A write up on promoting good mental health in children? This is what came to my mind as soon as I entered the hospital lobby. There were banners everywhere about the significance of the day. It’s October 10th today. The day is celebrated throughout the globe as the World Mental Health Day. The objective is to raise awareness to ensure that people with mental health problems can live with dignity. The awareness is very important as mental health issues are on the rise in the millennial generation. Take the case of India. According to studies, the prevalence rate of mental health disorders is 12.5 % among children aged 0-16, and 12 % among the 4-16 year-olds. Suicide death rates in India are among the highest in the world, standing at 36 for every 1,00,000 youth citizens.
What is causing mental ill health on such a scale? And what can we do about it? These are difficult but important questions. Is the modern life incompatible with mental well being for most people?Even if it is, what about children? Shouldn’t all children naturally have good mental health habits? After all, childhood is supposed to be a pretty relaxed time of life! Then why is the prevalence rate of mental health disorders high in children too? Is this because they live in this era of technology and globalization?
The other day I observed a mini school van entering my apartment complex in the evening at around 6 pm. The van belonged to a reputed preschool and day care. There were around 8-10 kids. They were of the age group 3-5 years. They are usually out of home for 9-10 hours. Two kids were dropped off at my complex. One kid was carried home by his grandfather, and the other went with his dad. They looked tired. In this era of technology, globalization and the trend of nuclear families, I understand the need of parents to send young kids away from home. On the other hand, I felt bad for the kids. At such a tender age, are not they getting used to some kind of an office schedule? As childhood is supposed to be a pretty relaxed time of life, are not kids exposed to stress because of our altered life style?
Every parent wants to give best to kids despite challenges. There’s a saying that children spell love as “TIME”. And that healthy parents don’t find family time, they make time. When 1,500 school children were asked the question, “What do you think makes a happy family?”
“The most frequent answer was “doing things together”.
Doing things together, spending quality brings in positive mental well-being in kids. The time parents spend so hard earning money for them, is actually the same time that kids crave from parents. So, what do we parents do to help kids avoid the blues? Here are my 6 ways to promote mental health in kids.
M: Mindfulness– Mindfulness helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus. It helps children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset, make better decisions and social skills. There are many mindful exercises like breathing exercises, mindful posing, jar etc. that you can expose your kids for the above benefits.
E: Exercise– Overall, studies provide support for the benefits of 60 mins of physical activity daily in children and adolescents on executive function, brain activity, and depressive symptoms. This is because exercise releases happy chemicals in the brain. You can do Tabata, DanceFit, walking, running, or other partner exercises like ball exchange, badminton, table tennis etc. together with your kids for 10 mins to half an hour daily, or over the weekend as “Me Time with Kiddo”. Trust me its going to be very much fun. It creates bonding with kids.
N: Nutritious food– The brain and body work best when blood sugar levels remain steady throughout the day. Eliminating highs and lows in blood sugar levels can help eliminate ups and downs in your child’s mood and energy levels. The best way to do this is for your child to eat a diet rich in whole foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains. A balanced diet with positive eating habits as a kid promotes long term mental health.
T: Time for play– Many a times kids miss out on their unstructured play time with friends because of academic pressures, coaching classes for academics, and other after-school activity classes. Studies have shown that unstructured play allows children to relax, and builds up their 4C skills like creativity, curiosity, communication, and collaboration skills and promotes emotional well-being.
A: Adequate sleep– Adequate sleep is required for giving rest to the brain. Kids need 9-12 hrs of sleep at night based on their age. You can instill good sleep hygiene in kids right from their childhood.
L: Love from family– They say confidence grows in a home that is full of unconditional love and affection. You can promote good mental health by the things you say and do, and through the environment you create at home. Take time off from your social platforms, be an active listener, and encourage the efforts of your kid whether he/she achieves or fails in goals. Read stories together, do role plays. Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health: Talk about your feelings. Make time for things you enjoy.
“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be”- Help your child find someone to talk to if she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you.
