We love them unconditionally; we miss them at work; we know what’s best for them. Yet, there are times when we wonder if our way is the right way to
nurture the little buds. Ensure your child’s emotional and psychological well-being with these handy tips from renowned psychologist Dr Seema Hingorrany…
At some stage or another, almost every child displays anxiety, lack of confidence or insecurity in the way that he relates to or interacts with his surroundings and peer group. Such phases are transient and common to all children, irrespective of whether he has a working mum or a stay-at-home mum. But the myth that children of working mums have more psychological and emotional problems is still believed to be true by many. Expert child psychologist and play therapist Dr Seema Hingorrany destroys this belief when she tells M&B that children of home-maker mummies are equal in numbers when it comes to seeking professional help to sort out psychological and behavioural issues.
“There is no denying the fact that children of working mums miss their parents and start to express their feelings around the age of five years,” Dr Hingorrany opines. Settling down with a comfortable work-life balance is always a challenge for the mother of an infant or a toddler. But after these initial years pass by, the next challenge may come when children start making friends in school and realise that there maybe kids whose home routine is different – there may not be a crèche or a maid for childcare since the mum is not working. She says, “Comparison with other parents is possible. I have also seen little ones getting emotionally upset because the parent cannot pick up or drop him to school and he refuses to go with the maid or in the school bus.” Such situations need sensitive handling with exclusive time spent with your child, deep patience and open communication. With work places getting more accommodating, it should not be impossible for parents to take turns and give occasional surprises to your little one by fulfilling his wishes.
Having interacted with many urban children from different backgrounds through her counselling sessions, Dr Hingorrany has developed her perspective about relationships, family dynamics and parenting principles. She points out some common mistakes that parents may make and invite trouble in the parent-child relationship: “In a city like Mumbai, one of the biggest problems faced by working mums is the long commute hours. Add to that the work stress, and it is a perfect recipe for unrest at home. Frustration sets in and, unfortunately, parents give the impression that the kids simply mean additional stress and an extra burden. When a tired parent confronts a child who has made a mistake, the reaction is not the ideal one. So, it is best not to react instantly and be aware of your own state of mind.” M&B’s expert counsellor also advises that keeping in regular touch with the teachers is important to understand your child better.
LEAN ON ME
An active role of the father in the family is a huge support for a working mum, she avers and gives an example from her own life: “Even I face the challenges of a working mum. Just last week, I promised to watch a movie with my daughter. However, some urgent work came up and I could not accompany her. But my hubby stepped in and the father-daughter duo enjoyed the day instead. A proactive role in upbringing one’s child helps to build strong relationships within the family and provides great emotional bonding.” Other issues that have a subtle impact on your child’s emotional health may be accepted behaviour in some households. Dr Hingorrany says that it is very typical for some fathers to pass on the blame for even little issues at home. The working mum is an easy target since the mindset of sharing responsibilities equally among parents is still a long way away for many Indian dads. But such attitudes reflect adversely on the child and may be the root of many psychological problems. Therefore, the father’s role is critical in a family where the mum has decided to work.
In our rush to ‘manage’ our lives, we may sometimes forget some basic dos and don’ts that our parents have taught us. But some rules, like not discussing finances in front of your child, should never be broken. Adult issues need not be mentioned before your growing child even though you may feel that he is mature enough, suggests Dr Hingorrany. She reiterates the importance of ‘quality time’ and says that the number of hours may really not count if your child is fed up or irritated with your interaction. She also points out that 75 per cent of Indian parents still believe in hitting the child to ensure discipline. “While we fight against corporal punishment in schools, we follow the same path in our homes. How can we nurture healthy kids if we give vent to adult disturbances in the way we react to them?” she questions.
A LITTLE EXTRA
It is true that the working mum has to put in a little extra effort to ensure a healthy and happy childhood for her children. Socialising may have to take a back seat, ‘me’ time may be compromised and long phone chats with friends may need to be cut short. Even gym visits may be rarer but you will at least be able to ensure that after-work hours are spent with your child. “If feeding and sleeping of the baby becomes the maid’s job even when you’re around and weekends are kept for friends and parties, your child is definitely not getting enough of you. Aggression, addiction to the computer, bedwetting, vomiting or nausea, frequent body aches, attention-seeking, restlessness, sleep disturbances and even withdrawn behaviour in school and home are all signals that you should take notice, seek help and be willing to make adjustments,” Dr Hingorrany explains.
A high level of empathy can help you to build an amazing relationship with your child. Your interaction is not about projecting your own fears and insecurities by acting paranoid but about trying to understand the ‘other’ point of view. Today’s good parenting mantra seems to say, ‘listen, not lecture’. Keep the path for communication and dialogue open and remember that being defensive does not help. Our expert recommends that even parents should not be afraid to say a sorry and egos must be abandoned. After all, if mental health fails, nothing else really works for your child. M&B
Words Subarna Ghosh
Visual Mother & Baby Picture Library