Teen Talk

All parental pres­sure ques­tions, an­swered

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS - TR­ISHA DAN­GAR­WALA

Too many ex­pec­ta­tions to meet? Too many peo­ple around you mak­ing you feel the need to keep up? Too many items on your to-do list for the day? Pres­sure is ev­ery­where but deal­ing with it is part and par­cel of life – be it work pres­sure, peer pres­sure or in the case of young adults, parental pres­sure. But push­ing your way past this is im­por­tant knowl­edge to have for both adults and chil­dren. Dr Saloni Saw­nani, a renowned psy­chol­o­gist based in Mumbai, an­swers com­monly asked ques­tions about han­dling parental pres­sure and how a healthy re­la­tion­ship can be main­tained be­tween teenagers and their par­ents.

What is parental pres­sure? What are the ways in which it can neg­a­tively af­fect a teen? Par­ents have a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions from their chil­dren – a ten­dency for them to make sure their chil­dren are per­fect and good at ev­ery­thing with­out re­al­iz­ing the kind of neg­a­tive ways it can af­fect them. Nat­u­rally, chil­dren are bound to want to make their par­ents feel proud and meet these ex­pec­ta­tions. They want to do ev­ery­thing that has been told to them which is not pos­si­ble. It some­times leads to lack of self-con­fi­dence, feel­ing de­pressed and re­bel­lious at­ti­tudes, ag­i­ta­tion, ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour to­wards fam­ily and peers, life­style and mood dis­tur­bances, com­mu­ni­ca­tion gaps and trust is­sues be­tween par­ents and chil­dren.

Why are par­ents so ap­pre­hen­sive about let­ting their chil­dren choose their path?

Par­ents feel like they have pro­pri­etary rights over their chil­dren. ‘I gave birth to you, so I de­cide for you’ - they like to feel that be­cause of their years of ex­pe­ri­ence, their knowl­edge about the world. They feel they know their child’s per­son­al­ity and ca­pa­bil­i­ties best since they have seen their baby bloom into a youth­ful teenager. Par­ents want to be the best and only judge of their chil­dren’s lives so they make sure their chil­dren don’t re­peat any mis­takes they might have made in their youth.

How should par­ents cope with choices made against their wishes?

Par­ents should re­spect their chil­dren, their opin­ions, and build a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment for them. They are pro­tec­tive; they just want their child to suc­ceed but they must al­low their chil­dren to learn from their mis­takes - as the best learn­ing is from fail­ure. Per­son­al­ity growth comes from ex­pe­ri­ences so don’t be afraid to let your chil­dren try new things. One thing to avoid would be say­ing ‘I told you so’ to your kids. Par­ents love do­ing that, but it’s not healthy for a child at all.

At what age do par­ents need to let go and let chil­dren de­cide for them­selves?

Per­son­al­ity growth comes from ex­pe­ri­ences so don’t be afraid to let your chil­dren try new things. One thing be to avoid would say­ing ‘I told you so’ to your kids.

As young as two years. Chil­dren should be given a chance to make small in­de­pen­dent choices for them­selves. At age two, it can be be­tween the pink or the blue dress, a toy car or a Bar­bie doll. It can start with toys at age two, clothes at age five, school sub­jects at age 10, uni­ver­si­ties at age 16 and even­tu­ally mar­riage as they get older. Let the chil­dren take the onus of mak­ing de­ci­sions. Then, if they don’t like the pink dress af­ter choos­ing it first, they will learn some­thing about them­selves. This will in­still con­fi­dence in them and they will feel like their choice mat­ters. To lis­ten is to be heard. So if a child feels heard, he will lis­ten or else he won’t.

What are the ways for a teen to ap­proach a sub­ject that par­ents are ap­pre­hen­sive about and earn their faith?

Be coura­geous: Have it in you to go up to them and say, ‘ I know you won’t ap­prove but I was hop­ing I could share this with you’. Take per­mis­sion to vo­cal­ize what they are not com­fort­able about. Don’t re­act: Par­ents aren’t go­ing to take the news of their teenage chil­dren mis­be­hav­ing well, so learn to not re­act to any of the ‘freak­ing out’, anger and as­ton­ish­ment. They come from a place of con­cern, anger and help­less­ness so give them room to process your opin­ion. Be vul­ner­a­ble: Tell them you need their help and that you want to solve this prob­lem which is why you ap­proached them in the first place.

How can chil­dren han­dle the pres­sure and be able to de­feat it?

This is a joint ef­fort. It should be done by both teenagers and par­ents to­gether. Sen­si­ti­za­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween both should al­ways be present. Chil­dren have to feel con­fi­dent that even if they are rep­ri­manded, they have been un­der­stood. They find com­fort in know­ing that their par­ents un­der­stand their per­spec­tive which will help the child un­der­stand his par­ents’. There should be mu­tual re­spect among the two - re­spect is one thing which should never be in­val­i­dated - all opin­ions must be re­spected.

How should a teen deal with their choices be­ing dis­re­garded?

Chil­dren have to feel con­fi­dent that even if they are rep­ri­manded, they have been un­der­stood.

Teenagers may not be adults but their need to be heard still ex­ists. Re­spect is a twoway street and it is ex­tremely im­por­tant dur­ing ado­les­cence. As much as they re­spect their par­ents’ opin­ions and wishes, they are seek­ing the same from them. Try to com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter: Chances are that you were not heard, prob­a­bly even mis­un­der­stood, be­cause of a com­mu­ni­ca­tion gap be­tween both par­ties. Choose your words more care­fully and be more sen­si­tive in your ap­proach. Don’t lose hope: If you are not heard the first time, try an­other time. The out­come could be bet­ter than be­fore. Ask why: If your choice is not con­sid­ered, then ask why. Learn the rea­son they are not sup­port­ing your de­ci­sions, it will help in al­ter­ing your cur­rent de­ci­sion or mak­ing a bet­ter one. What are the steps for both par­ents and teenagers to take to have a healthy re­la­tion­ship with each other? Mu­tual re­spect for opin­ions: As men­tioned be­fore, re­spect is a two-way street. It is a healthy way to un­der­stand each other and live to­gether peace­fully. Agree­ing to dis­agree: Learn to un­der­stand that there will al­ways be times where you will agree to dis­agree. It is good to have dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing opin­ions for the best out­comes. Open­ness of the mind: A child should keep their mind open be­yond what is ex­pressed and why. In­tent: It is im­por­tant to fo­cus on the in­tent than the method in which it is ex­pressed. There is al­ways a con­trast be­tween the two. Ex­am­ple: Your mother may scream at you to switch the tele­vi­sion off but she is telling you be­cause she wor­ries about your well-be­ing and only wants you to do well in your field. Bet­ter ex­pres­sion: It is nat­u­ral to be con­cerned but there are pos­i­tive ways to ex­press it rather than en­gag­ing in a scream­ing match with each other. Small en­cour­ag­ing words and be­ing em­pa­thetic help build a strong bond.

It is nat­u­ral to be con­cerned but there are pos­i­tive ways to ex­press it rather than en­gag­ing in a scream­ing match with each other. Small en­cour­ag­ing words and be­ing em­pa­thetic help build a strong bond.

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