The news of actor Pratyusha Banerjee’s suicide has come as a shocking reminder of a very relevant yet often overlooked aspect of parenting—how much should you interfere in your child’s life? Could she have been saved had her parents intervened in hers? Perhaps.
It is often noted that parents of growing children, especially those of preteens and teenagers, give into their children’s demands of ‘space.’ And while it may be advocated by parenting magazines and websites as a ‘golden’ rule, it may not be the most successful one.
In India alone, 1,35,000 youngsters commit suicide each year, brining its percentage to 17, as compared to 8 lakh suicides worldwide. In a 2012-survey published by the National Crimes Records Bureau, 40 percent of males and 56 percent of females who committed suicides were between ages 15 and 29 years. These shocking figures only make interference more relevant.
We spoke to clinical psychologist, Seema Hingorrany, to understand why it’s necessary sometimes for parents to interfere in their child’s life.
“Parents often give too much freedom to their children in order to give them ‘space.’ In doing so, they ignore their child’s tangible withdrawal symptoms. They may also dismiss behavioural changes as ‘a growing up phase.’ But this what’s wrong with the way we are parenting teenagers. Sometimes you just have to interfere in your child’s life,” she began.
When to intervene
Hingorrany explains that while parents cannot entirely control their child’s social life, the following reasons make it imperative that they intervene.
#1 Behavioural changes
If you notice changes in your child’s behaviour such as withdrawal, possessiveness, wanting to sit in his/her room, lack of social interaction or aggressiveness, it is time to intervene. “The purpose of intervention, especially when you notice such symptoms is to understand their problem. Never sit quietly if you suspect something amiss,” says Hingorrany.
#2 Refusal to share
If your child refuses to share his/her daily activities or anything that he/she may usually share with you, know that it’s time to intervene.
“Many children are bullied or may face issues with their personal relationship and may not share the same with parents. If you notice this change, probe further. Do not stay quiet. Make sure you let them talk, just listen and do not yell at them. You must also take the initiative to talk to the concerned person with whom they may be facing the problem,” she says.
#3 Emulates abusive behaviour
Children often emulate abusive behaviour and if they come from abusive households, there is a chance they would behave the same way as their parents. This may either lead to a passive-aggressive behaviour or an all-out aggressive and abusive behaviour. It can ruin their future relationships and social interactions.
“If there is abuse in a household, parents should either set an example for their children and rectify the situation or teach their children to say ‘No’ to abuse. Tell them repeatedly that nobody can hit them,” she says.
#4 Physical changes
If you notice physical changes in your child, such as marks on the body, desire to sit aloof, refusal to eat or sit together with the family or if you suspect that they are deliberately trying to hide something, know that it is time to intervene.
“In such cases, the best way to help your child is to intervene. Spend ample time with them and if they refuse, be firm yet kind and make them understand why it’s important. Do not get angry and assure them that you can help them and are there for them,” she suggests.
#5 Is judgemental
If you notice that your child has become too judgmental or criticises a particular person or matter, make sure to probe. “You must try to understand the reason for this criticism. Perhaps he/she is facing some physical issue or is constantly bullied, make sure to ask and be fair,” says Hingorrany.
What can you do immediately
Once you probe the actual problem, Hingorrany says, you can take the following steps to ensure that your child is safe.
- Meet the school principal or teacher concerned and discuss the problems with them
- Support and comfort your child and try to solve his/her problem
- Monitor your child’s activities, even if it means snooping (sometimes)
- Enquire about his/her social circle and invite them to your place to get to know them better
- Take them to a counselor if they absolutely refuse to share their issues with you
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