A timely intervention
Parents even in today’s day and age hesitate to reach out for professional guidance and counselling; it would mean that their parenting was amiss, now that couldn’t be right could it. As a trained counsellor for over 6 years now, I have come to recognise a pattern when I see one.
I remember meeting fifteen years old Karan so clearly. I wondered why his parents could not see what I could. He sat there with us, his parents, my husband and me along with our two teen-aged children. He had greeted us just as one would expect, waited till all the elders were seated and smiled generally. But I sensed as if he was not actually present. Our attempts at pulling him into the conversation, even on the on-going Football League seemed to interest him only mildly. An avid football watcher by his own admission, I could not put my finger on his seeming lack of interest. Always considered a hyper-prying sort I pushed the thought away. I chose not to discuss this nagging doubt with my son for fear of being labelled as ‘too judgemental’, by my children.
When Aparna, Karan’s mother reached out to me, she was reaching out because she had no idea what else to do. Karan was distracted, his grades were slipping for no apparent reason, he seemed to spend endless hours by himself, his doors were literally and metaphorically shut; even the earlier football obsession seemed to be on a sudden decline. I knew she needed to be comforted but could I assure her with saying that everything would be all right? My training cautioned me against saying so, so we planned a quick meet-up over coffee. I thought long and hard after the conversation, fearing drug addiction, alcohol; even bullying.
Aparna just wanted to talk. Her training as a teacher had told her that she needed to tell me everything if we were to help her son. It all came tumbling out; the over ambitious husband, the lack of consistency on her part, the grandmothers’ obsession with the grandson and the child’s inability to cope with increased academic pressure. I heard her and began to comprehend the problem. Karan was hiding in the cyber world! Any device that could transport him away from reality was his shield; mobile phone, i-pad, laptop. It was not quite known whether he was talking with someone in the virtual world, playing games or watching unacceptable content. It was important that it was addressed immediately; I knew that at first I needed him to believe in me. I was afraid that coming for ‘counseling’ might be unacceptable to him, given the taboo around interventions in our part of the world. But we could not let it be. These were precious years and we could potentially lose him; we sought a ‘buy-in’ from him. After many a frustrating interaction, I was able to elicit some response from Karan. Clearly, Aparna had intervened at the right time. He was, as yet, not lost to his own sense of reasoning and logic.
Several individual sessions later – some even over my app, have had their effect; grades are on a gradual upswing, the real world is getting more attention than it did earlier; there is even talk of future planning and goals in terms of academics and careers.
It all came down to an attentive parent; one who was not afraid to seek help, who knew that she valued her sons’ mental well-being more than she did what others’ thought.
It is important that parents observe their children for excessive use of devices, it may not just be a fad. It may be a problem that they are not addressing. Professional counselling can help you get to the bottom of such situations.