By Kartik Bajoria
In our generation, many of us shared a rather formal relationship with our parents when we were young. We loved them. They in turn, doted on us. But to say that there was genuine friendship across the board would probably be a stretch. Parents to us were revered and respected. Their instructions followed to the letter. Their wishes our command. And perhaps under the palpable weight of the sacrifices they made for us, we would spend a better part of our lives, realising their dreams, aspirations and expectations!
Truth be told, this has led to an entire generation, which though “well-settled” (a euphemism for financial security alone), has grown up to be, at best “unrealised” and at worst, frustrated and woefully unhappy. There is a silver lining though. Now, as parents, it is our generation that has the unique opportunity to change things with our children. To bond and connect better with them. To understand them. To be their friends. And to guide them in a manner where their lives are theirs, not ours.
So where and how can this process of reorienting and resetting the parent-child dynamic begin? Right at the very beginning really. As parents, we ought to shirk any and all preconceived notions about our children. Neither can we have ‘plans’ for them, nor can we assume that they will be good or bad at X, Y, Z. We have to go in with an open mind, a blank canvas, a clean slate. Spend maximum time observing our kids when they are very young. Watch for signs and they will present themselves unequivocally. A genuine talent for music, a strong attraction to drawing, a flair for language; these and any number of spheres of life and learning that a child naturally gravitates towards will come to light if only we as parents stay aware, spend time watching our children, and make note of these little traits that will start developing.
If we can undertake this process when children are between two and five years of age, we would have already addressed the one biggest corrective measure that we need to take as new parents, by acknowledging the child as a unique individual with an identity all their own!
Once the child becomes a little older (five years plus), if we create an environment where we provide stimulus and exposure in the areas where the child has displayed natural flair and affinity; we will, from a very young age, give that child the best possible chance at developing that area of interest from a nascent, and correct age and stage. Rather than blindly enrolling children in a million hobby classes and activities, our decisions will be better informed, more child-centric, more tuned to the specific individual. Of course, being that young, it is highly likely that the child’s interests will morph, change and evolve. But at least we will be making our decisions on an actual, and correct basis.
This exposure, if provided in a timely manner, can produce astonishing results which will make the child whole, and one that he or she will be eternally thankful for, ensuring a strong and indelible bond between the caregiver and ward.
As our children grow older and become their own young people, the biggest gift a parent can give a child, is acceptance. If, as a new breed of parents, we can break free from some of the shackles that perhaps marred our elders when they were parents, we will successfully re-set the parent-child relationship and make it a healthy, nurturing one. What do I mean? For instance, as a doctor, if the person can accept that their son or daughter does not have an innate talent for the sciences, and would much prefer to delve into the arts, then that must be genuinely alright. In fact, it must be encouraged and embraced.
This kind of acceptance of one’s child being their own, unique and wonderfully peculiar individual will automatically put an end to unreasonable parental expectations and rid our younger generation of the immense and sometimes fatal weight of pressure children feel when they are living someone else’s life! Acceptance then, is the key to improving the bond that a child and parent share.
Finally, it is high time that we parents put aside some quality time for our children, and spend it in a manner that is fun. Many of us parents are far too busy to bother with spending actual quality time with our children. We justify being busy saying that it is, after all, for the welfare of our children. Be that as it may, what we fail to recognise is that more than all the toys, and gadgets, and fancy holidays in the world; what a child needs, wants, and craves, is time. Time with parents. So first, we need to create that time. And second, we need to be a little ingenious with that time and undertake projects, activities and things to do with our children, that are collaborative, and fun for both parties involved.
For a father and son who might both love to be outdoors in nature, it would be great for them to take a river rafting trip together. A mum and daughter who love to bake would enjoy taking a baking class together. Time spent together but more importantly, time spent bonding better, which can only come about if as parents, we consider common interests we share with our kids and curate experiences that will bring us closer.
A new generation of youngsters needs a new, more personal, customised approach in parenting. The opportunity is for us to grab with arms wide open. To recalibrate and reset the parent-child dynamic once and for all, and make it a relationship that will lead to contented, fulfilled, and fully realised lives for an entire generation!
(Writer, educator and moderator, Kartik Bajoria holds workshops on creative writing and personality development at various schools.)