anything. We need to be thankful for what the world has provided us and make the best use of the opportunities and privileges we have received.

There will always be people who may be better off than us in some respects, as well as people who may be worse of that us in other aspects. If we focus only on the first set, we feel frustrated and inadequate. If we focus on the second set, we feel satisfied and fortunate. It is a choice we can make about which set to focus on. My suggestion would be to shift your focus, develop an attitude of gratitude and believe in yourself. Those are things you can control. You are worthy and capable and valuable because of who you are, not because of the clothes you wear and the friends you have. There will be millions who would readily trade places with you.

Dear Madam,

I am a PG student. I keep worrying about my future and end up procrastinating. I lack confidence and am not sure if I can successfully pass the entrance exams. I have lost many opportunities because of self-doubt and my passive nature. How do I overcome this?

Rishab

Dear Rishab,

I think it will be extremely helpful for you to take the help of a counsellor to help you work through your thoughts and beliefs that lead to your procrastinating behaviour, your lack of confidence and your self-doubt and passivity.

Unfortunately, everyone processes the world in a different way and unless I speak to you at length I cannot provide you with a generic answer of what will help you to overcome this. All I can say is taking the help of a counsellor can be a game-changer. Good luck!

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