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The role of a lifetime
Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Porpavai on the importance of taking parenting seriously
Asha (name changed) is distraught. She’s tried to be her daughter’s best friend, supporting her at every stage, but when she put her foot down for an unreasonable demand, the teenager rebelled and accused her of being a dictator. The mother was shattered, because they shared a great relationship till then.
The trouble begins, says child and adolescent psychiatrist K. Porpavai, when parents decide they will be their child’s best friends. “Many parents don’t realise that you can be a friendly parent, but not a parent-cum-friend. What you end up doing is confusing children, who don’t know how to deal with authority, and fall into a chasm, unsure of how to approach their parents,” says Australia-based Dr. Porpavai, who is in town to conduct Paadhaigal, a series of parenting workshops in association with Vazhikatti Mental Health Centre.
“The first question people ask is why they need to be taught something as basic as parenting. But, there is a genuine need for it, because the world is vastly different from what present-day parents were raised in. And, the issues that children face today are very different too. The ‘guilty’ parents are the worst role models. They bribe their children, and establish a relationship built on ‘currency’ and ‘gifts’,” she says.
In Porpavai’s opinion, Social media is another danger area. “It is a sieve through which any information can go through. As such, there are very few barricades to prevent minors from accessing these websites. And, you have parents who subvert rules by cheating on children’s date of birth, and leaving them unprotected in a wild, wild online world,” she says. There is bullying of every sort on line and according to Porpavai, adolescents need little provocation to slip into depression. “It could be a casual comment on a haircut. If a child is low in self-esteem, this one comment can derail every other success.”
It is a busy world where both parents are running in and out of home, striving to build their respective careers. “But, parents must take the time to build a safe sanctuary for children, a space where they will be heard and not judged, where they can feel free to speak anything, and where relationships are built around interaction, not instruction,” says Porpavai.
In her sessions, she advocates a four-step method to raise children well. One of the most important lessons in that is for the parent to be a role model in every sense of the term, and show by example. “A parenting workshop is not a place to share complaints about children. Rather, it is a space for parents to focus on their role, misgivings and doubts so that they inspire confidence in a child,” she says.
Porpavai also uses the workshop to make parents understand that all children are not the same. “We must, especially in India, learn to celebrate individuality, to accept children as they are and to never force them to do our bidding. Only then will you raise children who will someday become good parents themselves.”
(Parenting sessions for pre-teens on January 24 and 31 and for teens on January 25 and 26. For fee and details, call 99422-85050 and 99655-59062, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.vazhikatti.com)