Tag Archives: blogging

How to keep your teen safe on social media

Right, so here we are talking about one of the most pressing issues of our times: Social media and teens. It is a topic that all adults know needs to be addressed, and one that the teens believe, their parents should stay away from.

Attend any PTA meeting in school, and you will hear the teachers warn you of the dangers of letting young children access social media without adequate parental guidance. There is the fear of stalking, of having online relationships with adults who are upto no good, the danger of cyber bullying, the fear of your child creating a digital trail that may come back to haunt him in later years when he starts applying to universities or for jobs… the concerns are endless.

But the flip side: this is the technology of the future, everybody is on it. Your child’s future academic institute will look for blogs and Facebook communities that your child has set up, invested time in or nurtured, the networks they make here are ones that can connect them to their future mentors, they follow their icons, study and observe how these social media celebrities have become icons and hope to do so themselves.


Understanding the power of social media
The young people today are not just dreamers, they dream big, and they are brave, very brave, I think. To them, failure as a concept does not exist. What social media has done for us as a society is made us realize that you don’t have to win the Nobel Prize to be considered successful. Each community has its success stories, consisting of passionate people who wanted to make a difference. Social media brings these young achievers and doers to the fore, inspiring others in their age group to do the same.

You hear their interviews on radio, they perform at local clubs, some of them travel across the nation or even the world, sharing their passion and their stories, in the process building a network of followers and becoming more famous and thereby, according to the traditional standards, successful.

Can I make social media work for my teen?
These positives make me ask the question, what should I do about social media and my child being on it. If he spends too much time on it, it affects his academics; if I take his access away, I fear he is being left behind. As a parent, how do I strike a balance?

Some of the answers by experts dealing with children and teens can be a route that you may want to adopt:

  • First and foremost acknowledge that your child will have a social media presence. In this day and age to expect otherwise is living in a fool’s paradise. We fear social media as we are not very comfortable navigating this digital world. Your teen knows it well in terms of how it functions technically, how the various networks are connected and how people using it to their advantage.
  • Set up your own social media accounts and ask your teen to help you understand how the different media work. Most teens are happy to teach you as it makes them feel you appreciate their inputs instead of constantly telling them that they don’t know anything.
  • Speak to your teen about the real world dangers when you were a teen, how you were advised to remain safe and how the safe rules apply online. Eg: Don’t speak to strangers, don’t share your information with people you don’t know, don’t be rude to peers even the ones you don’t get along with… explain to him / her that apart from their friends viewing their social media posts, there are also known adults who could be checking them out, like teachers and their friends’ parents.
  • Teach him to mind his language: Content posted online by young teens can appear out of line, brash or even vulgar to adults who are not used to the lingo teens use between themselves. This can easily be misconstrued and spoil a teen’s reputation. I have found it important to explain to my teen to use his language very carefully on social media keeping in mind that the other child’s parents may be accessing his / her friend’s account. Being aware of this fact ensures the social media conversation remain publicly acceptable.
  • Follow your teen on social media, but as an observer: Ask your teen if he is ok with you following him on social media accounts. Most teens do not have a problem with that as long as you don’t keep commenting on each post. A ‘Like’ once in a while is appreciated. Being very vocal in a space that he shares with his friends is like inviting his friends to come over and sitting in the room while they want to share their private stories.
    You would not do that in real life, so don’t do it online. Give the child his / her space, you are just following the account to keep an eye on his / her activities.
  • Follow his close friends, but don’t invade their privacy: My teen helped me set up my Instagram account and also asked his close friends to be my first followers. This encouraged me start posting regularly and his friends would regularly ‘Like’ my posts, making me feel good. This also let me follow them and watch the activities on his friends’ pages. Please note, the same rules of online conduct apply for friends’ account: comment as little as possible, Likes are ok, it makes them feel good, but comments can make them feel as though you are invading their privacy. So tread carefully.

