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No parenting guide can completely prepare us for dealing with teenage love, but here are some starting points for Indian moms.
By Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Although it’s 2011, discussions about teenage love, teenage pregnancy and safe sex for young adults don’t really figure in most homes. Teaching kids about sex is a challenge to most Indian moms and there are many amongst us, who in spite of being mature adults could do with some practical parenting tips on how to go deal with this aspect of child development.
The teenage period of a human’s life is probably one of the most volatile in terms of physical changes as well as thought processes. It is also the most traumatic time for Indian moms since it is at this stage that the parental influence starts declining rapidly, making it very difficult for parents to guide their children. Teenagers and even younger children start experimenting with relationships, discovering their sexuality, trying out drugs and alcohol – in general doing what they think is cool.
In a recent incident in Mumbai, 11-year old Sayoni Chatterjee took her life tragically. It was reported that her mother had been extremely angry when she discovered her child’s friendship with a boy in her class. This brings us to the dilemma of parenting skills to deal with teenagers who resent active parenting!
In order to ensure that your child is safe and does not experiment recklessly, there is no substitute to building on the parent-child bond. This helps children in discussing all things – good, interesting and cool – or not – with their parents.
Child sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy and safe sex are not issues that can be brought up suddenly. There are plenty of children who are shy and introverts; some are too scared of even their parents to report any abnormal behavior that they might be facing from those they interact with. In one case I know of, a 15 year old schoolgirl from Kolkata revealed that she had been forced to have sex with her maternal uncle staying in their house, since she was a child aged 10. Her uncle asked her not to spill the beans or else there would be tremendous family problems in the house.
he hassled parents say that they are partly to blame for the situation because they did not give their daughter enough time, sex education or the confidence that she could confide in them.
This child’s parents (name not revealed on request) say that they came to know of the situation accidentally. Horrified, they began an intensive inquiry and while the uncle in question was thrown out of the house, it was long before they could bring their daughter to anywhere near normalcy. They used multiple techniques of consulting professional child therapists, regular health checkups and counseling at home to bring her to the partial mental stability that she has attained today. The hassled parents say that they are partly to blame for the situation because they did not give their daughter enough time, sex education or the confidence that she could confide in them.
Children at the pre-teen or even teenage years often have vague or fanciful ideas about teenage love and sex. If you watch carefully, you will be surprised to notice the amount of violent and sexual content being filtered into your child’s head through television or the Internet. It is advisable that instead of abruptly changing the programs that the child is watching, you sit down with them and talk about safe sex, thus reducing its halo and depriving it of its ‘secret pleasure’ tag. If your child has had sex or experimented with drugs, alcohol, etc, scolding and punishment is not going to repair the situation.
A student counselor in a reputed School in Bangalore mentions a case at their school where a 6th standard student would bring money to the school on the sly (which is strictly prohibited by the school) and buy goodies from shops outside the school and even treat her friends to it. This girl apparently also indulged in romantic talks about boys to her female classmates. When questioned by the counselor, the girl immediately replied that her parents were extremely old-fashioned and very strict with her and she was not allowed the slightest of indulgences at home. This came as a shock to the counselor since she happened to know the child’s mother and the family (who were in reality, totally different from the child’s description). It took an entire year and a lot of child counselling to help her stop her compulsive lying and taking money on the sly. In this case the parents were asked to sit with the child and talk to her freely about relationships between boys and girls.
Ruma Das, a homemaker from Pune, had the toughest time of her life when her elder daughter, who had just passed out of a reputed school, was dating a boy in her common group of friends. Being well known to each other’s families, none of them had much of a problem telling their parents about it, who accepted it as a part of the teenagers’ life. Problems began when the boy started losing interest in Ruma’s daughter. What was worse, he started seeing another girl, well known to the group.
The grieved child was given full support and made to understand that no matter what, they would always be there for her.
Under the circumstances, Ruma’s days and nights were occupied with counselling her daughter, as she was the butt of all jokes in the school circle and close to an emotional breakdown. She says that at this juncture, her teenage daughter became much closer to her than ever before. The grieved child was given full support and made to understand that no matter what, they would always be there for her. Most parents would do good to take a clue from Ruma and her family’s behavior towards the child. In such situations, the ‘I told you so’ dialogues are best kept away.
While you may not always agree with your child’s views on relationships or sex, helping them with unconditional love and a willingness to listen is a must. It is perhaps the parent’s best chance to tell the child that they support him or her at every step.
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