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What the children of divorce must definitely be told

What the children of divorce must definitely be told

“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” ~ Jennifer Weiner

Through this blog, I have had the privilege to connect with some interesting souls who bring along their own unique life stories. Some of them have connected with me in the open, while some secretly through personal contact. Amongst these many associations, there is one life story that has touched me hard. One soul who has been distraught with her parents divorce when she was a child. She has been nursing strong feelings of hatred and bitterness for the longest of time. ‘If only I was a better child, this wouldn’t have happened. My father would have then loved me and not left us’, she had expressed in one of her conversations with me. She blames herself for their divorce and for all the hatred that her father has for her.

This made me think that how parents handle their divorce is so much more important than the impact of the actual event on the little minds. Divorce is an extremely sensitive topic.Children must be handled with utmost care and they must be aware of certain facts. How critical it is for the children in divorce to receive the right messages at the right time. What you say, how, where and when you say it are all important factors to keep in mind. From my personal experience, and from what I have read and learnt over the years, I believe this is what must be conveyed to the children:

Divorce is imminent – Mom and Dad are not going to live together anymore. We tried hard to stay in the relationship but it’s just not working out. We have been unable to work out our adult problems. We feel it is healthier to separate and go our ways rather than live with constant conflict under one roof.

Your parents will always remain your parents – Mom and Dad will always remain your Mom and Dad. Divorce happens between the two parents and not between parents and their children. It is the end of the marriage but not the end of our relationship with you.

It’s not your fault – You are not to be blamed. Nothing that you have done or not done has caused this to happen. Nor can you prevent this painful event from happening. You are not responsible in any way for this divorce.

You will always be loved – Unless there’s a situation in which one parent abandons the child/children, children need to know they will always be loved, that the parents will always be there for them. As long as this remains true, they need to know that even the parent who is no longer living with them, will be there for them. They will always be cared for and all their needs will be met.

Changes will occur in our family life – Our family maybe called broken but we will still be a family in many ways. Here, it is extremely important to explain to the children the mutually agreed upon visitation schedule. How often the non-resident parent will see the kids and where – all details have to be explained well. It is equally important to specify what will not change – the sibling, the home, maybe the school, other relatives, their belongings, etc.

It is not the end of your world – Having divorced parents can be extremely painful and challenging. I/We recognise your feelings. You have a right to be angry and hurt. But be assured, it is definitely not the end of your world. There’s a lot more that life has to offer. Even though this event may seem insurmountable now, you will soon discover ways to get past your pain and angst. You will come out strong and successful, you can surely thrive!

“I strongly believe children can thrive through divorce. Children need parents who love them. Children need to know they are safe. Children need stability and sometimes that’s much easier to achieve outside a marriage than in a broken one.” ~Lisa Hayes

The best of kids have divorced parents – Children often wonder why their parents are divorced and not the parents of their friends. It is very easy to feel victimised. It is natural for them to think they must be bad kids, hence this is happening to them. But children need to know that divorce can happen to the best of kids. This has nothing to do with their behaviour or shortcomings whatsoever. They are wonderful children. And will continue to be so.

Ideally, both parents should break this news together. But every situation of separation is different and even if one parent has to break the news, so be it. Be careful of the place where these things are being discussed, as there is likely to be emotional breakdowns. And again, the messages have to be reiterated in an age appropriate language.

When children of divorce look back, they realize that the moment of hearing ‘the news’ changed their lives forever. This makes it vital for the parent/parents to handle it well and set the tone for an emotionally strong future.

Also read: How children see their family

Teenage suicides over the Blue Whale challenge

Teenage suicides over the Blue Whale challenge

“Silence is sometimes the most powerful scream!” ~Anonymous

Last few weeks, we have been reading of some shocking incidents of teen suicides due to the strong emergence of the online game called the ‘Blue Whale challenge’. Teenagers who seem depressed and lonely are falling easy prey to this fast-growing, horrifyingly dangerous challenge. It has taken the parenting and schooling fraternity in India and globally, completely by surprise. By the time they realize the gravity of the situation, it’s too late for them to intervene and help their children stay away from it.

What is the Blue Whale challenge?