Social media and rocky parent-child relationships
Next question: What if my teen does not share his social media account / does not accept me as a friend? Yes, this could happen if you and your teen tend to argue and disagree about almost everything. I would suggest two things:

  • Chat with your teen, help him understand that you have his best interests at heart.
  • If that doesn’t work, ask an adult family member whom your teen connects with and is a trustworthy person to help out. See if your teen accepts his or her friend requests, and let the adult be your teen’s guide in his social media journey.

Surviving Parenting in the digital age
Yes, it is difficult to be a good parent and be liked by your teen these days. But I don’t worry too much about being liked. You see, while at this time your teen may think you are being archaic and old-fashioned, you need to remember you are only trying to keep your teen safe. Just don’t put the rules down with an iron hand, as that simply does not work with today’s generation.

They believe they are grown ups, and deserve to be treated as such. But as I have mentioned in my earlier articles on this blog, you need to understand that they are not always thinking straight or logically. Put your rules in place, share your perspective, listen to them and walk with them mentally to a solution that works for both of you.

Don’t make every discussion with your teen a power struggle and an ego conflict. It is not. You are still dealing with a child, who currently is reacting like a toddler. So have patience, guide him, love him and let him know that no matter what happens in the world of social media, you still will be his most ardent follower.

~ Bharti Athray


I almost abandoned my teen!

There are days when my teen and I get along like the old times, when he will hug me and hang around me like a nine year old. And then there are other times, when he will mumble at everything I tell him and make me want to shake him and get him to answer me properly. He is tall lanky guy who seems to wear this ‘I know what I want’ look most of the time.

I thought my teen wanted to be left alone
So where his academics are concerned, I would keep a watch but let him decide his study time and portion completion. This I quickly realized was a bad idea, we had to stay up till 2 am one night to complete the study for next morning’s exam.

He had a different set of friends as school over the last two years, as elective subjects were introduced their batch has been shuffled. This meant he was hanging out with kids I knew nothing about, much less anything about their parents. Over time, I lost touch with what was happening with his friends, how his relationships were growing… he would share some stories of school, every once in a while, so I did know the names, but what were they like, their habits and personalities, I had little clue. I felt I would be intruding if I asked too many questions.

After all, when I did ask the questions, I would get vague, monosyllabic answers; so I left him to his own devices believing he was now old enough to handle his relationships. A few cracks in these relationships with people who were once very close to him caused him pain and anxiety. Something I learned almost a year after the incident had happened. And my young boy had been struggling with the issue, without even realizing it, all by himself; with some help from friends who were as clueless as he was.

I was wrong!
This incident made me question the very premise that we parents come to adopt that these teens are now old enough and mature enough to handle their lives on their own. I believe, parents of boys feel this more as the boy grows up, chooses to share little about what’s happening with him and worse, refuses to share anything that is bothering him (they feel boys are not supposed to share or feel weak or hurt).

While theoretically I do know this is what the teen boys think and feel, I didn’t catch it when my teen was going through this phase. He seemed to go through his regular day without saying anything and I just assumed things were fine with him, and I did not have to keep on asking him how he was doing.

When, one day, he shared that things were not absolutely fine with him, I realized my assumptions about him being able to handle stuff were wrong. Ok, let me state here that I am not doubting his ability to excel, I am not saying he is not mature enough to understand all that is happening with him, but what I realized is that my approach of staying away and letting him solve his problems on his own was probably what was wrong.

What science says
My research on the topic led me to this Wall Street Journal article (link provided below), where various studies explain the behavior of teens from the age of 11 through till they are 18 years old. The article makes for a very interesting read, especially if you have kids in this age group. The writer has shared a careful analysis of the behavior of children as they grow through these years and the areas where they need parental support and intervention.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what is required from parents of 15-16 year olds.

