Archive | November, 2017

Whats your story

26 Nov

“Tell me a little about you” my host asked, turning towards me, sincere, attentive and with a warm smile that lit up her face. “And of course” she continued “no facts”.

Articulate though I was in expressing my thoughts; I found my self fumbling and unsure of what to say. Facts are so much simpler to talk about.

What, I wondered would be appropriate to talk about? My life’s been far from perfect so how much of it do I divulge?

Do I talk of things that make me happy or things that I wish for or about those dark thoughts that lie in the deep recesses of my head which I am constantly trying to broom away into someplace so no one will know?

Maybe I should talk about the how the real me feels. Talk about the times when it looks like I am angry but I am just very sad or the days I appear like I am in a bad mood but what I actually feel is icy cold fear.

What if I spoke about the people in my life, the relationships that drain me and those that infuse me with energy; About how unsure I am of so many things- my internal chaos.

Is it okay to talk about the times I’ve tried to conform to a pattern believing I was not ‘enough’ the way I was?

Do I speak of the time and effort it took me to know and accept my flaws?

Through the midst of all these maybees I have had a thousand joyous moments filled with balance and fulfillment too. Do I speak of them?

Not just me most of us have these moments of joy in the midst of all our travails.

Flawed but Awesome we are….Exactly the way we were meant to be.

Each of us have a story to tell that make us more beautiful than what one can see by just looking at us. A story that blends all our joys ,sadness , insecurities and so much more. A story that makes us uniquely beautiful

Stories that build a bridge from one heart to the other so we are all connected.

Listening to other people’s stories can be inspirational, but telling ours requires courage and the ability to rise above our vulnerability.

Its time we share our stories both for ourselves and others.

For ourselves ….so that we don’t stay imprisoned in our narratives but evolve, learn lessons and broaden our perspectives through the roads we’ve travelled. We don’t really need to be a part of that ‘pity party’ to which we go each day …. instead when we realize that we’ve been through crap and yet kept our heads above water – we are confident of our incredible powers to face the world and all its challenges

For others …. Our stories are a shared experience. One which is uplifting, comforting and even inspiring. That’s Magic right there!

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Collective Parenting

21 Nov

villageGone are the days when ‘Family’ meant not only husband, wife and child; but also uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents all living under the same roof. Then, there was always someone to talk to, share resources with, get guidance from, learn acceptance from, make adjustments with and children always had some one to chat and play with.

The family structure is way different today. Due to circumstances or personal reasons young adults prefer to stay alone and shy away from having more than 2 children. Many a time parents are working, and working long hours. The result – Either children spend most of their time at home without adult guidance and supervision or they may be overburdened with too many after school activities. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common among children and the youth.

Its stressful territory for both the parent and the child. Parents are sometimes not aware nor equipped with skills to deal with the challenges faced by children today. Navigating parenthood can be a daunting experience – Every support is welcome and necessary to ensure that our children grow up with love, attention, positivity and self-confidence.

Recently while watching a group of parents interact it struck me that its here we have a huge reserve of talent and skill. All we need to do is pool in, structure our schedules, work together and look out for each others children.

I ‘de like to call it ‘Collective Parenting’.

Its when 5-7 families who live close to each other get together as a group. Adults in the group being from different backgrounds and having varied interests can play a pivotal role in providing the children with diverse experiences that nurture the ‘Whole Child’.

Devoting some time and effort is all it requires for each parent to be a part of creating a scaffolding system to support our children and youth.

Start by listing out various strengths of the parents, maybe grandparents and various other adult members of the group – like homework support, sports, value building , non judgmental listening , reading ,Creative writing etc.

Next brainstorm on a few activities the group would like to involve itself in. Is it primarily fun activities or new experiences or academic help or value building or creating a safe forum for the children to voice out their fears and challenges?

Once the group is clear on what 3-4 activities are important for them to pursue, create a framework and plan your activities

Focusing on an age group may be helpful as programmes for young children would be quite different from one that serves teens.

Involve youngsters in planning the program. The more involved they are in planning the more interested they will be in participating.

Depending on the needs of the members of the group and the resources available different types of activities could be done like

Reading Time /Story time ;  Art ; Academic skill building; Outdoor games; Field Trips; Community Service projects ; Interacting with professionals from different walks of life; Discussions on topics like friendships , breakups, managing emotions , addictions. The possibilities are unending. Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the program through surveys and make changes according to the needs of the group.

Parents in the group should think of themselves as surrogate caregivers for every child in the group.

There may be teething problems like – jealousy or bickering or misunderstandings but these can be ironed out if every parent in the group keep in mind the idea behind why the group was formed – For our children, because sometimes individual households find it difficult to raise children without connecting with other parents.

Parents could also meet regularly to discuss their own parenting challenges. Its easier to find solutions when you are not on your own.

There is an African proverb which says “It takes a village to raise a child”.

Parenting is ‘Shared Responsibility’. We have a collective responsibility to the children we interact with even if we did not conceive or bear them. In the absence of the extended family we need to step up and be the strength and support for each other.

As the child grows different families will join this village giving and receiving mutual help thus enriching not just all our lives but the lives of our children too. This shared responsibility is also echoed in this Swahili proverb- One hand does not nurse a child.  Lets join hands so that when days are bad and some weeks look very long , you know a caring parent is watching over your child.

 

Parental involvement during the board exams

13 Nov

 

With board exams only a few months away, the veil of anxiety looms heavily over homes where children are in class 10 and 12.

Its not just academic pressure that causes stress in children. Immense competition and living up to parent’s expectation can make the existing stress skyrocket.

