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Anger management, childhood depression & problem-solving

I recently got so mad at my children for incessantly playing computer games that I flung their Sony Play Station 4 against the wall. My husband believes I have trouble with anger management. But this is the first time that I have had such an outburst. Is there any way I can make up and help them understand the reasons which drove me into such rage — no amount of rules/regulations about play time and grounding have worked earlier? Should I apologise? But I also don’t want be too contrite as they will coerce me into buying them a new gaming device. — Malati R, Bangalore

Please seek professional help to cope with your inability to regulate your emotions. If you model extreme and violent behaviour, your children will begin to believe that you can be easily provoked and later manipulated to get their way with you. You need to be consistent in enforcing discipline and rules.

I recommend that you apologise to your children for the emotional outburst. But by letting anger and rage dictate your actions, you have demonstrated poor problem-solving skills. There are many non-violent ways to discipline children. Listen to your children’s opinions and encourage them to take responsibility for their behaviour by explaining consequences of excessive gaming. Emotional outbursts followed by punishment are best avoided.

My son is a class XI student and his best friend is a class topper. Recently my son came home very upset because he found out that his friend cheats during exams. He boasted about it to my son. I have advised him to report this to his teacher but he refuses to do so. He is also very distressed about this disclosure. — Nisha Aggrawal, Mumbai

This is a good experience for your son, no matter how distressing, to acquire problem-solving and relationship building skills as it gives him an opportunity to ideate a suitable solution. My advice to you is to be a supportive parent who doesn’t rush to solve the problem for him. In life, we meet people who have differing values. Leave it to your son to talk this through with his friend. As parents, we tend to often portray the world as black and white. In reality, it is a whole playing field of greys. Your son needs to reflect and decide whether to stand up for his values or to overlook his friend’s flaws. You can help him weigh the pros and cons of either choice. Either way, it is his life, experience and learning. You could also discuss similar incidents when you were confused and worked through a problem.

Is there a minimum age for onset of depression? I suspect my 11-year-old daughter is depressed. She has become a shell of her original self. She used to be cheerful and talkative and participate in all school activities. Now she is withdrawn, returns from school and heads straight into her bedroom and locks the door. She doesn’t seem to have friends anymore, and declined to celebrate her latest birthday. Should I consult a counsellor? My husband is against it. Please advise.— Rosa Mathew, Bangalore

There is no minimum age for onset of depression. In fact, pre-teen depression has become quite common. However I recommend that you consult a professional counsellor as your daughter could be experiencing pre-pubertal hormonal changes. Lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet and regular exercise may help. Initiate a conversation and evaluate the quality of her peer interactions and academic pressures. Investigate if school teachers or peers are victimising her and whether she has been inappropriately touched by a stranger, relative or family friend. A counsellor will diagnose and help her through this stressful phase.

(Aarti Rajaratnam is director of the Child Guidance Centre and Counseling Clinic, Salem/Chennai)

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