How to communicate better with your teen
In an online chat with readers on October 28, Manjiri Gokhale Joshi, author of the book 'Crushes, Careers & Cell phones' addressed queries related to tackling teenager problems, parenting and more.
The author hails from Pune and currently heads the project management division at Primal Pictures in London. She is also a social entrepreneur and founder of Maya CARE, a non-profit organisation that works for senior citizens in India.
For those who missed the live chat, here's the unedited transcript.
ammunna asked, Good Morning Manjiri, I and my wife are living abroad and i have a serious question about raising a child? Is India a better place to raise children or western country...i hv seen many teenagers who have no cultural connection or so called respect for family...I know it is partly due to the open culture which the westerners follow....Kindly advice
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, at 2011-10-28 11:00:47Good morning Ammunna Yes you are right. Cultural differences and the environment you grow up in makes a huge impact on a person, especially during the growing years. Wherever you live, in any country, city, locality, it is not possible for parents to hide external influences from children. Instead, would it not be better to make them aware of different cultures and try and instill the confidence and courage in them to do what is right? As parents, we too have to deal with social pressure, but it is more severe for teenagers who depend on the peer group for approval. If the atmosphere at home is very different from what they see outside, the pressure is greater. But if a child grows up knowing that things are different and just because something is different, it is not incorrect, there will be less conflict.
There are several factors that will deteremine where a family lives while a child is growing up. So one cannot really say which country is best to bring up a child. But if the child is able absorb the good aspects of a new culture and still have the confidence to stand up to peer pressure and not emulate the wrong.. you have pretty much done your job as a parent!
sakshi asked, hello manjiri, nice concept. but don't u think it is difficult to decide what to discuss and what to avoid talking to your daughter? worse even, to decide what time is right enough. girls, still okay, what about guys? how do you make them understand? does your book cover this area?
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Dear Sakshi Yours is a question most of us parents would grapple with. Sometimes the question has arisen far far earlier than any parent thought it could. Today's generation has such easy access to information from everywhere. TV, movies, the internet..even stray conversations overheard on the street. Half-baked concepts and incomplete inforrmation is always more dangerous.
If a young boy or girl has friends who seem to know it all and freely talk about things at school, it is even worse as the adolescent feels left out, embarrassed about not knowing what everyone else seems to know, and could end up being as easy target to be bullied and teased. As a parent, when you should speak to a child, is best decided by the environment you live in and the maturity level of your child.
However, a conversation is essential for the safety of the child. The best would be to ask the child what the child knows about conception, pregnancy, birth etc in medical terms. It is likely to be quite embarrassing for the child and the parent to discuss it. Still, it is essential to know that the child has really understood and is not likely to experiment with half baked knowledge! If the conversation is going nowhere, may be handing him a good book that explains things in simple terms could help. Our book 'Crushes, careers and cellphones' does talk about some of these aspects. But it is not a guide book. It has topics like Sex, Sexual harrassment etc.. essentially telling a teenager to be safe.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
'We must try and tell our children what is right'
shonu asked, how do i react when i find out that my daughter has a boyfriend. she hasnt told me yet...how to confront.. What is the right time/age to drink with our children..how to draw a line without being autocratic
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi Shonu It really is difficult to get teenagers to tell anything to their parents. But the main reason they do not tell is because they are afraid of what the parents will say. If you tell your child there is nothing to be afraid of and causally bring up the topic.. best to take it from there.
As for alchohol, every parent would wish that a young person would at least wait till the legal age in the country to have a first drink. Again, depending on the cultural set-up, a teenager may end up being exposed to friends drinking earlier. Best to discuss it openly with a teenager, try and ask them to wait. If not, at least encourage them to tell you what they are up to and be safe while they drink. The book does have tips on being safe with reference to alchohol.
shonu asked, Thank you for the reply, If our kid moves to India for his studies and continues till his high school, will it affect him if he wants to come back to US agn.
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Anyone, children, adults or teenagers...find it difficult to adjust to a new environment. But as a family, if you look at change in a positive way and look at it as an opportunity to meet different types of people and learn new things, it is likely to work out to be a great experience. There will certainly be resistance to move any where. But if it is put in this way.. it is likely yo work!
Priyanka asked, My 16-year-old asked me why he can't have sex. My answer was that you're too young to get started. We've stopped talking after that. Anyway I am sure he goes behind my back and does it
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Dear Priyanka This is such a difficult situation as a parent! That is the gist of the book...to try and tell our children what is right. And if things are beyond control, at least tell them to be safe, healthy and happy while they take their own decisions. But closing a conversation does not help. The book does deal with some of this in topics like - Sex, Sexual harassment, Girlfriends and Boyfriends.
nirupa asked, I am single and 26 yrs old. i want to adopt a baby and i don't intend to marry. Would it affect my child. If yes how do i minimize it.
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Dear Nirupa It is wonderful to hear that you want to be a parent. The foreword of the book has been contributed by Ms Sushmita Sen - who has adopted not one, but two little girls and they are a happy family.
The book has a topic on Single parents and it is interesting to know what teenagers have to say about it. Of course, the ideal family for anyone would be one with a biological set of parents who love each other, have been together for ever and love their children - this is great and hope most people are blessed with this.