Having good mental health doesn’t mean kids don’t experience difficulties or worries. Feeling worried, sad or fearful is normal. Kids who are mentally healthy are equipped to handle many of life’s curve-balls that come their way. They also don’t let their emotions overwhelm them. As a result they learn better and have more friends as well. And finally, excel in academics and succeed later in life.
I was talking to a friend the other day. They recently moved to India after living in the United states for 15 years. She used to work as a child educator there. Initially, she was very skeptical about the schooling of her 11 year old in India. But is relieved now as her kid is having a lot of fun at school. Fun like sharing lunch box, celebrating festivals, and getting to know new friends. Despite these positives, the educator mum was feeling low because of the lack of public libraries for kids. “In USA, they say parents must read stories to kids for at least 20 minutes daily. And most parents do that. Because of this, kids get into a habit of reading. Reading is so important for overall development“, she kept on talking. Her words reminded me of days when we had to struggle to get our kiddo to regular reading habit.
Our daughter used to love to listen to stories. But she won’t read on her own. We used to buy her age appropriate story books. First few years the books used to be very colorful, had 3-D images of characters, and letters were written in big fonts. The characters used to attract her, she used to love her books. But used to expect one parent to do the reading. There was a time when her friends parents would talk about the addiction of their kids to reading. We just used to listen, and feel hopeless. And then it changed. It changed so much that she is almost addicted to story books. She also reads the bibliography of authors, writes excerpts, and gives suggestions to friends on what to read!
As I am composing this blog, she wrote a few lines about her experience. Here it goes:
” The idea of reading story books came about when I was 8. Well actually the idea came from my parents. But since I hated reading, I pretty much tried everything to make sure that their ideas do not work. Alas, my methods failed and my parents made sure I read. No matter how much I tried, how many obstacles I placed, they just passed. And boom! There was a sudden explosion by the time I was 10. The reading (story book) hater (myself) all of a sudden turned into a reading lover. From Enid Bliton to Nancy Drew series; to the masterpieces of Agatha Christie and Rick Riordan and today stories by J.K Rowling, I am among the most savage reader you will ever find. Don’t know how a stubborn person like myself changed. But, well, it did happen.”
So what should parents do to get kiddo to love reading?
1. Instill a regular reading habit: For some kids, love of reading doesn’t happen automatically. It needs to be nurtured and guided till they develop the liking for books. A regular dedicated reading time helps in the same. Give kiddo the opportunity to explore different kinds of fiction, poetry, graphic novels, books of world records and kooky facts, sports heroes, or gross-out science books.
2. Dedicate time into reading: According to a survey by the reading charity BookTrust, Adults spend more than 90 minutes on computers, phones or other types of technology, as opposed to just 25 minutes reading with their children. It also found parents were skipping pages when reading with their children, finishing the story before the end or refusing to read a second story. Almost half of the parents who admitted to doing this said they did so because they were ‘too tired’. So, it is important to give kids the love and support that they need. Sometimes, you have to read the stories. You can also negotiate to read half a page for every half a page the child reads.
3. Pick age appropriate books: That helps sustain interest. You can also pick books that match or slightly exceed the reading ability. This ensures continued effort from the child. The books that just exceed the reading ability helps expand the envelope.
4. Story clubs: Parents can host story clubs. Find out your kid’s friends who are into reading, and encourage them. If they are already into reading, then the peer groups will encourage themselves. If not, you can be the catalyst to get every friend into reading.
5. Don’t give up: Don’t give up till kiddo gets interested into reading. It can sometimes be a struggle to get kids interested in reading, but it’s so important, in ways we may not always think about. Reading and storytelling are vital to preserving cultural identity, developing healthy brains, and cultivating curiosity in youngsters. So, if your kid is not into reading be a role model. Take a few minutes, sit down and read a book yourself. You will see the difference in few days for sure.
Our kiddo has now started reading Harry Potter. And interestingly, the stories are included in her school curriculum. This has made her eager to attend the classes, and take part in group discussions. Now-a-days, she give us an update about the literature class after school. We are glad to see this change over the last few years. Now, we have enrolled her to JustBooks library. We also buy her books. We encourage her to write an excerpt after finishing a book. Our kiddo has become more creative, improved upon her vocabulary, and communication skills. The 20 minutes of reading time has become the most sacred time for her.
Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales”. We are glad that we read and read to inspire her into reading!
“On the night of October 7th, 2005, the lives of Peter D’Souza and Elizabeth D’Souza were changed forever when they discovered that their thirteen year old son, Kevin had committed suicide by hanging.
Traumatized by the horrific and tragic situation they’d been thrown into, the parents of Kevin searched desperately for answers as to why their son would feel so lost, that he felt suicide was his only option.
Kevin had been described as a lovely child, who was able to always make people smile. Why such a sweet and happy seeming child would commit suicide, was a huge mystery to all.
And here’s the truth, the bitter narration which will leave you all in a bitter taste. Kevin was a victim of intense bullying from his schoolmates leading him to confess a fear of going back to school. His parents advocated the seemingly-reasonable approach of talking to the principal, an idea opposed by Kevin who feared it would make matters worse. However, unbeknownst to his parents, the bullying continued. Comments were made about his sexuality and even his close friends joined in telling others he was no less than a joker. It was ultimately too much for Kevin to bear and he killed himself at the tender age of thirteen”.
“There was yet another case of a young teenage girl taking out her life being a victim of cyber bullying. She was found hanging in her bedroom by her sister with the legs dangling and the ghastly eyes open, the teenager was a very bubbly girl who fall prey to a sick mind who abused her online, hid behind a mask of anonymity and attacked this vulnerable teenager to an extent of taking her life”.
“Bekon Smith committed suicide by walking into the path of a truck. Prior to the incident, she had scheduled a post on her public Tumbler page to go live after her death. In her final message, Bekon stated “my death has to mean something”. She wrote about her struggles as a young transgender teen, detailing her wish to live as a woman with her parents, who had denied her request, claiming it to be an insult to God. The post broke the hearts of thousands of readers, who actively shared the message in order to publicize the tragedy. After her death, Bekon’s mother still refused to use female pronouns for her daughter and would only refer to her by her given name of Bekon. She also refused to allow Bekon’s best friend, who had supported her decision to live as a woman, to attend the funeral”
The above case studies are our attempt to raise awareness on the issue of suicide of children and teens.
Suicide is a difficult subject to address. There are far too many tragic stories of people who felt the only way to escape their troubles were to take their own lives. When the people at the center of these events are children, the dreadful emotions we feel are amplified. Well hear the truth there are much more of the shocking motives and piteous stories of children who ended their own lives, horrifically from as young as 6 years old!
Suicide among teens and children often happens after a stressful life event, such as problems at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict. So it’s important for parents to know the warning signs so teens who might be suicidal can get the help they need. Some adults feel that kids who say they are going to hurt or kill themselves are “just doing it for attention.” It’s important to realize that if teens are ignored when seeking attention; it may increase the chance of them harming themselves (or worse).
Keep a close eye on a child who is depressed and withdrawn. Understanding depression in teens is very important since it can look different from commonly held beliefs about depression. For example, it may take the form of problems with friends, grades, sleep, or being cranky and irritable rather than chronic sadness or crying. It’s important to try to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your teen confides in you, show that you take those concerns seriously. A fight with a friend might not seem like a big deal to you in the larger scheme of things, but for a child/teen it can feel immense and consuming. It’s important not to minimize or discount what your teen/child is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.
Most teens interviewed after making a suicide attempt say that they did it because they were trying to escape from a situation that seemed impossible to deal with or to get relief from really bad thoughts or feelings.
There’s a thin difference between child and teen suicide. Child suicides aren’t like teen or adult suicides, which usually start with an idea, proceed with a plan, and end with action. Suicide among children is more likely to be spontaneous and less connected to psychiatric disorder or aggression. This is often reflected in the method: Instead of hanging or cutting or using a gun, “suicidal” kids tend to kill themselves by doing things their parents have warned them against, such as running into traffic or jumping out of a window. Children who kill themselves often have a mood disorder, ADHD, or a “conduct disorder,” which basically means antisocial behavior. Living an in abusive household can lay the groundwork for suicidal behavior, and an incident like getting kicked out of school or a dying relative can trigger it.
