Single Mother and a not so single son

Being Single Mother

Varsha (name changed),
visited me thrice in a week. This is not how frequently I see my
patients. Unless there is a very volatile situation, patients need to
see me once in two weeks or once a month.

Varsha has a special
problem. She lost her husband to a sudden and massive heart attack
three years ago. With a young son in tow, she had to shift in with
her in-laws for practical reasons. After initial teething troubles,
they all have settled well together and money is not a huge concern.

As Varsha does not want
to be married again, and is not even looking for a relationship, life
seems calm and quiet.

But, there is a problem.
Aarush (name changed) , Varsha’s 13 year old son is on his own trip.
He has a mobile phone, a bunch of friends and not very high regard
for studies. It is not that he is running around doing nasty things
or getting letters from school all the time. He is just not
interested in behaving the way his mother wants him to.

On the face of it,
Varsha’s expectations are simple. She expects him to study for at
least two hours everyday, play with friends for as much time as he
wants, eat a good square meal that she prepares for him, respect
grand-parents, be aware that money is not unlimited and restrict his
conversations on phone to bare minimum. She also expects him to be
aware of time and mange it with lot of thought and planning. What it
means is that from the time he wakes up, Aarush should not loiter
around, he should be quick on his feet and do things with a zest that
suits a young man of thirteen.

Their relationship is so
affected by this time management issue that they hardly talk to each
nicely. Varsha is forever trying to make him rush through tasks of
the day and Aarush wants to delay everything as much as possible.
Sometimes even missing the school bus or tennis practice ! His
grandparents sympathize with Varsha and understand her motherly
intentions, but they feel helpless in the constant tug of war between
mother and son.

When I started talking
to Varsha, it was clear that she was under tremendous burden to help
help son achieve the best possible things in life. Her husband’s
death had left her with a huge emotional void and she had stopped
thinking about herself completely. It had even affected the way she
dressed and the way she ignored her appearance . Her only goal in
life was to make sure that her son did well in life and she could see
academics as the only way of making that happen. Husband’s untimely
death changed her perception of time as well. This rude realization
that life is very fickle and unpredictable made her take passage of
time very seriously.

According to Varsha,
every moment of life is an opportunity that will never come your way
again. Every moment must be utilised to make your life more
productive and better. Aarush has a very different temperament, even
at the age of 13 he is a person who helps his friends in emotional
problems. He is a source of information, support and advice to his
friends, boys and girls alike. He spends time on phone, giving
counsel to his classmates and he is liked for that by his
schoolmates. There are times when Aarush will even sit with his
mother and talk to her about various things, sharing her worries and
all !

What Aarush can not
understand is his mother’s sense of hurry and constant panic as if
time is running out. His solution to that is to slow everything down,
take life easy and he hope that his mother will learn from his

A family session that
included grandparents with Aarush and Varsha was very helpful to
highlight this issue. Varsha was for the first time in three years
was able to voice openly how much she missed her husband and how deep
her fear and insecurity runs. Fortunately, grandparents rose to the
occasion and pledged to support Varsha emotionally as well. As the
whole family reunited in their desire to live a “normal” life, I
could only hope that now Aarush will get a chance to shed his adult
role and go on to become a lovely child that he is.

Conversation with Aamir Khan

Conversation with Aamir

Yesterday (21/02/2012), I
had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Aamir Khan at his
residence. I was invited to talk about the work I do to prevent child
sex abuse. Aamir Khan came to know about my video on youtube (
and developed interest in that work.

I was seriously impressed
by his “normal” home, a study cluttered with lots of DVDs, books
and papers and of course two majestic cats. The Bentley standing in
his garage looked completely out of place with the normality in his

While we were chatting
about issues related to children and modern age, discussion turned to
cellphones. Some of the members of Aamir Khan Productions have
teenage kids and Aamir has three kids. Everybody was talking about
how cellphones are taking over their relationship with kids.
Everybody complained that all discussions with kids turn into
negotiations around what next phone to buy, what bill amount is okay,
should the phone be switched off at all, should internet access be
allowed on the phone, etc.

I am of the opinion ( I
am in a serious minority here, I know) that kids should not be given
phones at all till they finish 12th STD ( ideally, till
they earn to buy their phone and pay bills). All children use phone
to keep in touch with their friends, listen to music, swap video
files and surf internet. All this can be achieved by using home
computer !

I was surprised to find
Aamir Khan on the same side of fence as me ! He said that his son
Junaid, was given a mobile phone only after he turned 18 ! with the
same token, daughter will be given one when she is 18 ! as older
brother did not receive a phone before 18 she has no room to complain
and argue !

I am seriously impressed
with Mr. Aamir Khan’s fatherly instincts !

Many of us will argue
that our kids need phone for emergencies and to contact us. Aamir’s
kids probably drove around in chauffeur driven cars and may be had
bodyguards ! And the accompanying staff must have phones with them.
That is possibly true.

Now just think about last
6 months – how many times did your kid use a cellphone in a real
emergency? ( “mom, I forgot my geography book, please bring it to
school.” is not emergency, it is one lazy kid that can not be
bothered to be organised and one anxious mom who will run to help at
the drop of a hat !)

All kids have set
timetables, transport and some amount of money in their pocket. Why
do they need phones? In case they need help on the streets, they must
have enough social skills to get that help from passers by. To expect
daddy and mummy to run for every tiny little thing is going to make
them seriously socially inept.