Apparently these are the two years that teens are most prone to taking risks. According to the paper, ‘the brain’s reward receptors are blossoming, amplifying adolescents’ response to dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. This makes thrill-seeking more desirable than it will ever be again. Normal fears of danger are temporarily suppressed during adolescence, a shift scientists believe is rooted in an evolutionary need to leave home and explore new habitats.’

My responsible little boy was turning edgy
I think this insight is amazing. My young teen has been one of the kids who has always judged risk well in his younger days, to the extent that he hardly hurt himself physically during his toddler years. I have always considered him a very sensible young man. And then, suddenly, in the last one year, he has been willing to experiment with his career, go to the very edge of what we call the standard, and at times, making me panic.

Parental support makes a difference
It was heartening to know that according to experts, this age is not too late for warm, supportive parents to make a difference. In a laboratory risk-taking test, teens who grew closer to their parents starting at age 15 showed less activation of a brain region linked to risk-taking and took fewer chances 18 months later, according to a 2015 study of 23 adolescents published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. The closeness to parents included having parents’ respect and help talking through problems, and an absence of arguing or yelling, according to the study.

Choosing to be a part of my teen’s world – again
These scientific findings have helped me re-look at my relationship with my son. First, I began talking to him more often, trying to get him to share his daily life as he used to in his younger days. I stopped leaving him alone, though he did display that he wanted me to.

I fell back on the research I had done and the papers I read, that they are open to advise if you don’t push it down their throat. Till I began this project on understanding my teen better, I used to let him make a lot of his study decisions on his own. And this often landed him in a soup, where the last day would see him struggling to complete submissions, and study. The last few days, I have begun to guide him with clear timelines, telling him that he needs to do certain tasks at a given time.

While there is an initial resistance to being told what to do, I find that he does see sense in what I tell him. And he will follow the instruction with, of course, a few tweaks of his own. I do believe this change in approach will enable him to score better marks at his exams, and as I handhold him to logical decision making, he too will learn to make better decisions for himself.

Don’t be hurt by your teen’s behaviour
As I continue my exploration of how the teen mind works, I am increasingly realizing how ill-equipped we, parents are when it comes to helping our children cope with these tumultuous years. Instead of being their pillars of support, we are too busy nursing our own hurt as they begin to challenge our authority, tell us that we don’t really know how the world works, and that they don’t want to live with us anymore, that we are interfering in their space.

This is difficult for most parents to handle, but letting go of your children at this stage is like abandoning them when they need you the most. They are in the process of finding themselves, and tend to experiment with not just different hairstyles and clothes, but also with different personalities. This leads them to hang out with different kinds of people, make friends with peers they may never have interacted with at school earlier… this is also the time when they have many arguments with their friends as each one tries to prove his or her point.

You need to be your teen’s biggest fan!
In the backdrop of all that is happening emotionally and socially, these are crucial academic years for the child, as he /she is in the process of completing schooling. But with so much happening outside the class, and the emotional centres of the brain being in overdrive, these youngsters can often feel alone, misunderstood and isolated. They feel they can’t trust anyone. In this situation, if you as a parent too pull out your support, the young teen is actually abandoned and has to fend for him / her self.

This condition of being left alone, constantly being reprimanded at home for poor time management, improper behavior and too many restrictions on dressing and social etiquette leads to immensely aggressive behavior among these youngsters. Further, it creates permanent behavior patterns that they carry into their adult life. Much of what we as parents tell them now, becomes their self talk in the adult years.

These facts and research papers made me realize that we need to be as involved in the lives of our teens as we were when they first began school. Just as they were unsure of their environment then, they are now. It’s just that they don’t come home crying about a fight they had, nor does their teacher call us to school to say he / she is acting up.

Your teen son still wants to be loved, hugged and appreciated.

So my suggestion to my peers is, if you have become a hands-off parent as the teen years set in, with the belief that you were giving your youngster freedom… well, maybe you need to relook at your stance. Your teen’s happiness is still your responsibility and he still needs you to hug him, love him and appreciate him even if he does not ask for it. In other words, your teen wants you to be his biggest fan. Please don’t let him down!