Often parents discuss death; suicide etc in front of children, what they don’t realize is that it can create a deep impact on the immature mind. Do not discuss these dark topics in front of the child/teen. They are too young and vulnerable to understand. The child might think it as a fun and even before you realize the child is gone the same was the American child smothered himself to death trying to fidget with the hook that hung his shirt.
Please raise awareness, please stop suicide among children and teens for you won’t realize how much it feels to be sad every single day without your child even when you experience joy, for it’s the goodbyes which hurt the most when the stories aren’t finished, for you parent will never understand until it happens with you, for it’s the child you will miss when you are breathing.
Save a Child, save the Nation. Make the world a better place to live.
Note: These are case studies, name changed to protect identity
Subject to Copyright
Jeeya was gleefully playing when Emmy screamed “Look the blood, it’s down your thighs”. All of a sudden the two children were surrounded by their classmates. All were curious. Jeeya felt helpless. Her little feet had droplets of blood somewhat maroon shade. She felt she had been bitten by some bug. There was a knot in her stomach too. All she needed was her parents. Little did she know or could understand that she was now a full grown woman!
Jeeya’s story is not an unique one. Many kids of her age go through the same experience daily. And thanks to all the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) present in food stuff for early menarche. These chemicals are ubiquitous in our environment, and are considered by scientists to be a significant public health concern. Although EDCs are thought to pose a threat to adults as well, children’s bodies are more sensitive to exposure to exogenous hormones.
Jeeya’s mother had a tough time dealing with the child. From a bawdy child she withdrew herself, she developed a heightened sense of self awareness and she showed signs of insecurity, she thought she was abnormal, she developed acnes. The mother had to take her to the dermatologist.
Australian researchers have found that children who go through early puberty are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. The study from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne has found 21% of girls and 19% of boys go through puberty as young as eight years old. While girls who hit the early puberty suffer from emotional problems; the boys experience more of behavioral problems. The age that teenagers begin puberty has dropped around the world, though doctors are not sure why, they say there’s an awful lot to be known about early puberty. As puberty marks a transition for a whole range of mental health problems, behavioral problems, and problems like self-harm, eating disorders, social digression etc.
Here are a 5 tips for parents to prepare kids for puberty:
1.Preparing for the first event: It’s probably best to avoid “The Talk” about menarche. Instead, try to spread it out into lots of smaller conversations — education about how the human body works, about the body parts. The privates are always a curiosity for kids. Kids reaching puberty should already know what’s going to happen to their bodies. As kids attain menarche early these days, it is advisable to start discussions in steps right from the time they are 9-10 years old, or earlier based on the maturity level.
2. The explanation – Parents need to explain puberty in a positive way. That it’s part of physiological working of the body. And that there is nothing wrong in having periods. Parents must pay attention to the child’s group of friends. There are many good reasons to do so. Sometimes, kids fall prey to misleading information.
3. Love and support – Parents need to love and support their children more than usual when they go through puberty. Studies show that children who have warm relationships with their parents have fewer anxieties and depression. And suggest to parents to never forget to use that old verbal substitute for physical affection that never goes out of style, the “I love you” words.
4. Nutrition and wellbeing – Children’s diets should include a wide variety of natural plant foods as possible including, green vegetables, squashes, corn, carrots, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, fruits and whole grains. All they require is a healthy, well balanced diet. They should be encouraged to carry on with regular exercises, and normal daily schedule as much as possible.
5. Taking care of hygiene – Parents should list out the good and bad hygiene habits – clearly tell them what is considered good and healthy, and what is bad or unhealthy. Repeat it as many times as possible in different situations.
For all parents who are reading my blog, please remember “The limbic system explodes during puberty, but the prefrontal cortex keeps maturing for another 10 years for it’s a traumatic process which the children can’t realize.”
