Tuesday, 11 February 2014



A few years back,when I first saw my adolescent son’s profile on Facebook for the first time, it gave me quite a turn. Though I don’t know what upset me more… the fact that my innocent babe –in- the- woods was now on a worldwide networking site ; or the fact that among all this ,he had not thought of including me in his list of friends. Well, I was suddenly reminded of that dreaded term--- Generation gap. Was it happening to me? He was only 13! And I fancied myself to be a modern, understanding mom yet I was not computer savvy and not active on social networking sites. It made me sit up and take notice of where I had missed a few steps to being a hands-on mom. I was definitely not going to let my ignorance drive me away from my kids so I fell headlong on the pursuit of special skills I might need to acquire to help in harmonious coexistence with my teen-aged kids

So for all of you, who have teenagers at home, I want to say, ‘Please open your eyes to their expanding world, even though we might believe that the world we came from was perfect.’ Every generation believes that the values they grew up with were the ultimate and endless parallels are drawn between “in our time “and ‘nowadays.’ But we don’t want to produce a generation of half - hearted clones of ourselves. Life is not a competition between ‘our’ ways and ‘their’ ways. That they are individuals in their own right and not merely an extension of our personalities is a lesson that is best learnt at the earliest.

Young people today are dealing with varied situations arising out of increasing academic and peer group pressures. Also their mode of recreation, their spending power and their level of awareness of their immediate environment is way beyond our imagination. So if we do not wish to lose all points of connection with them, we simply have to step into and explore the world they live in.

 Youngsters today have their opinions on anything and everything. So it would be worthwhile to stop and think before vetoing their views. If we close our minds to anything new that they want to share with us we shut off all channels of further communication.

I was surprised when at a wedding we attended recently my adolescent daughter was closely watching some quite overdressed ladies and would whisper in my ear.’ Did you see that dress…? Gosh, I need goggles! Don’t miss those glitzy sandals eew! “Mom just see that jazzy golden stuff she‘s put in her hair “She did seem to have a fairly decent sense of fashion and was quite sure of what goes with what and what is completely ‘not done’. Even though I felt she was being rude, a small selfish part of me was flattered that she thought it worthwhile to share her ‘expertise’ with me! So far I had not appeared too outdated to her!!!

So, now I have made up my mind to see their world with their eyes in order to bridge the gap that is bound to come up if I stubbornly refuse to evolve, and learn. So now I am sincerely learning to be computer savvy, (This is not to keep track of my children’s interactions online) to be on the same platform while talking to them. I let my son teach me about new apps and gadgets so I can be a part of whatever he enjoys doing. I have downloaded the music they listen to.( Being a hard core fan of ABBA,Bee gees, and the Carpenters  I used to dismiss these youngsters’  music   as just so much noise) but after listening to some of the tracks  a few times , I have started liking it. Some of it is quite good actually. So now my daughter and I are trying to learn the lyrics and sing together!! It’s a great feeling.

I do realize that they like very different kind of books and clothes but I am trying to see if I can find some via media, some common ground, something of their choice that I can appreciate and it is not so difficult. I often consult my daughter before buying shoes or bags or accessories as I realized she actually has quite a good taste. I have started looking carefully at the latest trends doing the rounds at posh parties. And I do spend time flipping through fashion magazines just to update myself. I could never make her like what I like and shopping together used to be a nightmare but now I try to see her versions and try to merge my views with some of her suggestions and now we enjoy shopping together.
Meanwhile my son is trying to make me independent while working on the computer. The fact that he can teach me gives him quite a kick. All my life I have hated dealing with complicated machinery but I know that excites him so now I try to understand the working of various gadgets from him to educate myself. In fact I actually visited an Auto Exhibition because cars are his passion and it does give us something to discuss together. I am trying to follow the sports my kids enjoy and watch the movies they like so we have something to share opinions about. It is not so difficult really and it is the only way we can build a bridge across the gaping chasm in between the generations

Actually this whole exercise has been quite fulfilling because it makes me feel younger, more in tune with today. It can be quite amusing, familiarizing us with their lingo--- it sounds remotely like English but the words have very different meanings!