Read more of the Wall Street Journal research article here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-teens-need-most-from-their-parents-1470765906


21 Pilots: My teen’s role models

This is really a small peep into how my teen has chosen his role models, and can I as a parent influence the choice. Right, so my teen’s role models are the two guys who go under the name of 21 Pilots. To name, it’s Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun. My young adult knows most of the band’s song lyrics by-heart and constantly encourages me to listen to one or another amazing song that he loves by the band.

21 Pilots as role models, their philosophy

When I asked him what he likes about these two individuals, his answer was rather interesting. ‘For me, I am not interested in them as individuals but more as the band: 21 Pilots. I like what the band stands for, I like their philosophy and their lyrics.’ Of course, when my teen is waxing eloquent about his fav band, I do not break his line of thought by asking him what their philosophy is. Instead, I later google them to find that their very name has been selected to represent a way of living, choosing between doing what’s easy and doing what’s right.

How role models impact the teens

I see this line of thinking reflected in my teen’s choices and behavior quite often, and am glad to see that he has picked a band that holds values high. And that they are Christians, (though not a Christian band) they have faith. To me, having faith in something, anything – is important. When you don’t have faith, you are like a ship without a rudder. You can choose to believe in Christ, or Mary, or Krishna, or any of the many Gods out there, or of course you can choose to be an atheist. That’s fine too, but you must know what you believe in, and in your mind your set of beliefs and life rules must be well defined. This gives you a structure to live your life by, else you will find yourself swinging in different directions every single day.

Tyler is a poet, their songs are poetry. My son writes poetry too, and he does say his work has been inspired by the band. His favourite album by the group is Vessel, he says the songs are more meaningful and the lyrics are more profound. I went through the lyrics, but was not able to connect much; maybe I am missing something there that he has discovered.


21 Pilots fans with Skeleton, key iconography of the band.

Can parents influence their teen’s choice of a role model?

When I checked with my teen how he would react if I told him that he ought to take Abraham Lincoln for his role model, his answer was interesting. ‘I will read up about him, see what he was like and figure out whether his line of thinking makes sense to me. I won’t accept him as a role model simply because you ask me to, but, ya, I would find out about him.’

This means, he is open to ideas and thinking; and it would make sense for me to connect him to the kind of role models I would like him to follow.

The problem with the historical heroes

I find that it is not so easy for parents to get the young teens to connect with those whom we consider ideal role models. You see, Abe Lincoln does not have music videos, he does not rap, he does not have instagram accounts or facebook accounts where today’s generation can find out what he’s been upto.


This fictional story about Abraham Lincoln is the one that my teen remembers most about this great man ;(

If he has to read up about Abe, my teen will have to refer to an online or an offline book, watch a few documentaries, and watch some historical movies. How does this compare to the hot and happening alternative music band ‘21 Pilots’? Well, Abe would fall short on so many counts.

Tyler and Josh have stories about how they grew to fame, how they played music in the local high school grounds before they made it big, and how they are grounded in what they do.

21pilots insta

Teens can follow their favourite celebs on instagram and FB and track their every move!

Where the difference lies

This connectedness, their interviews, sharings, their interaction with their fans, the fandom – the complete package makes modern day celebrities much more attractive role models for today’s generation than all those people we looked upto in our growing up years. The difference lay in the fact that before the advent of the internet, we would read about the likes of Lincoln and Edison in books, and contemporary celebs in the newspaper.

They would not share their everyday lives, and events and stories with us as social media allows today. This core difference in the access to the people we admire is making teens today choose their role models from the world around them.

Living legends: Why it makes sense for teens to follow them

From a growth perspective, the young teen pretty much has access to all technology, media and resources that the celebs do. The difference is social networks, but successes on Vine have shown that if you keep putting your work out there, you can be successful, you will be found. This, I believe, is a great inspiration to the young, where they realize that they have everything they need to become like their role models. They just need to follow the steps.