Yesterday visited our pediatrician for giving vaccine to my one year old son. When we were waiting to meet the doctor, a girl (should be 8 years) and her mom (in her 30’s) entered the clinic. I recognized them. They live in the same apartment. I have seen them in some community events but have not spoken so far. The girl was unusually silent and she was simply starring at my son who was playing with his toy car. The lady seemed busy with her phone.
My son accidentally hit the lady’s legs, and was about to fall. I picked my son and said “sorry”. She gave a friendly smile and said “no issues” and asked “Is this doctor good? This is the first visit for us” and added “My daughter has become very shy now-a-days. She looks tired always, and very silent. In school also her teachers have started complaining that she needs to improve on confidence. Some of my colleagues suggested that this doctor may help. That’s the reason we are here.” I replied “Yes I am very happy with this doctor, and added that I personally know him for the past 7 years”. After this much discussion, the attendant called our number. My son was given the vaccine. The doctor suggested that we wait for half an hour there. He wanted to observe my son.
Next the mom and her daughter that I talked about went inside. After 15 to 20 minutes, they came out of the chamber. The mother looked thoughtful after the consultation. The doctor told me “Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes with your daughter daily. Play/chat or at least listen to her. Otherwise, she will become silent, shy”.
This thought kept nudging me and I was thinking, “Where do we get time, Work – Life Balance – Not only parents, Kids are also busy in school, extra curricular activities, home work, projects, etc.”. To clarify myself started reading different articles and all of them confirmed that spending quality time with kids is very important to develop self confidence in them. And time with parents is an indicator for growth in to a cheerful kid.
Parents are the first teachers to every child. They trust their parents. They mimic them, and learn a lot from them. They look up to them as role models. Their habits, their likes and dislikes are most influenced by their parents. The same is true for children’s interests, their religious faith, their attitudes about learning and interest in other people, even the words that they learn. Parents have the most influence on all these things. It’s sobering, but true, that these determine how successful children will be in school and in life ahead.
Every parent try their best to provide the best education, nutrition, and environment to their children. However, one simple truth is often overlooked: Children from birth to adulthood need time and attention of their parents. The importance of this time is multi-fold. It helps in bonding. The child feels secure and important with this time called “love”. He or she gets an opportunity to model parent’s behavior. Also, the parent can observe and learn about the child’s strengths and weaknesses in order to better guide him. The child has a chance to voice his thoughts and feelings.
The time parents spend with children now will pay big dividends for the rest of their lives. Because children spell love as T-I-M-E. Multiple studies reveal that children are much more likely to develop emotional and behavioral disorders when they receive inadequate or poor parenting. Each study suggests the foundation of spending quality time with children as the first vital step to successful parenting. There are innumerable ways to spend activities with kids. Listed few of them to get started :
Outdoor activities including Cycling, walking, etc
Family meal time
Art / Craft activities
I request the readers to pull out half an hour from your schedule and invest with your kids. This should be tried irrespective of your circumstances. Trust me this is going to multiply in terms of success of your child in future. Children spell love as T-I-M-E!
It was the interview day for Ryan’s school. Ryan is just 3 years old. He loves to play with colors. In his imagination house, a green colored flower is more meaningful than a green leaf. A yellow bird makes him more happy than a blue/green/black/or orange one. He loves to postmortem all his toys to find out the secret machine inside. Overall, he is an active boy. His parents oriented him very well on ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ at the school. The Principal welcomes the family. They were seated with two more teachers. After a brief introduction, the test starts for the prospective student. ‘What’s your name beta?’- Ryan Patil. As the Principal gets busy talking to his parents about their profession etc, one teacher gives him colors to paint the picture of a dog. Ryan picks his favorite red crayon and starts painting. The teachers stare at him for a while, the parents smell the blunder! They get worried that Ryan might not get admission at the school.
What is wrong with Ryan? Why did he paint the dog with ‘red’ crayon? Is it odd or inappropriate? Well, there are two possible answers for that!
1. Therapists often use color analysis as a means of determining a child’s emotional state. A lot of black or red recurring in a child’s drawing is indicated as a troublesome sign. Black is often an indication of sad state of mind. Red may indicate anger. Blues and greens are usually calm colors. Yellows and oranges often indicate cheerfulness. It is usually not a concern if a child does one drawing in one of the troublesome colors.