What makes worse are the “decrees” Parents lay out for their children – ‘Put aside everything else and concentrate on studies’; ‘No listening to music’ , ‘No watching T.V’, ‘No chatting with friends’, ‘No going out to play’…………etc

Everything that is ‘solace’ to the child is suddenly pulled away without his or her consent making him/her resentful. Now, along with stress there is an additional sense of powerlessness which is overwhelming. Vulnerable as they are, various feelings bubble up inside of them which make them scared and sad and mad. They can lash out at themselves or others , misbehave etc. …..all of which are ways of sending out an SOS that they are hurting.

Although its only natural to want your child to perform well in the exams, it is important to remind yourself that you are just a facilitator in this process.

What does that really mean?

  • Provide a quiet distraction free environment for the child to work.
  • Make sure that nutritious, tasty food is available at home so that they are physically fit and in a good mood.
  • Monitor their sleep. Make sure they get adequate rest.
  • Create a warm and comforting atmosphere at home. Set aside time everyday [preferably dinner time] for light conversations that revolve around various events / topics.
  • If your child is very driven to perform well in the exams and spends long hours in the room studying …..be around to prompt him/her to take breaks, go outdoors, do fun things
  • If your child has too casual an approach towards the exam it can be a source of worry and frustration. There could be various reasons why he/she is unmotivated to study –
  1. Maybe the course work is way too difficult
  2. Maybe he/she doesn’t have the required academic enabling skills like organizing notes , having a study plan, knowing how to study a particular subject ,
  3. Maybe he/she doesn’t think he/she has the ability to successfully clear the examination.

Take help from the teacher to encourage him/her take small steps that will help him feel engaged and empowered to be a part of his success. Avoid threats and nagging which only has a counter-productive effect.

  • Let all your actions/words come from the belief that children want to do well in the examination. They too are struggling with their fears and expectations despite the fact that it appears as if they aren’t bothered.
  • Encourage your child to do one thing everyday [ other than studies] that gives him/her joy and makes him feel energized. Do the same for yourself too.
  • Some “DO NOTS include –
  1. Do not link their entire future to the current exam;
  2. Do not emphasize on the financial sacrifices that have gone into making all his/her classes possible;
  3. Do not keep talking of marks and achievements of neighbours, cousins siblings etc.
  • Assure them of your unconditional love and acceptance.
  • If your child seems overtly anxious, in a persistent low mood, having no appetite , unable to sleep etc – consult your Physician or a Counsellor.

 

Exam time is a period where both parents and children are high strung. Parents need to focus on their own emotional needs too. Share your anxieties and with other parents else all you will be doing is stirring up fears, imaginations and projections. Speak the right words to your children so that the message conveyed to the child always is ‘I am with you’.

 

 

 

The ‘Me’ Generation

7 Nov

Growing up, dinner time was a pleasurable experience.

My mother having quite a number of arrows in her culinary quiver dished out whatever she felt was a wholesome meal for the family. We sat around the table, excited if it was our favourite dish …. else grumbled for a minute but soon got immersed into conversations and all you could then hear was the clinking of glasses and an occasional reprimand from mom to be quiet while we eat.

That’s why I was taken by surprise last week when I witnessed the fuss created by a couple and their child dining beside me at a restaurant.

The child sat sullen faced refusing to eat while the mother kept offering to order various dishes out of the elaborate menu. The father, quite helpless tried diffusing the tension with some humour which got the kid quite annoyed after which he refused to look up from the gadget he had in his hands. The distraught couple soon gulped down a quick meal and left in a hurry.

Such scenes are not very uncommon today. Children today belong to an over-protected, over –pampered and over-indulged generation.

The singular most important aim of most parents is to ensure complete comfort and happiness of their child – so much so that the child begins to grow up with the belief that they are the center of the universe.

Bending backwards parents constantly fulfill every ‘want’ of their child, while also making sure to mow down all perceivable obstacles in their child’s path, that threaten to cause the youngster any discomfort.

Is it then any wonder that our children get a sense of entitlement……. That they believe they should get what they want , when they want !!

Parents spend money and energy to make every event in their child’s lives special and memorable. Extravagant birthday parties, Expensive gifts, lavish holidays- too much, too soon. When every occasion is so special, even the special gets boring and ordinary.

No matter how much they have, they want more – the line between wants and needs blur and we have on our hands children with a grandiose sense of entitlement. Bored quickly these children have still to develop skills like resilience and frustration tolerance. Skills that are imperative as they walk along life’s uneven roads.

If we look at entitlement as learned behavior, are we then ready to redefine our parenting approach… Allow our children and young adults to be resilient, responsible and resourceful?

A few tools that curb the entitlement epidemic include –

Instead of doing things for our children and making life easy and comfortable for them under the umbrella of love, help them develop them age appropriate skills and empower them to step up and take personal responsibility in various areas of their lives.

Teach children strategies to deal with setbacks by equipping them with perseverance for as the English proverb goes – A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

Show them ways to keep track of their ‘to do’ lists.  Let your child face the consequences for his/her forgetfulness.

Cut back on over indulging. Be clear about the difference between giving your child what he ‘needs’ and what you give that are ‘privileges’. Kids don’t need to have all the luxury. It only serves to feed their sense of entitlement. Love and Family time is all that children need.

The ability to delay gratification is crucial for future success. Help them develop this skill.

Parenting isn’t a popularity contest. You don’t need to be your child’s friend. Your child needs a parent figure who sets limits and ground rules. No doubt a few age appropriate decision making can be left to the child but do not cave in to all his/her demands.

Teach them to give back to the less fortunate. Talk to them about the causes that as a family you could support. This brings about a shared sense of purpose and changes their perspective.

Train them to take turns, share, compromise, lose, win and use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’

As parents the onus is on us to challenge our children’s feeling of entitlement – So that when they go into the real world they will be able to make a connection between making an effort and achieve their goals.

Children change the moment parents change their unhelpful parenting practices