The Blue Whale Challenge is an online game known to have originated in Russia. It targets teenagers through a social networking site by identifying certain hash tags and search words used by the innocent kids. Once they sign up, they are assigned an anonymous curator who gives a daring task for every day, spread over 50 days. These tasks range from waking up in the middle of the night to watch scary movies, sending photos of self-harm with a knife or a needle, not speaking with anyone all day, speaking to the other participants (known as whales), to climbing a crane or ledge, all in the process of inflicting pain upon themselves.

If the teenager is reluctant or wants to back out of the challenge, the curator threatens by saying that all their information lies with them or harm will be inflicted on their loved ones. The teen even has to post photos of some tasks on their social platforms as proof and use dedicated hash tags. Then on the very last day, the teenager is asked to jump from the top of a building and commit suicide. The curator derives pleasure by completely brainwashing the victim into taking his or her own life.

 Why do teenagers fall prey

Most of the teenagers have their share of problems and insecurities. It has its physiological relation with their hormones and is a healthy part of growing up. But in some cases, the intensity of emotions and feelings in a teenager is far beyond what is considered to be normal. A deep sense of failure in all aspects of their life, a profound feeling of being ignored and of very poor self-esteem leads some teenagers into depression. They become so vulnerable that they tend to seek validation from an external environment. The online media serves as the perfect outlet for them to vent their feelings of despair and helplessness.

Finding like-minded people to associate with fills them with hope even if it means latching on to self-destructive traits. Their need to belong to a group and seek approval is simply so strong, they are willing to do just about anything. The virtual world allows them freedom of actions and thought unlike the restrictions present in their real world. No wonder then, such a challenge that incites excitement at every stage fills them with a false sense of purpose. As they complete each tasks assigned, they gain a sense of achievement. It fills them with instant, magical success, something they have been craving for long.

Signs to watch out for

How frustratingly helpless a feeling it must be for parents to see their children take their own lives! Did they not see any warning signs in their teenagers’ behaviour? Were they so disconnected from their children to know what’s going on in their minds? Or were they too busy to look out for the activities their teenagers were busy pursuing?

While we may not be able to decipher completely the complex minds of our young adults, we can surely watch out for some alarming signs:

  • Spending way too much time online, on phones or laptops, and on social media
  • Staying aloof from family members at home
  • Cut marks on their body
  • Secrecy about who they are chatting with or what they are doing online
  • Seemingly outraged or upset after using the internet
  • Unwilling to go out socially or interact with friends
  • Too excited or too withdrawn
  • Reluctant to talk about anything

Too much media coverage on the Blue Whale Challenge has raised concern as well as panic amongst parents and schools alike. But the focus needs to shift from this hype over the suicidal game to addressing the root cause of the problem – teenage depression.

Also watch: What is the Blue Whale Challenge

 

[I am taking my Alexa Rank to the next level with #MyFriendAlexa and Blogchatter this September]

 

K –Kahlil Gibran #AtoZChallenge

K –Kahlil Gibran #AtoZChallenge

“Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran was a Lebanese-American poet, artist and philosopher. His renowned classic ‘The Prophet’ is one of the masterpieces of our times. It has been translated in more than a hundred languages.

Through this post, I only want to highlight some of his quotes as they speak of his profound views on everything life. These are my selected ones, just a drop from his ocean of greatness:

On Love

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.”

On Suffering

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.”

On Friendship

“Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.”

On Marriage

“You were born together and together you shall be forever more…But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”

On Women

“Men who do not forgive women their little faults will never enjoy their great virtues.”

On Children:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.’

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.’

 

This post is part of the #AtoZChallenge 2017 Blogging from A to Z: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

I write about my spiritual and personal growth influences from A to Z.

My previous posts in chronology:
A: A New Earth 

B: Brahma Kumaris

C: Chicken Soup for the Soul

D: Dialogue with Death 

E: Eat Pray Love 

F: Finding a purpose in life

G: GANDHI

H: Healing with Chakras

I: I Believe in Angels

J: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

 

Images Courtesy: http://thebea.st/1M49Cm7; http://4umi.com/gibran/prophet/

 

Questions behind academic marks and children’s success

Questions behind academic marks and children’s success

“Intelligence is not measured by the ability to score high marks in studies, but to score high marks in life.” ~ Bryan

Final exams in school are done, we are on a short break before children begin the next academic year and I have to brace myself for the soon to be declared results. Now here’s an honest confession – one area of parenting that I have difficulty accepting myself with is that of my children’s academic performance.