The idea is not to become their friends---- they have plenty of those anyway. The aim is more to be aware of the world our children are moving in so that if we find something not quite right at least we would know and figure out how we can help but if we stoically refuse to open up they will simply shut us out. We will have to accept that they are different than what we expect them to be but being different need not be always objectionable.

When we share their interests we open a door for non -judgmental communication, and communication, more specifically, conversation is the most essential tool we have of connecting with them. When we show our readiness to see and appreciate their world they will open up to us. Our preconceived notions and the criticism that is bound to follow is the most challenging hurdle in this process of reaching out. Let them feel your openness. We only want what’s best for them but we cannot help them if they alienate themselves from us.

And who knows, maybe, our acceptance of their world and our openness can teach them to be more open towards us and our supposedly out-dated parenting standards! 

Friday, 24 January 2014


As parents we are instinctively protective of our children; sometimes overmuch so. In fact it is very difficult to draw the line for overproctectiveness.
We are often confused about how much sheltering is good for our children. Our instincts tell us to always shield our children from unpleasantness, sickness, disease, poverty, unwholesome environment …anything which we perceive as being a threat to a child’s sense of stability and equilibrium. So when things are not pleasant we feel children are better off not knowing them. Now of course in a wide range of circumstances this may be true and children need not be exposed to unnecessary unpleasantness but sometimes when some not so nice situations become a way of life, it is best to let children face these situations along with you.
A child cannot be shielded if there a chronically sick member in the family or if a sibling is handicapped, in case of sudden death of a member or the moving away of any one parent due to any circumstance. Even if there have been major financial losses children cannot be sheltered from such realities for prolonged periods. Children of very young ages till about 6 to 7 yrs may not understand but older children quickly notice any change in the family set-up
 These situations can be long drawn and a child who is confused about the changed situation at home is extremely vulnerable. The half answers that we are supplying in order to spare him the pain often make the child more baffled , nervous and insecure.  and your reluctance in sharing  with him will only increase his apprehensions    Very young children can be pacified with doctored answers but a child who can sense the change in his surroundings but is still not given any explanations may become more confused.
Sometimes our frankness with children gives them a sense of assurance and security and tells them that as parents you are in control of the situation and will eventually tide over these adverse circumstances somehow. Children trust their parents and their sense of wellbeing is closely linked to the confidence displayed by their parents.
So if you are nursing a sick person at home, make the child aware of what is happening. For instance if your child watches you take care of  sick  or handicapped people at home ,he is learning  a lot from you. He is becoming emotionally stronger, is learning to appreciate that families are about taking care of each other and will not lose his nerve if he is faced with such situations later in life. In times of financial stress gently explain how some of their demands cannot be met just yet but as soon as situation becomes better you will make it up to them. Just yelling at them and getting irritated to give vent to your frustration will only make them feel miserable
Sometimes it is best to let children watch you  deal with trying situations as it can  be a good learning experience for them  and watching you  handle difficult situations can teach them a lot more than anything  you can  tell them verbally,
Children who grow up facing difficult and trying situations are often emotionally more mature than their more sheltered counterparts   they are usually better equipped to handle the ups and downs of life at a later stage
Children are extremely perceptive --they understand a lot more than we can imagine and giving them roundabout answers will only confuse them. If they feel you are hiding something they will fear the worst and become uneasy anyway.  Do not underestimate their comprehension  power .If they are sure that you are in control of the situation they  will not only feel  more comfortable  in adverse situations but will also respect you for trying to handle it to the best of your ability.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014



When I was growing up my whole treasure trove of toys comprised of a few hand -me -down dolls, missing a few limbs; a rusted bicycle which was a remnant of the lost childhood of some older cousin and a whole lot of books. I would often dream about the fairy tale like toy collections of my friends and if I could have one wish come true I would have asked for the replica of the fancy dolls my friends, aunties and uncles brought from their foreign trips. Since I was not lucky enough to have any such strategically placed relations, my father tried to make my wish come true by buying me a doll from the local market. Today I do not, for the life of me, remember anything about that much cherished doll. What I do   remember however, is the little wooden doll house he built and the fun we had designing and decorating it with cardboard cut-out furniture and painting it with left over wall-paints.
   When I look back  the fondest memories of my childhood 
have very little to do with that much coveted and cherished doll What I recall best is the time I spent watching him build that wooden house out of old odds and ends and getting that paper furniture together. I have vivid memories of Papa and me, our hands covered in white enamel paint, sitting in our balcony and painting our old garden chairs. I hated science till Papa fashioned a magnifying glass for me from an old lens and helped me discover intricate patterns in leaves, fabric, hair etc. My happiest memories  are of  me and my father  reading and sharing interesting  bits of information from numerous periodicals and him , recounting tales from his own childhood And in all this ,  that much coveted imported doll figures  nowhere in my memories.