But there are times when things do not work out the best between partners or you simply may not meet anyone to share your life with. That should not stop you from being a parent. There is an increasing number of single Moms and single Dads who have brought up children very well. It is tough, really tough.. but worth the smile on your child's face!
Kiran asked, My 13-year-old wants to date. In India it isn't looked upon very highly. Also I am not sure if it is the right time for her to start seeing men. Am I wrong in thinking that?
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Dear Kiran Your 13-year-old wants to date because someone somewhere, in her school/neighbourhood etc is doing it. And as a parent in India, you are likely to face severe social pressure if your daughter is seen outside with a boy!
The topic 'Yo-yo' in the book deals with this swinging in both directions. But the positive thing is your 13-year-old is asking you and feels comfortable talking to you about it.
There is also a topic called 'Men' in the book talking about how teenage girls could be infatuated with older men. The topic 'Women' talks about teenage boys having a crush on older women. As far as dating is concerned, the best would be to ask your daughter to wait a bit or go out with a group of friends. If she really has some good friends who are boys, calling them over at your home could be an option.
You or other members of the family can be around but need not intrude in the conversation. If none of this works and you feel your daughter would go out on her own any way, at least telling you exactly where she is and when.. would be good!
dhavall asked, haha you can afford to say this when you r living abroad. tell me would you have written the book here in india? it is easy to say difficult to implement.
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi Dhavall I have grown up in India and have just been in the UK for two years. Out of the 44 teenagers who have contributed to the book, 42 are Indian, most of them living in India...But you are right. In Western countries, topics like dating, girlfriends etc are discussed openly and some times at a younger age. In India, issues exist, some families are able to talk about them, but the pressure is high.. And the teenager is the 'Yo-yo'
Ramesh asked, My wife and I adopted a baby about ten years ago. What is a good time to tell her the truth? We don't want her to hear it from elsewhere?
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi Ramesh Great to know that your wife and I have a lovely adolescent daughter now. The sooner you tell her the better. She will be extremely hurt if she overhears conversations and discovers the truth by accident. The topics 'Mums' and 'Dads' talk about different kinds of parents, including 'Adoptive' parents. I am not an expert on adoption and you could consult a counsellor if you wish, before you break the news. Some adopted children do rebel or want to launch a search for their biological parents. This could hurt you but they are not being ungrateful, but are just feeling un-settled and may want to find their roots. But even if there are problems in the beginning, things will settle down. Best for her to know and know soon. Do seek expert advice though..all the very best!
'Expose children to different role models through good literature'
prasanna asked, How does one talk about birds and bees with one's children? I am facing a lot of problems.
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi Prasanna I have already answered a similiar question and the book deals with this with some of the topics, though it is certainly not a guide book. It is difficult for most parents to talk to their children about the birds and bees especially because most adults today ended up just knowing about it though friends/books but never had their own parents discuss it. But do broach it, make it objective, clinical, informative and focus on how natural it is. If it is still awkward, try and get a book that explains things in a simple way..
Manju asked, We live in the UK and have made enough to come home and retire. Our 15-year-old though wants to stay back. It's getting a little difficult to figure out what to do. We understand she doesn't want to come back to a country she's never been to but this is where we were born and raised. After working for almost 15 years now we want to come home.
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Dear Manju As I answered a similiar question, it is very tough for young people to have the courage to face new friends, especially those who have grown up in a different way. If as a family, you believe it is the right decision, you just need to make the arrangements and proceed. May be introducing your 15-year-old to other teenagers in India, would create a positive impression. Teenagers across the world have very few differences left now. They deal with almost the same kind of issues, have the same interests and the love for chatting, text messages, friends, music etc is common. Once your teenager knows that life will be different, but not all that different.. could be easier.
FP asked, Entertainment Industry is the biggest motivator for this cultural shift. How do we control it from misleading our children?
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi FP There is really nothing individuals can do about what the entertainment industry wants to project. We can of course, continuously try to make our children realize that just because something is on TV, in a film or the Internet, is not right! If we look at the reasons why something is projected in a certain way and explain these reasons to our children, they too will gradually start analyzing things and be careful about accepting something glamourous as great. The other important thing is to expose children to different role models through good literature. Once again, to inspire them to feel like doing good things in life and for them to know that just because someone is not known through the entertainment media, does not mean they are not doing good work.
vinod asked, I am single and 26 yrs old. i want to adopt a baby and i don't intend to marry. Would it affect my child. If yes how do i minimize it.
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi Vinod A similiar question on adoptive single parents has been answered. You can certainly try and meet all the specifications legally required and adopt. The book has a topic on 'Single parents'. Single parenting is certainy more difficult than sharing responsibility with your partner, and you may also end up pressurizing your child into being thankful to you for all that you have done. Another aspect to guard from, is pampering your child because your child is the only person in your life. The book deals with topics like 'Shopping'. 'Money', 'Lies', Responsibility.. As a single parent, you need to expose your child to different positive influences, develop a good social group so that the child knows that there are different types of families and different ways of being right.
nurran asked, hi i m 32 married, my child is 3 yr 6month old but he does not eat regular, only eats chocolates, biscuits, milk and rice, as he is growing i m worried about his future pls find a solution to this
Manjiri Gokhale Joshi answers, Hi Nurran .. there is a topic on 'Diets' in the book.. but more about teenage diets. Your child is really small and the carrot and stick approach should work - one treat for one 'healthy- balanced meal'