A mom’s challenge

As a struggling single mother, I have asked myself hopelessly –

Am I a successful mom only if my kids shine academically?

Are my expectations of their academic excellence valid just cos I was a good student?

Am I a failure if they refuse my help in studies even though I can add value?

Is being self-driven innate or can be instilled?

Do all children have to be academically inclined?

I think to myself – it is painful to see them under perform when you know they have better potential to unleash. How can I inspire?

Parental Pressure 

Every year we read stories on student suicides, of not been able to live up to their own expectations and that of their elders. Of breaking down and giving up. Often children are put on a guilt trip to do well for parents so they can proudly announce to the society. Are we conditioning them to study for us? They are not our trophies to be displayed for our pride, are they? Shouldn’t it be more about them taking an onus for their life?

I am not in favour of putting undue pressure of marks, as a child I know how burdened it felt to study that way. Yes, I do wish to see them do their best in academics. But I want them do it for themselves and not just for me. To emphasise that they bear the consequences of their efforts.

On a different level, I know they went through a lot of pain seeing their parents divorce. It may have affected their confidence and performance. The fact that they have faced it all with maturity and unflinching love in their hearts is in itself a huge achievement. To see them deal with everything consequential only fills me with great pride. Their good or bad marks can never alter my unconditional love for them.

Questioning our academic system

Top ranking students get most attention in school and praise in society. Marks are used to judge the capability of a student. It creates some sort of divide amongst the students unfortunately. Not all children are academically brilliant and may have other talents in extra-curricular activities.

I am glad that both my children have excelled in district level sports championships, been a part of their school teams and also won laurels in dance and singing competitions. But that does not bear much significance at the end of the day when only marks are given value in our education system. Why do their non-academic talents seem trivial if children do not score good marks?

“Success in life does not necessarily originate with academic success.” -Robert Sternberg

We do realise that marks are not necessarily the only measure of their intelligence. Academic success does not equate to a child’s success in life. That her being a topper does not essentially guarantee a fulfilling career. Or a happy life ahead. Our obsession with marks is to be condemned. Even worse, our tendency to compare them with other kids.

Focusing on life skills

My older kid has scored far better in the last two academic years than she had earlier. I believe the key is to inspire them to be self-motivated and self-disciplined. To recognise their strengths and figure ways to hone them. Inculcating the habit of delayed gratification and learn time management. Building confidence needs to be emphasised over accumulating marks by rote learning.

“Preserving their self-esteem is far more important than preserving their mark-sheets!”

The true winner

As adults, we realise that what helps us sustain in life is how we apply our education. Failure is not poor marks but the inability to learn from our mistakes and move forward. True success is to know your purpose and live a life in tune with it. Nothing is as fulfilling than to find your passion and make a living out of it. At the end of the day, it is to remember that being a good human being far surpasses all material possessions and professional success one garners.

If my children grow up to be compassionate adults, respectful, peaceful at heart, leading a healthy fulfilling life, I would have succeeded as a mom.

Sharing a couple of impressive ads I saw lately for us parents to ponder on:

https://youtu.be/pTdXVmgC3us

 

Teenagers require space to grow into healthy adults

Teenagers require space to grow into healthy adults

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.”
~Frank A. Clark

Recently, my teenage daughter went on a study trip from school with a huge bunch of students and a few accompanying teachers. The excitement of spending four days and nights with their best buddies was pulsating from the minute they all had gathered at the airport. It was gratifying to see their delight as I bid her goodbye, albeit with a sigh of sadness that she is not going to be home for the next few days.

Amongst the rules of this trip was one where no cell phones were allowed. Such a relief it was to know that they will be able to focus completely on their studies, serving the real purpose of the tour.It would be assuring for parents as kids will have no screen distractions and not be bothered by innumerable calls and messages. Well, that’s what I thought. But what ensued instead was an incessant flow of queries and comments on our messaging group. Messages that reflected a constant sense of worry and anxiety about their girls… ‘Flight delayed, poor kids will be uncomfortable; have they eaten anything; they will miss out on sight-seeing; is it too cold;hotel lines are forever busy; cell phones should have been allowed; they are eating dinner so late; they have to wake up so early…’

Now I am not being critical or judgemental here – after all, we are together on this journey of motherhood.

