My husband has a transferable job and we keep moving cities every two-three years. It is difficult for my 12-year old son to adjust in school as he takes time to make friends. I feel his life is becoming unstable because of these frequent transfers. How can I help him adjust and make friends faster in a new city? — Rizwana Hussain, Pune
Several families understand that children suffer great stress with frequent transfers and choose the option of children living in one city with one parent while the other chooses work promotions and transfers. Living in the same city allows children to benefit from better social interaction, peer relationships and academic growth. If there is an opportunity to live in one city until he crosses adolescence at least, it will benefit him immensely in the long term. Adolescence is the period when children form and develop personal identities from cliques and it’s best to allow such peer relationships to flower. If such a decision is not possible for your family, the best course is to have a discussion with your son on the nature of the stress he experiences in school. Without belittling or lecturing him, respect his challenges and guide him towards finding solutions and coping strategies. If required, you could also take the help of a therapist or school counsellor.
My daughter is afraid of thunderstorms. She will turn 13 next year and may need to travel on school trips, etc. I want her to overcome this fear. Please advise. — Vinodini Kumari, Chennai
Fear of thunderstorms is one of the most common phobias of children. If it’s severe, professional help may be needed to gradually and scientifically facilitate age appropriate desensitisation techniques to overcome this fear. However, the following steps may prove helpful. Together explore and understand through videos different weather phenomena starting with whatever is least likely to remind her of thunderstorms and slowly move forward from rain to hailstorms, hurricanes and thunderstorms. Ensure the videos are presented as scientific facts and watch the thunderstorms video in daylight before clubbing it with the night sky. Don’t lecture or advise. Her fear is real and she must have the opportunity to speak about it and find ways to deal with it. You can also help reduce the sensory components of a thunderstorm by using headphones and music during the storm and heavy curtains to block out lightning.
I had to leave my two-year-old daughter under the care of my mother in my hometown, Kurnool, while pursuing my postgrad medical studies in Bangalore. I used to talk with her regularly on the phone and meet once or twice a month. Now I am done with my studies and want her to live with me, but she prefers to stay with my mother. She is four years old. Should I leave her for some more time with my mother or is it better to get her used to living with me right away? — Dr. Sharmila Reddy, Bangalore
Your daughter has accepted your mother as the primary care giver. Young children don’t bond over phone calls and occasional meetings. Even so, I am happy that you have modelled for her the role of an independent woman with academic and career goals. The best way to deal with the situation is to understand that bonding takes time and that little will be achieved by force as it will increase her separation anxiety. If possible, request your mother to live with you in Bangalore to make the transition smooth and stress-free. Allowing her to stay with your mother any longer will make it more difficult for her to connect with you. The transition and adjustment may take up to six months. Be patient and spend plenty of one-on-one time with your daughter to build a bond of love and trust.
(Aarti Rajaratnam is director of the Child Guidance Centre and Counseling Clinic, Salem/Chennai)