The flip side


I loved Woody Allen’s work and was shattered to read about his step daughter’s story of sexual abuse.

The problem with following role models from your own generation, and I am sure every generation has faced this, is that you really do not know if the path the celeb is following is the right one. With people who have made history, their lives have been studied, recorded and analysed, and we know for a fact that the decisions they took, the values they upheld stood them in good stead.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said about living legends. Case in point: Lance Armstrong, Whitney Houston, Woody Allen, to name but a few.

I have looked upto each of these people in my growing up years only to realize that Lance’s victories were drug induced, Whitney ODed on drugs and died a sad death; and that Woody Allen has been accused of sexual abuse by his step daughter.

When role models fail you


You begin to suspect every success, look for loopholes that the currently popular celebrity may possibly have used to be successful. It makes you cynical.

But of course, this typically happens when you are in your mid-thirties, and the role models you grew up with have grown old along with you and are at the fag-end of their success run.

A Mom’s solution to Role Model Puzzle

Well, having looked at the issue from both sides, I realize there is no clear cut answer, and I can’t force my teen to look up to someone I like. I can introduce him, tell him stories about this person, but beyond that my teen will decide for himself.

A thought that comes to my mind today, is that maybe I should have started introducing the people I consider role models to my child earlier. While I have always encouraged reading in him, and he reads a lot on animals, nature and National Geographic, I never really paid too much attention to him reading biographies.


Let’s get our little ones to read about these amazing heroes and heroines and how they changed the world. Maybe we will be a step closer to helping them choose these greats as role models in the coming years.

Would that have influenced him? Would he have found a conventional hero to follow earlier on through books and would that have impacted his thinking differently? I don’t know but it would definitely be worth finding out!

~ Bharti Athray


What’s happening inside your teen’s brain?

When my teen argues with me about mundane stuff like not-so-happening dinner, an extra five minutes in the bathroom when he is getting ready for school in the morning; it really irritates me. Here I am either at the end of a long day trying to finish dinner and wind up for the night; or at the start of the day, ensuring he and his brother reach the bus stop on time and all he wants to do is argue. Most of the time the argument is just a couple of lines from his side and a couple from mine, but it does bother me for he has never been the arguing type. I can’t help but wonder what’s up with him – I mean why can’t he just fall in line and do the simple things the way we do: be on time, have the meal without having to discuss it, take a bath in a jiffy… these small things really make me wonder how he is going to be punctual and organized in his adult life.

When I asked him what goes on in his head, he said studies. Not surprising, as he is currently in the middle of his term exams, and he said that was the only thing that was on his mind. This led me to check out what happens in the teen brain and the content that I came across was interesting as it gave actual scientific explanations as to why the teens behave the way they do.

Apparently, during the teens, an individual’s brain is making as many neural connections as the brain of a two year oldtoddler. So just like 2 year olds are prone to tantrums, and mood swings simply because they do not know how to control their emotions, the teens too are going through a similar biological development.


According to an article posted by American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, adolescents differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems, and make decisions. There is a biological explanation for this difference. Studies have shown that brains continue to mature and develop throughout childhood and adolescence and well into early adulthood. Here is what the article says about the teen brain:

‘Scientists have identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala that is responsible for immediate reactions including fear and aggressive behavior. This region develops early. However, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later. This part of the brain is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.’

As this part of the brain that enables decision making and logical thinking is still under development, teen behaviour is often seen as unreasonable. One moment they can be chirpy, happy and the life of the party and within moments they can change in behaviour and seem withdrawn and aloof.

As parents, we need to understand what these children are thinking and feeling. We need to appreciate that although the teen has almost grown to our size, they are undergoing changes that make them immensely vulnerable and sensitive. We need to appreciate that they are dealing with issues within that they may choose not to talk about and as parents we need to learn to respect their choice.