But I wondered…I’m not so worried, does it make me a carefree mom? I’m not even guilty of the space she and me both will enjoy from each other. Does that make me a heartless mom? Does parenting mean attachment? Does maternal love entails being possessive about the children? Do we always need to be in control of our kids? I have two teenagers whom I have practically raised on my own and surely learnt many lessons along the way. Pertaining to this context, here are a few points I feel compelled to highlight from my own experience:

  1. We need to keep our cool– Teenage is a tough period to tread through for mothers as well as for children. It’s that phase of high surge in hormones in their bodies and changes in their brains. There are bound to be outbursts of uncontrollable feelings as they learn to cope with all the changes in their lives. It becomes imperative for mothers to keep their cool especially during stormy moments. We have to remind ourselves that we are the parent and it is crucial to display that maturity. Being calm and controlled, and not reactive, is the key.
  1. Teenagers require their own space– It is hard for us moms to stay away from our children completely. Especially being a single mom, it is very hard for me to keep a distance or stay disconnected. We want to be around and do everything to raise them well. But it is essential for us to recognise that teenagers do require their own space – physical, emotional and mental, to become self-directed adults. They need their space to exercise their choices. They need the space to make their own decisions and face the subsequent consequences. They require the distance from us to grow. That is how they will learn to survive and thrive. We owe them that space and respect it too.
  1. Balance between monitoring & privacy – Teenagers are discovering themselves and constantly learning to deal with the adult world. Their brains are still growing, surely we ought to guide them as they learn to sail through life. On the other side, they are also growing to be adults who need their privacy. It is crucial to define the boundaries on secrecy based on mutual trust and respect. They need us to trust them and respect them for who they are. Maintain a balance between when we need to supervise and when to let them be.
  1. Our anxiety rubs on to them- It is natural for moms to be concerned and worried about everything related to our children. They will always be a part of us outside of our bodies. However, the key to healthy parenting is to keep our anxieties at bay as it rubs on to our kids. The way we react to situations and to our kids sets a conditioning pattern in their minds. They begin to operate at the same level of anxiety as we model for them. Instead, let us display coping mechanisms to deal with our anxieties and together learn ways to manage stress.
  1. We need nurturing too- It is commonly said that we moms need to put on our oxygen masks first before we put them on for our kids. It is so important to fill ourselves first in order to give to our families. Our teenagers will soon fly out of the nest we have so beautifully built. What are we going to do then? Where are we going to focus our precious time and energy? We need not orbit our entire lives around the kids. Instead, lets find time to do things we enjoy, ways to evolve and have our own independent identities. For our own sake as well as for our kids’ sake.

Image Courtesy: Pexels

 

How to help children feel comfortable in school after parents’ separation

How to help children feel comfortable in school after parents’ separation

help

“Together may we give our children roots to grow and wings to fly.” ~Unknown

When parents get separated or divorced, children either get to continue in their same school or inevitably have to move schools depending on the circumstances and logistics. Changing schools during separation ensues a different set of challenges, a situation that I did not have to face and hence do not have insights. This post examines the scenario of helping children feel comfortable in the same school post separation or divorce.

School is like a second home for children. So when there befalls a crisis situation at home, it becomes a place of refuge for many kids. Since they spend most of their daytime in school, it provides a safe environment of routine and familiarity.

Here are a few ways we can help children readjust and feel comfortable in their own school during separation or post divorce:

1. Teachers: Meet with the class teacher (and not all the individual subject teachers in the Indian schools) and inform her/him about your family situation. It would be worthwhile to even confide in your child’s favourite teacher, someone he/she looks up to and who is sensitive enough to empathise with. Discuss with the teacher about the emotions your child feels at home and to look out for possible behaviour changes he/she may exhibit in school. You don’t need to disclose all the details about your personal life. Just maintain the relevance in context to your child’s well being. Teachers usually contact parents only if an issue escalates in school. Maintain regular contact with the concerned teachers apart from the time spent during parent-teacher meetings. Work closely with them and heed to their advice.

2. School counsellor: School counsellors are qualified to address several emotional and mental issues children face at different ages. Most of the schools would either have a full time student guidance counsellor or have someone coming in part time. Some schools may not have either, in which case the school authorities will recommend counsellors outside of school. Confiding in a counsellor helps the child and the parent deal with the changes at home and the whole new set of feelings. I have been truly fortunate to have access to our full time school counsellor who is compassionate and easy to talk to. Just the thought of having her as someone my kids could talk to in school, someone looking out for trouble signs, was very reassuring to me. She continues to be a sound support in dealing with several issues that I now face with my teenagers in school. School counsellors provide an opportunity for children to discuss their feelings in a stable environment. Counselling in school or outside does go a long way in helping children build their own coping mechanisms.

