Aadi Nayar

More often than you might imagine, you will hear teens of India complaining about their parents. If not to you, it is to their friends. The previous generations of India were widely brought up on an extremely conservative mindset; arranged marriage, suppression of female rights, and almost totalitarian level of discipline was considered normal. However, as we moved into the 21st century, the newer generation and the youth developed different ideas on how they wanted to live life. The world was progressing quickly, becoming more westernized, welcoming new values, and leaving old ideas behind. The generational gap between the children of today and their parents is, without a doubt, huge. This leads to conflict and, on occasion, much more fundamental issues in family dynamics.

In not just India, but many cultures around the world, talking openly and freely within your family is not a norm. As a parent, your child is meant to trust you, but you may find your child hiding things from you or refusing to share details about their life. Why is this? Do they not trust you? The answer is both yes and no. One of the main reasons for this is parents tend to be emotionally unavailable. Your child’s problems are no lesser than yours, and you must not treat them such. To you, it may not sound like a big deal, and you may dismiss it quickly. However, this dismissal can lead the child to think that you do not care about their problems, ultimately leading them to not share these problems in the first place. Another reason for this is a parent’s conservative outlook on life. As an example, many Indian girls (and boys), even those in urban areas, are forbidden from dating or physical contact until a certain age - parents finding out about any such relationship is usually treated with punishment. A parent may want to protect their daughter, but ask yourself, should you not put your child’s happiness first? The world is not a safe place, but imposing these restrictions on a child may cause them to fight for it more. After all, curiosity is natural. What if your child is dealing with emotional struggles in a relationship? They cannot go to their parents for fear of being judged, circling back to emotional availability. A parent should be able to sit their child down and talk about their feelings; a child should feel emotionally safe, and not feel like they will be judged.

Just like adults, children are equally susceptible to common psychological problems including depression. A recent study showed that one in four children between the age of 13-15 suffers from clinical depression. Now, why is this? Why are children of such a young age, who are often viewed as being in the prime of their life, suffering from serious conditions like depression? The most common issue is social pressure. To you, peer pressure may not seem like a huge deal, and making friends may not seem hard. But in today’s day and age, it has become harder and harder to be accepted. You may not know it, but your child could be having a hard time at school. They may not have any friends at all. If you see your child acting strange or distant, ask them what’s wrong - they may surprise you. The parent always has to take the first step, and telling children to ‘be more confident’ is not helping them. The reason they may not have any friends is their different interests may scare them into being open around others. They may be afraid of being shamed, bullied, or ignored. Maybe they have experienced something as such in the past. Instead of telling your child to change who they are, you should instead tell them that you’re there for them, and tell them they can talk if they want to. A child’s first friend should always, always be their parent. When they have a problem that affects them emotionally, they should turn to you, the parent, not anyone else.

Now it is understandable that while reading this, you may think this is ridiculous. If you allowed your child to do whatever they wanted, wouldn’t they run amok, taking advantage of this freedom, doing horrible things every day? No. Imposing rules upon your child is natural, it is with their best interests at heart. But not letting them understand and explore the world around them is something that can lead to long-term issues. You may think you are helping your child, but in the end, the emotional impact will affect them throughout life. If you have raised your child with the right values and the right ideals, you must trust in them to make the right decisions. They know the difference between right and wrong. Teach them to be sensitive, teach them to be sensible, and above all, teach them to be kind. The world may seem like a scary place, and it undoubtedly is, but only when you let your child truly see it for what it is will they be able to fend off the demons they will later face.