One of the most common mistakes parents make with issues of a teen, is to ignore the problem, and push it away as a minor phase that will pass. Look up the internet and you will find thousands of young men and women who have gone through the nightmare of being misunderstood, suffering from anxiety, depression, mental illness and most of these young people do not really know whom to reach out to. Telling their parents is usually avoided as they don’t want to worry their parents. And if the child lands in the wrong kind of company, this could spell disaster for the child and the family.

As parents, we need to make time for our children when we do not advise them, give the pep talk or quiz them on their performance in school. They are old enough to know what they want, but usually do not know how to ask for the same.

If you have a teen at home, please do not react to their sullen behaviour or sudden outbursts. Do not ask ‘what is wrong with you?’ even the young teen does not know why he or she is behaving in a certain way, and he / she is pushing the limits to establish new boundaries. Let your child explore new avenues and spaces physically and mentally and let him / her find his own area of comfort and joy.

~ Bharti Athray

Featured image credit: WTOP.com

Pain in the teen universe

Here’s what my teen has to say on this topic:

  • Do you know that you cannot imagine pain, you can only experience it? If I tell you, I am going to punch you, you cannot imagine how it will feel, you can only experience it if I actually punch you.
  • No, I don’t need to check my pain tolerance… my body can endure a lot.

Beyond this, I have not managed to get anything more out of him on the subject of feeling pain and putting the body through pain. So being left to my own devices, my own experiences and information of how young adults process pain, here are some of my observations.

A rather disturbing article on Time.com (http://time.com/4547322/american-teens-anxious-depressed-overwhelmed/) investigates why teens inflict pain upon themselves and what they hope to achieve. It was shocking for me to see that almost 60% of young girls and 30-40% of teen boys self harm as a way to deal with anxiety and stress. While cuts and slashed wrists to us parents seem signs of attempted suicide, it appears that is not what the teens have in mind when they cut themselves or hurt themselves. I found the article well researched and here are the key points shared:

  • Some teens do self harm to deal with extreme anxiety that they feel and are unable to express in any other way. It is a momentary release for the stress that they feel inside.
  • Others are often numbed by the pressures of their modern demanding lives: school pressures, social media pressures, online bullying, maintaining digital profiles and perceptions, and being connected to strangers and groups half way across the world. This exposure to the outside world is uncontrolled and impacts the teens in ways their parents cannot imagine. For them, physically harming themselves by cutting and letting blood is a way to be in the moment, to be able to feel the pain at the physical level, which they had so far been feeling on an emotional level.
  • Like most of us, teens too are drawn to those aspects of the world that are different from their routine lives. Hence they try to reach out to people and groups who may follow a line of thinking that is very different from their own. This line of thinking can cause them to push themselves over the edge, and test their own limits. Eg: the blue whale game. For this lot, self inflicted harm is a way of connecting with their physical body for a while atleast. It brings peace, calm and stillness to their young restless minds.

What is worrying is that these teens are continuously exposing their bodies and minds to this torture. This often goes unnoticed by parents for years, for outwardly these children seem to be living a picture perfect life, complete with good grades, caring involved parents and a happy circle of friends.

As parents, look for signs if your teen is withdrawing from social interaction, be careful about putting too many expectations on your child. And if your teen does reach out to you telling you about self harm, try to understand what your child is going through. Do not punish, demean their issues or shame them for the behaviour.


As the graph above shows, the number of teens causing self harm, suffering from anxiety and depression is on the rise. While these numbers are 2014 numbers, and I am at this time, unable to source more current data, the graph is a very clear indicator of the continuous rise in the number of teens suffering from this worrying state of mind. Living with digital gadgets is one of the key causes, as your child could be sitting in the car right next to you but be connecting with an unknown teen suffering from depression or anxiety miles away.  The young mind is usually unable to make the distinction between screen world and reality. So even while you may feel you are spending a lot of time with your child, the fact may be that, in today’s world where we all spend a lot of time checking our smartphones and staying connected online, your teen may be feeling alone, isolated and disconnected.