2. Children’s drawings are no cause of alarm, despite color choice or content. They are merely artistic expressions and may present a variety of emotions, representations, and themes that are explored and then discarded.
I learnt about Ryan from a post at LinkedIn. Ryan reminded me of another incident. My younger sister acted like a deaf and dumb child during her interview to Montessori school. As she was taken to my school, teachers gave her three chances to speak. All the times, she acted the same. That evening she had a confession to make. The confession that she was worried some thieves might take our mom if she goes to school. As mom would be ‘alone’ at home. And that’s why she had acted deaf and dumb! She missed her chance of admission at my school, but we had to respect her state of mind.
Whether it is the red dog, or the thieves; a child’s imagination knows no bounds. Sometimes creativity has much to do with state of mind and little to do with age. Kids read stories, watch cartoons, and observe things around them. Ryan must have read a bed time story about ‘The Red Dog‘. My sister might have been too possessive and thoughtful about leaving mom alone at home.
Children just go by their imagination and there is nothing wrong. Every child has his creative angle to look at things and it is no necessary to be rational. Parents should take it as a part of creativity and learning.
Our Ryans’ will surely find their places at schools that would foster their creative potentials!
*Acrostic Poem: SELF ESTEEM
Sitting there pondering
Every flaw she sees
Little does she know
From everyone else’s point of view
Each part of her is truly beautiful
So much of what girls think of themselves
Tends to come from fashion magazines
Each girl there displayed in stunning glory
Even though much of them is phoney, a
Misinterpreted sense of true and lasting beauty
*Acrostic Poem – a poem in which the first letters of the lines spell a word (s), most often the subject of the poem.
Aarif – The Child who suffered the worst kind of sad unable to explain why
Just another day Tabassum was busy with her kitchen chores when she heard Aarif nagging his father “Please come home early today. Close your shop on time, we will do our lessons together”.
To get a better view let me explain: Aarif is a boy of eight. Has an elder sister Aadila of ten. Tabassum is his mother. And there’s her husband. I refrain from naming him as he is just a special character in this narration.
That evening the mother and the two kids waited. The father never returned. He left without a trace. Days turned to weeks. Weeks to months. Months to a year and then here it goes:
Tabassum embraced a stoic silence. The two children hung to her seeking her attention and begging that she listens to them. To love them. To cook for them. All the mother could do was to stare – a lifeless stare. Aadila tried her best to deal with the trauma of losing her father, dealing with her mother, taking care of her brother. Aarif, though, was going through something else. He chose loneliness. At times, he was cranky, at others he felt guilty. At times he felt hopeless, at others he was just sad. Aadila tried telling him stories he loved, tried to feed him but he would choose to cry. The sad tears without ever explaining the reason why?
A year passed by when Aarif’s body was recovered from the nearby well. Let’s not get into the details, or what how Aadila and Tabassum dealt with that. Let’s focus on Aarif.
Depression is what Aarif suffered from. Everyone feels blue now and then. But most of the time it lasts just a few days and goes away on its own. Depression is different. It gets in the way of your daily life and makes it harder to do the things you love. It calls for treatment or else it creates havoc and life goes into a spin. Life events are to be blamed for sure, something disturbing that happens may trigger depression. It may be the loss of someone close, a difficult relationship, or a stressful situation. Other things, like one’s finances, where one lives, and whether or not one is married may also have an impact. But, there doesn’t have to be a “reason” for depression. Sometimes it happens without an obvious cause.
We all know Winston Churchill. Yes you are hearing right. He suffered from depression and called it “Black Dog”. Maureen Harrison from London College of Clinical Hypnosis International has beautifully narrated a case study of Mrs. N who battled depression. Look I am losing track, I was here to discuss depression of that little boy Aarif and landed up with Winston Churchill and Maureen Harrison. Will I ever learn a lesson?
