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Parenting Teens In Modern Times by Anju Musafir-Chazot is the perfect resource for the bewildered parent caught between ground realities of Indian culture, western-centric parenting sites/books, and a ‘cool’ teenager.
Review by Sandhya Renukamba
It takes a village to raise a child. So true. Even a generation ago, if not a full-fledged joint family, there would always be at least one grandparent around, and every one of the adults had a say in the parenting of children. It was also rare to have single child families. Nowadays, with increased mobility of the population, and a drastic change in beliefs, values and individual choice, the concept of family has changed. The village is often not there, and parenting has remained as much of a matter of trial and error as ever. Help, in such times, comes from social networking with peers, parenting websites, and above all, books.
There are so many parenting books available these days. Despite this, it is often difficult to find one that is culturally relevant to India – most of these are written by western experts, and necessarily have a western-centric view of things. This is not very useful for the bewildered parents who have to face challenges that often have very decided roots in India. For example, the struggle between obedience as a virtue (as expected of children and teenagers by elders) and individual choice, reasoning, and forming one’s own opinion about things: which would be a desirable skill to develop on the route to becoming an adult in today’s world – how does a parent handle this? There are very few books yet, that would handle this conundrum with sensitivity. Anju Musafir-Chazot’s book, Parenting Teens in Modern Times, fills in that gap wonderfully well. The writer has personal experience of both worlds, being of Indian origin, married to a French national, and being a co-founder of an IB school in Ahmedabad along with her husband. She draws extensively on her experience as an educator, citing real life cases and conversations as examples while discussing the various issues that come up during this phase of children’s lives.
As the author says, adolescence can be the best of times and the worst of times (crediting this beginning of her introduction to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities) yet till very recently, it was not a phase that was considered distinct in our culture. These are the years when children develop their identity, and the challenges in a society in transition like India are very different from those in the western world from where most parenting books come. There are nuclear families, yet there is also the joint family in many places, sometimes extended family which has not yet given up its stake in how a relative’s child may be brought up. There are many pluses and minuses of both, and this is one of the many questions that parents today face, among others. Then there are the universal challenges faced by teenagers everywhere, like peer pressure – both within families and in the school environment, hormonal upheavals leading to physical and psychological changes, body image closely linked to struggles with identity, a burgeoning sexuality that has to be dealt with in the context of societal framework and values, the inevitable presence of technology with its pluses and minuses, the importance of academics and a career, and so much more. The book deals with each in a separate chapter, discussing ground realities in general, and then going on to specifics with examples, and real questions that the writer, as an educator, has faced. There are even separate chapters dealing with families that are different from the traditional – the single parent family, the adoptive family, etc.
I had picked this book up a few months back, and read it in bits, scanning it for topics that were immediately relevant to me, browsing without really reading it through from the beginning. I had also included it in a list of books that could help in sex education for children. With a pre-teen daughter, already facing some teenage challenges, there were so many things that perplexed me. Like most parents, I had lost sight of my own teenage, and had difficulty relating to her current issues. Like most parents will find, I found the book to be a great help. A little bit of ‘the village’ that it would take me to raise my child.
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In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya
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