Much later in life when I had   my own children I tried to give them all that I had dreamed about when I was that young. The latest    toys, gadgets, stationary anything… the best that we could afford and   I was satisfied that they would have a ‘complete’ childhood

One day while looking at old family photographs I was amazed to see how my kids recalled each tiny detail of the trips we had taken together. Our first trip abroad  when they were 7 &10, yet they remembered names of places, the hotels ,the things that had gone wrong, how much trouble we had with language, how much fun we had grocery shopping and cooking in our studio apartments in the various cities we stayed in, trying to decipher maps and dragging our suitcases where escalators were out of order…… everything we did together.  Everything was etched in their minds with amazing clarity and warmth.   On an impulse I asked them about some of their most  prized possessions of their childhood…..an expensive  model of a Cadillac my son had bought on a trip to Canada,  a Disney trinket my daughter  had bought  and kept carefully wrapped up … were  vague recollections now but the good times we had had  were vivid memories years later  .

I felt so contented that just like me ,my  children had a whole treasury  of  happy , wholesome  family  memories of our “together ‘times, and that somehow makes me convinced that we  have been successful, to some extent ,as  parents.
As parents we are so preoccupied with providing the latest gadgets, toys, playthings to our kids, to fulfill their endless demands thinking that we are providing them a happy, complete childhood. Instead, try to focus on how much of your time and yourself you can give to them. What they are likely to remember and cherish most when they are older is not their playthings but who they played with. Children recall pleasant times spent with loved ones with more warmth and accuracy than any fancy toys you might buy them. What we buy for their momentary distraction, or to make up for the lack of time that we spend with them remains just that---- momentary. What children remember and cherish for a lifetime is what they do with you not what you buy for them. So spend more time ---it doesn't’ matter whether we do anything productive or just fool around with them ---the dividend would be much higher than by buying them mindless toys just to keep them occupied when we are too busy to be with them

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Mark Twain once rightly wrote,”   I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”. Strange as it may sound this quote has taken on a new relevance today . Formal school education   today undoubtedly gears kids to be brilliant in their careers and make the sort of money our parents only dreamt about. But in the whole rat race ‘education’ as a means   of developing a more evolved individual sadly seems to have taken a back seat.
The whole idea of formal education was to make children more open to new learning and thereby inculcate values like tolerance, consideration for others, politeness, civic sense and a sense of responsibility. Which  is why I cringe every time I see young students go on a rampage while showing their displeasure about various issues and destroy public property without a thought.
All the time we were trying to teach kids to be competitive and be winners, we forgot to teach them a little decency while dealing with competition. Today their only focus is to get ahead of the others by hook or by crook, stepping on others backs and bending any number of rules in the process----because the end justifies the means.
May be we should redesign the education system so that our children should learn a basic human skill –to be nice to others and learn to adjust and accommodate others. School  curricula has managed to overlook this dire need to teach restraint to our youngsters. After all man is a social animal and needs to co-inhabit this planet in harmony with others. In trying to express their individuality they must learn to respect others ‘  individuality too. Education should  also focus on teaching this generation peaceful, amiable co-existence—living with quirks of others, sharing their space with those less fortunate or less intellectual than themselves. Otherwise we can look forward to a whole new generation of extremely selfish, goal oriented, opportunist youngsters who think nothing of stepping over others’
space, abusing peers, seniors, teachers, parents, taking advantage those  less aggressive than them and bullying subordinates, siblings and domestic helpers.
The growing rate of crime by educated youth is alarming. Incidents of burglaries, jewellery snatching, rapes, bullying are increasing. In fact even the growth in the rate of divorces and failed relationships would justify the claim that somewhere education has failed to inculcate the basic skill of controlling our negative emotions, more specifically –anger. Try giving advice to a teenager and they promptly put you in your place. Criticism is not acceptable and is seen as a deep insult evoking, passionate responses. Faced with an unpleasant situation they either sink into depression, often taking drastic steps, or else become hyper -active , venting their emotions by bullying juniors and  insulting parents and teachers.
It’s time we designed a special course in schools to teach basic human skills
Such as
1) Living harmoniously in a family or school set up.
2) Dealing with unpleasant/ unexpected/ disappointing situations.
3) Expressing anger in a non -violent way.
4) Competing in a fair manner with due respect to peers.
5) Respect other’s space while expressing their individuality.
6) Being responsible for their actions and have respect for property.
7) Learning to sometimes give in to others and not assert  their own will  --sometimes it can give immense pleasure specially to those who love them
8) Learn gratitude and express it. To not take parents and friends for granted.
9) They can be effective leaders only when they have an emotional connect with their team.
10) When they are trying to win they should also learn how to lose  with grace.

