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We talk about sex ed with our teenagers to keep them safe, but do we really talk to them about dealing with relationships?
More than a decade ago, working with a national daily, while interviewing a member of an NGO associated with AIDS awareness, I had come across some disturbing disclosures cum queries from a general survey, that they had conducted in a prominent convent girls’ school in Shimla.
An apprehensive question like “What do I do about the physical complications that I have developed, post a hook up with my boyfriend?” from a rather fretful and confused 14 year old, was an eye-opener indeed. I wondered then, how such teenage relationships survived and seemed more like a ship sailing in the rough waters without a navigator.
And now in the present scenario, with fingers on Facebook, a constant eye on you tube, ‘sexting’ becoming a rage and of course, the generous amount of porn easily available today, the resources are plenty for them, to explore, comprehend and indulge in all kind of activities. Yes, we have spoon fed technology to them and that now it is a substantial part of their growing up, children have full access to potentially negative information, often unreliable and misleading.
However, in all the technology driven pleasures, and the ever mounting concern for that obligatory sex education in a bid to cultivate a responsible sexual behaviour, the ‘onus on dealing with relationships’ is what we conveniently miss in the process.
Doesn’t it all begin with a smile and a wave of attraction, that feel of being on Cloud Nine? And we have love smitten teenagers. Things are wonderful for everyone at this juncture. But they don’t always stay that way. For that matter why let it end it up in ‘perverted notions’, a ‘confused mind’, a ‘heartache’, a ‘depression’, or a ‘suicide’?
Sometime ago it really got me worried when one of my friend’s eighteen year old son could not deal with a broken relationship. It was a hard time for her to bring him back from that dreary span of dejection.
My daughters are also approaching their teens. I am fully aware that they exist in a world of superior technology, frail alliances, and instant emotional arousals. I know they will someday experience some sort of teenage attraction, go on a date, get intimate and that innate dose of youthful charm will captivate their delicate minds.
Although, I have been a friend to them, more than being a mother, I know they will sway with the flow of time and might not share everything with me, yet, as a parent to my teenage daughters, I do not wish them to be extremely afraid of my responses, get completely introverted, obsessive, saddened or depressed when it is regarding the matters of the heart. I wish to weave it into conversations, be there to counsel and guide them when it’s about dealing with friendships, a love relation, and a broken association.
I acknowledge the fact that somewhere it isn’t easy for children to open up, precisely the way it wasn’t for us.
Reflecting back on my teenage years, I can easily recall those awkward and shy instances, when I had no one to cater to my bobbling conflicts emerging from a heady mix of love infused sentiments.
And those days when I gazed through the wacky solution offering columns of magazines, carrying curious to modest to troubled queries from anonymous senders, desperately seeking for answers; it was like coming close to a world of shady, undercover complex and bewildered teenage lives.
“How do I go about telling him that like him/ that I have a crush on her?”
“I want him to be my boyfriend but I am not sure if he likes me or not?”
“He has asked me for a date. What do I do?”
“He says he really likes me. I do not know if he is in love or wants something else?”
“He wants to meet me, what if somebody catches us?”
“She left me for someone else, I feel like ending my life!”
“I do not know if getting into a relationship is the right thing to do at this age?”
These are some of the questions that I am sure each one of us may have encountered at some point in life.
But at least I never had the courage to tell my mother that I nurtured a liking for so and so or what could I do when my relations were in a mess. Though she was a lenient parent, it was an uninstructed set of commands which was a part of growing up.
The doors at home were always closed, hence, no one to guide. And a notice reading “Do not even think of asking such questions”, hanged permanently.
Discussing about dealing with relationships was a taboo at that age. Perhaps, our parents were never conditioned to shed their inhibitions and lend us a helping hand. Such questions and conversations were embarrassing, uncomfortable and inept. And predominantly, not a part of our culture and sensible upbringing. A suitable distance was mandatory. I always wished I had someone to share my outpourings, someone to show me the direction and that I didn’t make those avoidable mistakes. But that never happened.
In our endeavours to getting everything right as a parent, conversations about dealing with relationships, managing them and handling their possible outcomes, is equally important.
Now as a parent myself, I can at least attempt to create the environment for them to speak up and share their concerns and conflicts.
So instead of raising ‘disillusioned’ teens, I want my children to communicate their relationship related woes to me and know that it’s just a part of growing up. It may be at the basic level, but the process will certainly lead to their facing the emotional challenges later in life with much more strength and positivity.
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