Lot of parents use kids’
cellphones as a mobile tracking device. ” where are you?” and ”
what are you doing?” are the commonest opening questions in phone
conversations. Kids usually tell a lie in answer to these question
and you get a false sense of security. Some kids routinely switch off
phones, sending their hapless parents into panic.

Not having a phone means
your kids learn to plan their day and meetings, they learn to
communicate with people in advance, they even sleep much better at
night because their is no phone to receive text messages from
insomniac friends in the middle of the night.

Children who sleep
better, are taller, healthier and can concentrate better.

If you still think that
their are emergencies that your kids can not face with out a
cellphone, get help from a good counsellor
about your anxiety !

I rest my case !


Will you allow me a

Have you ever had a
secret? Known to just you and nobody else. How did that make you
feel? Proud, naughty, scared, ashamed or nice?

Had you a secret known
only to a bunch of close friends and not shared with any
“outsider”? It must have strengthened the bond of friendship.
Must have given you a sense of belonging, togetherness.

Children as young as 2-3
years start enjoying secrets. They tell you something silly as secret
( that too in a very loud whisper) and then tell it to everyone with
same serious air of secret. It seems very cute at the time. It is a
very important stage of personality development, the child is
developing “ego-boundary,” a sense of “self” and “others”.

Sometimes parents too
recruit their kids in this. “don’t tell this to your father/
mother/ teacher/ brother/ neighbour/ etc.” is a frequent opener of
such conversations. Thus from early age kids learn that it is okay to
hide information from certain person if you can justify it somehow.

And then kids grow up,
their world expands beyond family. So does their sense of identity,
privacy and secrets.

This is a difficult
transition for most parents. Those parents, who see kids as an
extension of themselves, find it almost insulting when kids don’t
share “everything” with them. Their goal to be their kids “best
friend” is seriously thretened when kids start hiding information
from them. Mostly this information is very trivial but if parents get
worried about it and make a meal out of it then it can lead to rapid
escalation of tension.

Many parents take this
as a serious security risk. They believe that as parent they must
know every thing in their child’s life. They even want to know their
kids’ most personal moments and thoughts, going through their
diaries, blogs, chat records, rooms, drilling their friends for
information and what not !

Kids usually react by
being more secretive, aloof and sometimes outright rude. This sets a
vicious cycle of parents becoming more suspicious and panicky and
kids always staying one step ahead. This may ultimately result in a
strained feeling in the relationship. Some kids will go to the extent
of shutting parents out of their lives and getting into trouble for

It is very important
that parents should be vigilant about kids’ activities and they must
do this with a healthy respect for a growing child’s need for privacy
and a sense of autonomy. Having secrets is a part of healthy
personality development. It is an important task of development of
identity. Without a strong sense of identity and a feeling of
uniqueness, children start looking up-to idols and fanatical ideas as
young adults and can not grow out of it.

Respecting your child’s
need for privacy and acknowledging it makes them realize that they
are loved and trusted. They grow to become trustworthy ( with a few
slips and accidents on the way) and independent. Parents’ respect is
the fuel on which children develop their self-esteem, the most
important human quality.

Walmiki’s Message for Us

Walmiki’s Message for Us

The epic story of
“Ramayan” is held as a guiding light by most of us Indians. We
often refer to Ram as the most ideal man and look at his life story
as an inspiration.

I have sifted through
Ramayan many times ( even the original Sanskrit version ) but I have
failed to find any guiding principles in parenting ! First chapter of
Ramayan, “Bal kand” does not have a single verse on parenting !
Is it possible that this was not a burning issue at the time? Not
likely, because ancient Indian literature is full of such advice;
Panchtantra and Issapniti are written for this job. Mahabharat talks
about father’s influence and mother’s role many times. Then why is
Ramayan silent on this?

I have tried to look at
cryptic clues and found one –

The story of Shravan, the
beginning of Ramayan, may hold a clue for us.

Shravan, a young boy,
lives in forest, with his blind and very old parents. For his thirsty
parents, he goes to fetch water in the dark of night. King Dasharath,
waiting in the dark with his bow and arrows kills Shravan, mistaking
him for a wild animal. When the old couple comes to know about this
sacrilege, they put a curse on King Dasharath, “ like us, you too
shall die, separated from your most beloved child !”

As the story unfolds in
Ramayan, not only Dashrath but even his son, King Ram is separated
from his family and spends long time being sad and lonely. In the end
he unites with his sons but across a battlefield as an opponent.

I believe that Ramayan
is a metaphor for us to unravel. Blindness and old age of Shravan’s
parents point to parents’ outdated life view and blindness towards
real needs of their kids. King Dasharath is a symbol of society and
government that is not bothered about well being of young ones.

For me the message of
Ramayan is loud and clear – if you ignore real needs of young
generation and remain preoccupied with your own aspirations, you will
be cursed for not one but three generations and will remain unhappy
and emotionally isolated !

Can we learn from this
guiding light that is burning since almost three thousand years?

Safeguarding Children from Sex Abuse

This is a very important subject for our kids’ safety.

Considering the huge response this subject draws, with help of Meeta Kabra and Navin Kabra,  I have created a separate sire for this topic –


Please visit this site for more information and educational video.