3. What to say, how much to say: Children are often subjected to many difficult questions that can be painful to answer. ‘Why do you not live with your father?’, ‘Why did your parents divorce?’, ‘Which parent do you love more?’, ‘Do you miss your old home?’, “Is your mom a bad person?’…so on and so forth. People are and will always be curious to know more. This is a reality children coming from a divorced family have to deal with for life. It’s important to teach them that they need not answer difficult questions if it makes them uncomfortable. They need to know that it’s perfectly okay to say they do not want to talk about it. Alternatively, subtle answers can be suggested that do not divulge too many details. It’s equally important for adults to handle this with care, sensitivity and tact.

4. Official formalities: It is essential to update all school records with the new address, contact nos. and change in mother’s name (where relevant). If the bus route has changed, update that as well with the bus authorities and inform the concerned in-charge on the bus. It is extremely important to update the emergency contact numbers, especially that of the family doctor or physician. The school diary usually needs to be signed by both parents. If one parent is not available or refuses to sign, let the school authorities know the reason.

5. Visitation schedules: In many cases, children tend to spend their time between two homes after separation. The teacher needs to be informed of the custody and visitation arrangement. For there may arise situations where children forget to bring along school essentials or leave behind important documents, etc. at the other home. If the teacher is well aware, it would mean sparing the children from scolding or further embarrassment. It is also important for teachers to be aware of extremely hostile situations when the non-resident parent may get invasive or intruding in school. If the child is to be fetched by an adult after school, kindly arrange so with an appropriate identity card to ensure safety.

6. Activities: Some children shy away socially and may avoid extra activities, recourse to being in their own shell. They need to be encouraged to take part in as many activities as possible, fostering their development and confidence. Despite moving further away from school after divorce, the extra distance did not deter me to drive my kids early in the mornings to ensure they participate in school sports (It’s a proud feeling that they went on to be a part of their school teams at various levels). Normalcy and consistency in maintaining their routine is key to their wellbeing.

7. School events: When children of divorce know that both parents love them unconditionally, it does a world of good to them. While it is essential for the custodian parent (usually the mom) to be present for all the school events, the presence of the non-resident parent provides a morale boost to the child. If the situation is amicable between the parents, their equal involvement in the child’s life is healthy. But if the situation has been acrimonious and the parents do not communicate well, the child can be spared of seeing them together in school.

Children are usually quite adaptive and find ways to cope with the changes in school. With love, right guidance and support, they eventually figure out what best works for them. So do single parents!

How children see their family

How children see their family

Reticulated Giraffe Family

“Once you bring kids into this world, its not about you anymore.” ~Tony Gaskins

One of the harshest outcomes of separation of a married couple is its inevitable impact on their children. As adults, most of us have already faced disappointments and changes, losses and challenges, at different stages in life. We have been in stressful situations in one-way or another, and we have developed our own coping mechanisms to deal with them and learn from them. But for small children, their parents’ separation and the disintegration of the family unit would perhaps be their first apparent life crisis! When as adults the situation can be excruciatingly painful, it is unimaginable to fathom the agony children can go through.

The way small children see it – family means the entire world to them. In the eyes of toddlers, their parents are truly their universe and there isn’t anything else, literally. Even older children, however detached and rebellious they can be, continue to define themselves in terms of their family. Their family is an intrinsic part of who they are. Their parents are the two most important people who mean everything to them. They perceive both mom and dad as a single entity, rather than seeing them differently as a mom and a dad. It is from this single unit that their family was created. No wonder then that children view their parents’ breakup as the end of something fundamentally significant.

When children see and absorb that their family is not what it used to be, that alone can shake them. It can evoke emotions of being unsure, anxious and insecure. Separation can seem like a catastrophe and be a devastating feeling!

We all feel a need to belong and there is no better sense of belonging than that which comes from being a part of a loving family. It becomes extremely crucial for a parent or both the parents, given different circumstances of separation, to help these children navigate through the painful process in a reassuring and healthy way.

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