11) And this is perhaps most important and most difficult as well--- Learning to accept when they are wrong and to apologize.

My point is that education should teach us not only how to lead but also how to follow and respect authority; how to work as a team player; how to co-exist with people we may not like, and most importantly ---to learn restraint and try to  be genuinely nice to those around us.

Thursday, 2 January 2014



Last week I met a friend whose 8 year old son was becoming excessively quiet at school .He was not communicating with the teacher and even though had some friends yet was not very keen to attend school. However at home he was becoming abusive and violent. With parents who were extremely soft spoken and hailing from a typical joint family the child’s behavior   was baffling..Repeated enquiries as to why he was sitting alone, why he had his lunch alone etc met with a blunt denial, “No I’m not”..

Look for signs of aloofness and sudden   withdrawal in the child .Sometimes these may be early indicators of later problems.  Children stop communicating for a number of reasons.
1.   Sometimes a rude remark by the teacher and subsequent’ branding ‘of children as ‘duffer’’ naughty’ ‘ ‘thief’ etc makes his classmates target him and isolate him . He feels left out and withdraws into a shell. However the frustration comes out at home and he becomes abusive. You need to speak to the teacher and rest of the classmates to know what has occurred in class A teacher should not humiliate or’ brand ‘a child 
2.   If a child has fallen into bad company and feels compelled to do things he knows are wrong, he withdraws from contact with his parents. The peer pressure and the desire to belong outweigh the trust of the parents and to avoid lying, children simply avoid conversation. Keep track of their friends and make an effort to know their parents so you know what company they keep.
3.   Check the possibility of bullying. This could be in the classroom, play ground , cafeteria and most often in school buses. You are not likely to get any straight answers from the child directly so it may be worthwhile to get in touch with the child’s friends/teachers/coach etc to get a clearer picture. Report  any bullying immediately
4.   Do not hesitate to discuss any change in your child’s behavior with the school psychologist/ counselor (most schools have one) or the teacher in charge. They spend a good amount of time with your child and can give an unbiased view about his/her  conduct and relationship with other teachers and classmates
5.   Any unfair comparison with class mates or siblings who are more talented or competent can make the child withdraw into   a shell. Each child is unique and there are bound to be individual differences .Appreciate the child’s smallest achievements to make him/her more forthcoming.
6.   The child may be facing some kind of physical abuse and does not know how to tell you..Children often develop feelings of guilt Gently explain the concept of ‘good’ and ‘‘bad ‘touch without any reference to his /her behavior  and let him / her open up to you..
7.  The child may have an embarrassing habit such as bedwetting or thumb sucking or stammering for which he/she is being singled out for ridicule by the rest..Get medical help if needed to make the child more comfortable.
8.  Take   a look within your family setup. Parental discord or domestic violence can make the child clam up and aloof. Try to keep your home a happy and safe haven for your child.

 Whatever the reason the child holds back his emotions; the result  of this repression is usually angry outbursts and tantrums when he is in more familiar surrounding----home.
Parents and siblings are usually the punching bags. A little understanding and patience can usually work wonders.