Is it possible for parents to identify if their child is going down the road towards self harm? Are their signs that we can watch out for? How do we help our child deal with stress and anxiety once we realise that the child is suffering from such a mental problem and needs help. Is there something that we can do? At what point should the family reach out to counsellors? Do read the Time article for excellent information and guidelines on the same issue.  http://time.com/4547322/american-teens-anxious-depressed-overwhelmed/


Bharti Athray


Is your teen fascinated with Death?

Having taken up this topic for the article, I did a bit of research online and found that teen fascination with death is a common phenomenon among youngsters today. Apparently there are Death Cafes that have opened up in different parts of the world where young adults can come and talk about Death and related issues. Apparently the ancient Egyptian approach to death with embalming and mummification in an area of special interest for these young minds.

I found it interesting to note that this fascination with Death according to one article by The Guardian comes from the fact that these days, we don’t talk about death with our children, we avoid talking about it because we are uncomfortable with it.

In the earlier generations, death in families was a common phenomenon where children living with their grandparents would see death at close quarters, illnesses and diseases were common and families often lost a child or two to diseases like tuberculosis or cholera; so children grew up seeing death around them.

Today, children for a long time do not understand the permanence of death. Look at the cartoons they watch, a character can be squashed or pushed down from the 20th floor of the building and it will get up, dust itself and start walking around. Further, video games are full of children shooting and killing the bad guys, so there is no sense of guilt, or remorse when you shoot or kill someone. It’s just a part of the game and you are doing it to increase your score.

It is only as the young children enter their teens and start taking interest in the real world around them – through news, the television shows that they begin to realize that death is different from how they have understood it all along. It is at this stage that they realize the permanence and definiteness of death. Now they look for ways to understand this very important aspect of existence.

When I spoke to my teen and asked him about his fascination for this subject, here’s what he told me:

  1. It does not fascinate me
  2. I am not scared of death
  3. All of you guys are scared of death, I can see it in your eyes.

I am not sure what is it that he can see in our eyes, but with due respect to his opinions, I wonder what is it that he has observed in the adults that makes him believe that we fear death. For as a family, we don’t.

Personally, I don’t think I have ever feared death, after all, whether you fear it or you don’t, you will ultimately die. And just because you are going to die, you cannot stop living. It is about making the most of your time here on earth. Everything stops to exist at some point in time: plants, animals, mountains, rivers… it is part of the cycle of the universe. Yet while they exist, they do their bit to make this world a little better.

As part of my research, I found that this sudden realization that once you are dead, well, you are just dead; this reality makes the teens question everything that we do and strive to achieve. After all, one day we will all be dead and how will anything we do make a difference to the world afterwards? This existential question is a difficult one to answer, and given that our entire culture is today built around the idea of ‘living for the moment’, there is no seriousness towards leaving behind a legacy. With so many young couples choosing to live together for a short while, not have children, the need to leave behind a legacy is just not felt.

The choice of living for today, for the moment, while it makes sense when one is trying to live a stress free life, can also tend to make one’s life a tad meaningless. When you have no purpose in life other than indulging your senses, you will soon find your senses over time become numb to the same stimulus. They do not get as excited over parties, drink, sex as they did when you began to indulge in these activities initially.

Then to find even more excitement for the senses, the youngsters begin to experiment with substances, unnatural sex and drink themselves senseless. It is in this space that a majority of youngsters find themselves, with no elder to speak to, no one who can guide them out of this quicksand. Some teens smarten up and realize they are wasting away their lives and talents and need to get their act together: at times to support their families, at other times to get their careers in order.