Being an Indian, I don’t know much about west but here in India to hide your mental illness is the best. You can be a diabetic, you can have cancer, but you cannot be mentally ill. What did Aarif know about life? He had so much to give to the world instead he chose the well. He sulked for days together, stayed lonely, wept, felt empty, anxious but he couldn’t explain. What a family needs to understand is there is something wrong with the person when they see these signs. It calls for immediate medical attention in the same way we run to medicos when we have a blood pressure or a simple flu.
Depression is a dark place. The victims choose silence and refuse to seek help. I am no medico, neither a master in dealing depression but I am here to just make a point. Let’s join our hands to help the victims recover from this illness. It’s different, time consuming, needs several sessions of counseling with added medications. And of course, self work is necessary and that can only be done when that person realizes he is depressed and is in need of help.
I don’t want to bore the readers by my repeated speech on depression. I leave the narration with a message:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself – I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you never thought you could. And that no one is perfect – that’s why a pencil has an eraser”
Let’s fight depression.
Disclaimer: It’s a case study and names have been changed to protect identity.
Subject to copyright.
The other day we were waiting for our order of parathas at a highway dhaba. The place was quite crowded with young couples with small kids. They were mostly seated in groups. The long weekend rush was quite visible as most of the tables were full. The dhaba workers were quite busy taking down the orders, and satisfying the need of the guests. We were seated next to the table occupied by two families, two couples with two young boys. The elder kid would be around 6 years old, and the younger one must be only 4.
There was a huge neem tree providing shade to all of us. The tree bore lots of fruits. They were yellowish in color and looked yummy. Birds were fondly enjoying the fruits. Many had fallen on the ground also. I obsrved those as I had not seen such ripe neem fruits earlier. Suddenly, I heard the 6 year old asking his mom for permission to taste the fruit “I want to explore the fruit!” He had picked up a fruit from the ground around.
“I want to explore the fruit”- he asked his mom first, then dad, then the uncle, and finally showed it to the younger kid! Readers can you guess why I am writing this as a story?
-Because the kid approached 3 adults, and the adults were very in deep discussions. Not even a single adult listened to the kid. And yes, he was clear, spoke in a tone and language that was audible to me, to the person seated on the next table. The kid also approached the younger boy. He boy was also busy playing with his toy car, and didnot show any sign of active listening. In the mean time, the dhaba representative got their order. This disruppted the serious, active discussion of the adults. The mom called the kid. He went and sat next to his mon. He kept the fruit on the table near his plate. He was playing with the fruit, and at the same time grabbing his lunch.
-They say “One can tell a child something a million times, but the one time they actually listen is the only time that really matters!” The questions that bothered me for sometime:
1. What if the kid had consumed the fruit? Well, neem fruits are not toxins. But any substance when taken in excess is a toxin. What if the kid had consumed lots of those fruits. He was really in to it. Luckily, his attention was diverted by the arrival of their order.
2. What if the kid learns not to take permissions? What if he feels that parents anyway do not actively listen? Well, it may be an isolated incidence. May be the parents meet their friends after a long time, and were really concentrating on the discussions. May be they didn’t think that their kid will grab something random from the ground. And would love to explore that!
3. Why am I writing this? Is this not a small thing? Everyone makes mistakes in life, but that doesn’t mean they have to pay for them the rest of their life. It doesn’t mean they are bad. It means they are human. And humans need reminders. In this case, its a reminder to be more responsible as parents. As such a small thing can lead to a huge parenting mistake. Kids trust adults, so its the responsibility of parents to help them adhere to the trust by “Responding appropriately”. We often think children don’t understand, but they do. A lot more than we imagine. When we listen, we show them we care and empathize with them.
As the kid was happily eating his food, I bid him good-bye. I left the place with an important reminder. The reminder that I too have a teen! Whether someone else has observed me?
With Dilated pupils, involuntary tremors, teeth clenching, he was all time high with his regular shots when I first met Rohan a boy in his early teens.
-“In which standard Rohan”, I ask but get a deafening silence… I take a quick peek on him to find he had soiled his shorts which he hadn’t even realized. My heart sank a little; I swallow a gradually increasing lump in my throat and again dare to ask…
-“Look Rohan I am here to help you, be a good boy, and please open up to me!”
