Help! My 11-year-old daughter is in love!

My daughter is in class V but is already talking about “being in love with” a boy in her class. She is also experiencing “love failure” and gets depressed when he doesn’t talk with her. I am shocked with this disclosure and want to give her a good beating and knock some sense into her. But her teacher tells me that most children in class have similar love stories. Is peer pressure pushing her into romantic relationships too early? — Chandni Kaur, New Delhi

Punishment seldom helps children change their behaviour and attitudes. On the contrary it makes them more secretive to avoid punishment. It’s not just peer pressure but a combination of hormonal, pre-pubertal bodily changes and rapidly changing social narratives greatly influenced by media which is pushing pre-adolescents into growing up too fast. Listen non-judgementally and counsel her to develop healthy relationships within her peer group. Moreover, co-curricular — music, drama and sports — education helps children channel their inner energy into more meaningful pursuits.

However you also need to understand that some of these behavioural changes are physiological and a healthy lifestyle combining exercise and play helps balance them. You need to encourage open communication with your daughter so that she feels comfortable about confiding in you. This will enable you to guide and advise her.

My son is very emotionally attached to his paternal grandmother, who lives with us. Recently she was diagonised with breast cancer. My brother-in-law lives near the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram and his wife isn’t working currently. So they have kindly offered to take her to their house while she is being treated. But my son is accusing us of ignoring her when she is unwell. We can afford to have a home nurse to care for her. But it wouldn’t be like the care that my brother-in-law and his wife would be able to provide. How do I make him understand that it’s best for her to live with my brother-in-law until she recovers? — Mahila Nair, Kochi

Since you have not mentioned the age of your son, it’s difficult for me to gauge if his response is because of his inability to cope with her absence or failure to accept the severity of her condition. However the rational explanation of illness and treatment isn’t the solution. Instead address his emotions of fear, anxiety, helplessness, grief and guilt. Encourage him to express himself without being judgemental. Many a time, articulation of emotions provide insights and perspective. Seek the help of a counselor if you are unable to resolve the problem.

My daughter, a class X student, discusses all that happens in school with me, disclosing even her classmates’ romantic liaisons. Recently she revealed that her close friend, who is also the daughter of our family friend, has begun a relationship with a senior class XII student. I am in a dilemma whether to reveal this relationship to the friend’s mother. What if my daughter discovers that I disclosed this information? She will not trust me again and there’s also the danger that she will be ridiculed by her friends! Please advise.— Janaki Rao, Chennai

I would like you to put yourself in the position of someone who confides in you. When you confide in a friend/family member, you repose unconditional trust in them. You would be devastated if the person you confided in betrayed you. Your daughter has confided in you because she values and trusts you. My advice to you is to focus on your relationship with your child. There’s no need for you to become the moral policewoman of your community. Moreover your interference in someone else’s life may do more harm than good.

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

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