Coping with peer pressure & poor body image

My 13-year-old daughter wears thick spectacles for myopia. She hates wearing them because she is ridiculed by her classmates and is insisting on undergoing corrective laser surgery. But friends tell me that such procedures should be performed only after an individual crosses the 18 years age threshold. What’s your advice? — Balakrishnan Nair, Kochi

An ophthalmologist is best qualified to explain the treatment options. But the underlying issue is her inability to cope with peer pressure and ridicule. You need to encourage two-way communication, and listen to her fears and insecurities unjudgementally. Don’t belittle her problems and avoid lecturing and doling out solutions. Brainstorm and encourage her to find her own solution. If required, consult a counsellor.

My 17-year-old son is tall and thin. He has recently signed up with a gym and his fitness trainer has advised that he consumes a protein supplement to boost weight and stamina. I am afraid that the protein mixture may contain steroids, but he is adamant on getting onto the protein diet. Please advise. — Chandrika Gopinath, Chennai

Consult a qualified nutritionist. Your son is feeling inadequate about his physical attributes and therefore is susceptible to impetuously accept advice of unqualified people. Step up and schedule a session with a professional nutritionist.

My daughter (17) hasn’t performed very well in her class XII board exam. She is all set to write the NEET exam for admission into a MBBS degree programme. But her confidence is badly shaken because of her under-performance in the boards. How can I boost her self-confidence? — Lajmi Poppat, New Delhi

Here’s what you can do:

• Reassure her that you believe in her capability and that her best is good enough for you.

• Don’t belittle her aspirations, blame the education system or other students and use philosophical reasoning to justify her under-performance.

• Insulate her from extended family and friends who are always ready, willing and able to offer unsolicited advice.

• Fully support her in exam preparation and encourage her to share her fears, anger, guilt or disappointment. Lending a patient sympathetic ear does wonders to alleviate stress.

• Consult a career counsellor if she wants to explore other career options.

I divorced six months ago and have won custody of my seven-year-old son for the week with my husband given weekend custody. When he is with me, my son is very studious and completes all school work carefully. But when he visits his father over the weekend, he returns with school work unfinished. I have tried explaining to my ex-husband but it’s of no use. How do I remedy this situation? — Rashmi Chattopadya, Bhopal

Divorces are always messy and painful. You can choose one of the following two solutions: First is the proactive approach where you help your son complete his homework before he visits his father on weekends. This will allow your son to experience a disciplined home environment as well as indiscipline at his father’s residence. The second approach is corrective. You can petition the courts again through mediation and appeal that your husband follows set guidelines. Needless to say, the second option is cumbersome and may not necessarily solve the problem.

Children usually adjust and react to their immediate environment. With you, he knows that he has to follow house rules and responsibilities, but evidently that doesn’t apply in his father’s home.

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

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