There was a ghastly quietude and then he speaks in a hoarse voice “You aren’t my friend, my mother pushed me to you, you are ugly, you are exactly like my mother, in fact you are like a sorceress, I have failed promoting myself to standard nine, my mouth is dry, I need my cannabis or else I will smother you”
-I battled my demons with an increased thumping in my heart I counter “What did your mother do and what about your father?”
With a gradually increased blood shot eyes Rohan finally mumbles “My father has no time but gives me my bucks, he comes home late in the night, sometimes he doesn’t turn up for days, sometimes he comes and just dozes off”,
-“And your mum Rohan?” I again push the little boy.
“I have no mum; I have several mums, not one but a dozen mums who want me, you get that stupid woman another nasty mum, that one mum of mine is too busy with herself and so are my father’s share of those several mommies, my mum denies me money, she asks me to study, she fights with my dad whenever he comes home, she cries, she drinks, then she calls her friends and party all night” answers Rohan with an increasing pitch in his voice and continues “My house is no home, there are people without life, they look happy but unhappy, there are servants but no work, there are expensive gadgets but none to use them, I sleep alone, I had been asked to be independent, I am free to do any goddamn thing, my dad pays me when I ask, sometimes I pick from his wallet when he isn’t around, I also drink from his bottles, it keeps me sane, but mum I hate her, why can’t she love me, why can’t she stop whining, I have lost all my friends, I don’t like to talk to one, I just want those shots”.
-“From where did you get them?”, I ask with an increased anxiety.
“It’s so easy, I got it from Sonia, she too has the same problem but now she has found a way to heal herself, and now I am healing myself too”, Rohan replies before collapsing.
Did I hear healing; this boy is out to ruin himself. A broken home is all he has. Cannot distinguish weed and flower. Whom shall I pity, Rohan, his mother, his father or the list of all the other mothers his father brings home or the society. Have I turned a story teller, making gossips out of painful narratives, no I am not, I am a mother, a mother to that little boy Rohan.
But how do I help him? My share of coteries can you answer on my behalf?
Substance abuse at a tender age is misdemeanor and even before the parents realize the child had already ruined him/her. The parenting starts at home, the parents are the first teachers, all the child need is an unconditional love and proper guidance to life.
Children can’t help but feel trapped in the midst of this ugly fight between adults. Talk it over a tortured mind is the worst. What’s the point of living in constant strife? Take the plunge, if you think it’s absolutely necessary. Even if there’s no domestic abuse involved, a general area of tension might exist between partners. This is equally pervasive. In spite of evidence of high conflict everywhere there’s a better way of doing it. A child is quick to notice that something is amiss. When one partner comes home, the other responds with a stony silence. His or her body language changes.
The child wonders, “Is someone going to get hurt? Will I be forced to take sides?” Rather than let things spiral, the parents must sit down with their child and make the cause of tension clear to him. The child should be told, “It’s not about you. It’s about us.”
People often fear telling their children the entire truth. Under these circumstances is honesty really a virtue. Parents should sit together and discuss their differences. Conscious effort has to be made to veer away from the blame game even if it’s an extra marital affair.
Rohan took to drugs to heal himself, destroying rather. He couldn’t deal the trauma of deformed fights of his parents. The mother has sent him to me to cure him his addictions, but why hasn’t the mother being an adult tried to protect her own prodigy by sorting out the differences with her partner and why is the father so generous in paying Rohan? Where is he trying to run? Isn’t he equally punishable? The parents have robbed him of his childhood; the boy is out to savage himself and now when he is finished the mother wants me to save him. Oh really? Is that so easy dear mother of Rohan? I leave the narration for our so called civilized adults to learn a lesson but with a message:
“Drugs kill the pain, and the joy, and the hope, and the body, and the brain and finally the soul. If you are silent about your pain they will kill you and say you have enjoyed it. We’re all made to make mistakes, nobody is perfect but we can always learn and save a life. Aspire to inspire before you expire”.
Disclaimer: It’s a case study and names have been changed to protect identity.