“MUMMY, I’m nervous – I have to recite a poem in the assembly”,
“Don’t be stupid! Why should you feel nervous?”
“Mummy, please leave the light on when I sleep.”
“Grow up will you? What are you afraid of”?
“Mummy, I don’t want to come and meet your friends, I feel shy.”
“You will come. What’s there to feel shy about”?
How often parents dismiss the fears and hopes expressed by their children, as childish and rubbish! To an adult, the seemingly simple problems that assail a child or adolescent can be a source of irritation. More so to working mothers who have little time to be bothered about fantasies. But for a child, his/her problems are real and big and the only person he/she can turn to for guidance, is the parent.
When he/she draws a blank here, he/she withdraws into a shell and soon, the problems become more complex and more difficult to tackle. By that time, the link between parent and child, has snapped. Then, parents complain that their children hide their troubles and get into scrapes! If children do so, it’s because they do not have an understanding parent.
The first point to remember is that your child is an individual, has a mind of his/her own, and interacts with other children and adults. Naturally, he/she is bound to come across situations which baffle him/her, worry or frighten. He/she automatically turns to the confidante – the parent – for a way out. At this point, it is very important for the parent to perceive the problem from the child’s angle and not dismiss it as trivial, from an adult angle.
A child’s world is made up of ‘bogey men’ like exams, home-work, reading the news in the assembly or being called up to answer a question in class. To a parent, all these are a part of childhood. But for a moment, relive the same situations and you will remember that you too nursed similar feelings! This ability or inclination to put yourself in the child’s shoes, will enable you to be more understanding.
If your child is afraid of the dark, there is no reason why you should not let him/her have the light on. “Be a man” is easier said than done. Help them to get over their fear by telling stories about night – how beautiful things like moon and stars come out only when it’s dark – How Santa Claus come riding on his sleigh when it’s dark, to bring gifts and goodies for children…. in the first place it’s possible that he/she developed fear for the dark due to some statement or action of yours! Perhaps at some time you had threatened to lock him/her up in a dark room if he/she didn’t drink up milk! A child’s fear for something is always associated with his/her experience. So, analyze what could be at the root of this fear and try and strike at it patiently.
The fear of examination could be due to your constantly nagging him/her to study and ‘come first’. You perhaps compare him/her to ‘Puri aunty’s son or ‘Asha mausi’s daughter who study six hours a day. All this builds up a tension which results in phobia. Probe into his/her mind, bring out the deeply imbedded qualms and help him/her to nurse more positive attitudes.
Some children are very attached to an old rag doll or a torn end of a bed sheet or a mucky pillow. Understand their need for some concrete proof of security. To a teenager, however old he/she is, a teddy bear she/he played with as a child may be still a precious object. Don’t ‘pooh pooh’ this and humiliate his ‘baby tendency’. You see, as a teenager’s responsibilities in life increase, he/she would like to cling on to some relic of his carefree days, as a link with the past. Leave him/her alone. He/she will work out his/her own release from such attachments. Your bullying or decrying only precipitates matters.
Don’t ridicule the Mooney look on your daughter or son’s face – following a ‘crush’ or infatuation. To them it’s the grand feeling of love unfolding itself. It’s amazing how teenagers snap out of romantic entanglements if you treat them as seriously as they do! Resistance on your part acts as the ‘thorn’ which makes the ’rose’ that much more attractive!
With due apologies to Shelly, I’d say that a parent, to be good, ‘must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of the child; the pains and pleasure of his child must become his own! A parent must be understanding – which means, tolerance, empathy and the belief that love matters more than anything!’