Shelja Sen

Shelja Sen is co-founder of Children First, a child and adolescent mental health institute, and author of Imagine: No Child Left Invisible; All You Need is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting; Reclaim Your Life: Going Beyond Silence, Shame and Stigma in Mental Health.

Articles By Shelja Sen

Imagine: Raising girls — misogyny shows up when we’re least aware

Let’s start by becoming more mindful of our language. Just observe the words we use to praise little girls — “gentle”, “nice”, “sweet” and the ubiquitous “good girl”; and for boys — “strong”, “tough”, “brave”.

Imagine: Parents, create boundaries without any double standards

It is only when they feel valued, loved and safe in a relationship that children can even be open to coaching. A red light is for behaviours that need a zero-tolerance, non-negotiable approach. The yellow light could be for habits the child is still learning to master.

Imagine: Parenting and the art of selective watering — even shy dreamers can sparkle

There are many children who are shy, scattered, disorganised, dreamers, clumsy and noisy. They might still have huge reservoirs of creativity, talent, ability, generosity, etc, but all that is lost behind cobwebs of mis-wiring that keep them from connecting and showing their sparkle.

Imagine: It takes a child to raise a village

Our decades on this planet, mountains of learning and self-aggrandising posing has just made our world so much more toxic, so borrowing the young woman’s words, “How dare you?”

Imagine: How to savour life in overwhelming times

It’s not about how much you do, but what you do, and less can be more. More than enough.

Imagine: It takes courage to be a teacher

All that talk and the buzz we hear about classroom management, teaching strategies, inclusion all amount to nothing if the teacher is not able to love each and every child in the class and make sure they know it.

Imagine: Forget IQ and EQ, it is all about PQ or playfulness quotient

We are going round and round in the journey of our life missing what matters the most – playfulness. Start by keeping 10 minutes a day for a nourishing PQ diet. All you have to do is to roll up your sleeves, loosen that tie and let your hair down.

Imagine: Speak up! We are done with the silence around mom-shaming

No matter what society tells you, it is not your fault, so look the shame in the eye and walk away. The saddest part is that it is women who end up policing each other. A mother shared with me, “My school mothers’ WhatsApp group is giving me sleepless nights."

Imagine: It’s our society that is broken, not our kids

What we see as depression, anxiety, addiction and the growing mental health problem is a sign of a society that is sick. Unfortunately, our children are paying the price for it.

Imagine: Busting the myth of laziness — ‘Kids will do well if they can’

Laziness is not an innate trait, so let’s stop shaming our children about it. They will grow and flourish at their own pace which cannot be dictated by us.

Busting the myth of laziness

Let’s stop shaming our children about being lazy. They will grow and flourish at their own pace which cannot be dictated by us.

Imagine: Dear Young Readers, are you ready to opt out of a digitally drugged culture?

The scary thing is that we have accepted this digital clutter so much in our minds and our lives that it has become normal to see people preferring to be on their phones than talk to the person next to them.

Imagine: Why parents need meditation or the art of stillness, in a chaotic life

If there is a niggling voice saying to you right now, "All this is rubbish! I can barely go through the day and she is asking me to become a Buddha", listen to that voice, smile and then let it go.

Imagine: This summer vacation, don’t be afraid to let kids be bored

Kids need to be bored. Stillness and solitude is essential to their growth and it is a milestone they have to cross to reach a rich inner life of contemplation and creativity.

Imagine: Are we failing our boys? Let’s look beyond the heavy mask of manhood

It was Nobel Laureate and eminent novelist, Doris Lessing who pointed out that boys were the new silent victims in the gender war where they are being “continually demeaned and insulted” and subject to “automatic rubbishing”. I couldn’t agree with her more.

Babies need attuned mothers to form trusting bonds, not ‘experts’

Babies with secure attachments have higher chances of growing up to be socially and emotionally healthy. They carry the message that they are worthy as they are, they can trust others and the world is safe enough to explore.

Imagine: Growing pains and the myth of a carefree childhood

We hear our kids have a problem and we want to jump into a full rescue mode. But hold on and instead ask them how they think you could help. If they feel they are not being judged, they might want to discuss their problem with you openly.

Growing pains: Myth of carefree childhood

What they need to hear from us is, ‘No matter what happens, I have your back!’

Imagine: Children with autism are different, not less

The child is not damaged or broken so nothing needs to be fixed. Maybe we are bit broken as human beings that we struggle to accept children who do not fit into the neat grooves we design for them.

Imagine: Woo your teen back! Who said they need so much of space?

In the absence of their parents’ attentive involvement, our children are more vulnerable to seeking approval from their peers which can come at the cost of high-risk behaviour for acceptance.