Tag Archives: Writing

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

Why men should be writing a journal

It makes you a better person, you get to complete your thoughts, and you will lead a more meaningful life.

In my personal experience, I have found journal writing as an acceptable trait amongst women; but very few men I know actually write journals. As I work with this topic of journal writing, and its many benefits to me as an individual, I began to wonder why men do not write journals as frequently as women do?

This realization was a surprise to me as some of my earliest inspiration for journal writing came from men who made it a life habit to write diaries and journals, namely Thomas Jefferson, Issac Newton, John D Rockefeller … these are some of my favourite journal keepers and I can read about their journal writing habits over and over again. And the more I read, the more it appears that these men used their journal to record their habits, ideas and responses to the world around them, and over the years used these records to better themselves.

So this brings me back to my current question: why are men not writing journals as much as they used to? Possible answers: Too busy, nothing to say, nothing to write, no time, I am too tired to write by the time I get home… the reasons are endless. But in my opinion, journal writing is a process that forces you to introspect.

Does your work often leave you with a thousand voices in your head, each one telling you to do a different thing? Are you sometimes over-awed by the amount of work piled on your table, unable to decide where to start? Is the internet pushing too much information towards you and pushing your brain towards overload? Well, journal writing can help.

I know this sounds like I am coming up with a single solution, no matter what your problem, but it is not really that. The fact is there are different kinds of journals you can keep – some for your secret thoughts, others for your goals and plans, yet one may be just a record of the people you have met and found something interesting about… to name but a few.

If you have never had a journal, I urge you to get one. It does not have to be fancy and expensive, just get something you are comfortable with and something you feel nice holding in your hands. Initially you may find it difficult to decide what to write, and you may want to start with just putting down the thoughts that float around in your head.

If after the first couple of days, you run out of thoughts, you can try opinions, or issues that are bothering you, you can pen down your thoughts on issues impacting your neighbourhood, city or even the world. Sure, you may ask ‘what is the use?’ But do it all the same. You see, when you begin to write something down, your mind begins to solve a puzzle. The points you put down will surprise you… don’t worry about making sense, and writing in your best English. You just need to put your thoughts down, that is all.

Do this often enough and you will find yourself feeling lighter, because you have shared your innermost thoughts and feelings with your journal. You will find it easier to deal with the world outside. You don’t always have to be the tough guy, it’s ok to get upset and rant a bit.

And for those idea seekers amongst you, your journal is a great way to keep track of your many ideas that pop up in your mind all day long. Capture them, pen them down and come back to your thoughts days, weeks or even years later. Your ideas will still be there for you to access.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reasons to keep a journal, a book by your bed, that it would be a sad thing if you did not make the time to write your thoughts down. Each of us is unique and has his own perspective on life. The myriad ways of looking at a situation is what makes our lives richer. So join the tribe of journal writers, and celebrate your uniqueness by penning it down for posterity!

~ bharti athray

Image source: http://www.daan-mag.com/index.php/2016/03/10/the-mind-journal/

What should you write about every day

I think this a challenge each writer faces when we decide to make writing a habit. After the initial burst of energy, things slow down and you often find yourself wondering what you should be writing about. After all, if you are writing for a blog, or your diary which you hope one day will be published, you do want to make your stuff readable. In my experience, my eternal sources of inspiration are as follows:

  1. Material that I read. I find it extremely useful to read a novel, an article or listen to news or stories on the radio and share my views and opinions on the same. It makes you think about the content and forces you to take a stance – which I feel most of the writers in the public forum tend to shy away from.
  2. My environment. I have found that when I have the goal of writing an article, my mind begins to look for inspiration in each object. It could be a green bottle of water that makes me question the beginnings of coloured bottles and takes my mind back to an article I read almost 20 years ago about the glass blowers of Austria; it could be the pillow on my bed and I wonder about the earliest references to pillows, the wooden headrest used by the Japanese… making me want to do a bit of research to discover why they chose such a hard material to rest their heads on at the end of the day.
  3. My favourite poems. I have loved reading poetry since my early days and I could read and re-read poems by Keats, Shelly, Yeats and some more contemporary names forever. I find their use of language to be a craft mastered to perfection. I read sections of their work and am inspired to match the metre and cadence in their pieces. A tall task but worth striving for.
  4. Everyday incidences. This is one of my favourite sources where I try to pen experiences and stories that have happened to me, or have been shared with me. To convert an incident into a written document is one of the writer’s biggest challenges, as you have only words. Often words don’t do justice to the emotions and thoughts that we experience in a given situation. Which means, a situation that was filled with excitement and tension can sound very watered down once you put it down on paper. I like capturing those moments and seeing if I am able to do justice with my writing and story-telling skills.

Apart from these, of course there are others like online prompts and a word a day activities that one could choose, but I often find it difficult to connect to those. What are your inspirations to keep writing every day? Do share.

Image source: www.readbrightly.com

SO YOU WANT TO DO YOUR OWN THING?

This article is for all those of you out there who have been wanting to strike out and do something of your own: be an author, a painter, a musician, or run an independent business. When you choose to go your own way, without the security of the paycheck, you are choosing to be an entrepreneur. And this article is for each one of you out there! Enjoy.

To go from learning to performing – how quickly can you do that? That is what entrepreneurship is all about. What a lot of wanna-be entrepreneurs do is, after they have their big inspiring idea, they wait around, share it with friends and guess what? It dies a natural death. That’s right.

The problem with entrepreneurship is that it has a huge element of madness in it, a huge amount of risk, where you choose to walk away from your safe haven and strike out into the unknown. 99% of the people you know will tell you what a great idea it is, and yet, how there are a million chances that it will fail.

If you are a wanna-be entrepreneur and have shied away from starting your own venture one time too often, the thing for you to do, is keep your ideas to yourself.

Think out your idea in your head, plan the massive action that you need to take and on a pre-defined day, JUST DO IT. You don’t need approvals, you don’t need suggestions – enterprises are meant to rough it out.

The best thing about most enterprises is that you can start small and keep changing course as you progress in your entrepreneurial journey. So if you are among those that have been watching from the sidelines, keeping your safe little job, well, step out into the rain. That’s where the action is. Get that water on to your skin, soak it in, run with your idea, and run like mad. It is one of the best things about being an entrepreneur – when you are running hard, you can’t hear the naysayers… so you just keep going.

And when you keep at it, rest assured, you will reach your destination one day. Remember, don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it. The truth is, they can’t, and that’s why they assume you can’t either.

The only voice you need to listen to is the voice that is inside of you. And it will lead you to be the entrepreneur you have always wanted to be. Wishing you the wildest luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

~ Bharti Athray

image source: https://www.pinterest.com/dinglemor/the-joyful-jog/

TOUCHED BY INSPIRATION

It was just one of the long lonely days when I felt I must say something, but had nothing to say. I sat at my computer waiting for the inspiration to arrive. It never did come.

I finally walked away from my computer; out into the lobby of the floor on which my office sat. Sun spilled into the lobby warming my air-conditioned, numb body. I liked walking in the sun, always did. I did a couple of rounds around the block, playing hide and catch with the sun. Finally I had to come back to my table. My break had been a long one.

I sat, remembering the feel of the tropical afternoon sun on my skin and knew inspiration had just reached out to me. This little sharing is the result of that brief walk, my short interlude with the warm afternoon sun. I hope you have yours too, soon.

~ Bharti Athray

Image Source: hisgloryinourstory.com