And then there are others who come from very comfortable homes, where they are not questioned about what they do with their time and money, there is no pressure on them to perform at the academic level, their future has been well taken care of by their doting parents – it is this lot that usually slides into the quagmire of decadent living, taking every pleasure to the extreme.

These are the youngsters who cannot think beyond the next party, the next shopping trip with their friends, the next international holiday… they actually begin to believe this is what all of life is. And the idea of death seems like a fairytale. Everything appears so perfect in their hazy world that for them even death is something to be experienced and probably to be awakened from the next day, with a bad hangover.

What can we do as parents of teens growing up in this world where everything appears ‘happy’? Well, I think we need to speak to our kids and understand what are their ideas of death and life. Understand on what basis they are forming their opinions, and see if we can introduce them to some realities of life and the practical aspects of how lives are built, of how families bond and depend on each other and the important role that each individual plays in his or her family, community and on a larger scale the society.

What the young teens today lack is the big picture, they fail to see how what they will do is going to fit into the world as it exists today. My son has told me things like, ‘your generation has messed up this world and now we will have to deal with this’. If this is any indicator of what teens today feel, I think it is our responsibility to help them explore and realize that the world is really a beautiful place. And while yes, there are lots of things not right – which may always have been the case, each of us has the power to make a difference in our own circle of influence, and we need to have skills, knowledge and the attitude to make the difference.

Merely getting fed up with all that is wrong and trying to escape from reality is not the answer. The answer lies in looking at this problem in the eye and having the guts to set it right. If you and I can help our teens understand and look at the world from this perspective, I think we will be one step closer to nurturing a generation that is more fascinated with life than it is with death.

~ Bharti Athray

Defining my writing goals

My goal for Jeff Goins’ 500 words a day challenge is to be able to compile a set of articles that address the issues that face parents and teens as they try to grope their way through the growing up years. I want to have written at least 20 articles that address the different issues that concern and worry the young teens and the ways in which parents try to deal or sometimes just ignore the issues and hope they go away.

So here let me create an outline for the articles that I will consider writing:

  1. Teen fascination with death
  2. Why teens think it is okay to put the body through pain, and check its pain tolerance
  3. What’s going on inside your mind?
  4. How teens choose their role models and can parents influence that choice
  5. Why is it such a challenge to get teens to study
  6. Difficult choices in teen years: careers, girlfriends/ boyfriends and more
  7. How much should you expect your teen to share
  8. Checking your teens personal writings, drawings and social media accounts
  9. How do you know if you are losing your teen?
  10. Critical years to plan your career
  11. Should your child be allowed to take a gap year after school?
  12. Is college education still the key to success in today’s start up culture?
  13. What really matters in your child’s education?
  14. Is the burden of education loan worth it for your child
  15. Should Indian parents consider sending their young teens overseas for studies?
  16. The role of schools in teen’s education
  17. The role of parents in teen’s education
  18. ‘Finding’ yourself in the teen years
  19. The dangers of being a highly talented and intelligent teen
  20. Should you care about your friends
  21. Moving out of sheltered zones
  22. So are you a kid or an adult?
  23. Handling emotions during the last school year
  24. The pressure of performance and living upto expectations
  25. Choosing beliefs about the world
  26. Key influencers in the growing years
  27. The challenges of the digital era for young adults
  28. What should I be reading?
  29. Does my education really define me?
  30. Finding truth in a digital world
  31. Is negativity in art a problem?

The idea would be to capture thoughts of young teens in my circle and my attempts as a parent to handhold my own teen through this journey. I have realized this process is as much a journey for me as it is for him, and in the process of having your child become an adult, each of us also learns to let go and accept the other person’s point of view. This is a challenge for parents as we have been doing all the thinking for the kids all these years. Now, to come to terms with the fact that they have a mind of their own, that is a really difficult truth to accept and let them do what they want. I invite you to stick with me and join me in this exploration of how the young minds of today actually think and work.

~ Bharti Athray

Image source: Australian Institute of Family Studies