Know when to say no
Sometimes children push themselves too hard while aiming for the skies. Parents, watch out for the warning signs and put your foot down. It will save your child, say experts Pressure to win and be the best. Attending tuition classes. Intense training schedules. In a world of super achievers, children often find themselves at the burnt end of the rope. With constant peer pressure, and overzealous parents wanting their children to accomplish beyond their capacity, more often than not, a push becomes the shove. A lot of times, peer pressure leads to children stressing themselves out over education, sports or other extracurricular activities. Nishi Mehta (name changed on request) recalls her son's mad dash to learn football, as a lot of his friends had signed up for the game. "My son suffers from fragile bones. Football is an energetic game that requires a lot of running around and tremendous stamina. It also results in a lot of injuries, which he couldn't cope with, considering his condition. I had a tough time explaining to him why football was not his sport," she says. Dr Bhupendra Chaudhry, Consultant Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospital, explains, "A lot of children put pressure on themselves after seeing their peer group and set unrealistic targets for themselves. They want to prove that they are super achievers. In such cases parents need to empathize with the child and offer them an alternative solution." Like Nishi Mehta did after seeking professional help, which helped her to understand her child's strengths through some simple tests and signed him up for chess, an indoor game. "His analytical skills and patience levels were ideal for the game. Now when he wins chess tournaments, he doesn't feel left out of the success cycle." As Dr Yesheswini Kamaraju, Consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital, says, "For majority of children, it takes time to know their expertise. If a child doesn't try out various options, he or she may be losing out on opportunities." The red flags Experts opine that most children and adolescents show warning signs when pushed beyond a limit. As parents, it is necessary to look out for the danger spots for damage control. Common signs include » anxiety » mood disorders » adamant behaviour » anti-social behaviour "Loss of concentration, being fearful in public situations, watching too much television or doing standalone activities should ring a bell," points out Dr Chaudhry. It is a common situation, when families or parents push a child so much it results in irritability and they want to escape the rigour. "In such cases, family sessions where parents are helped to evaluate and set expectations, understand their ward's temperamental attitudes is important," he explains. Functional pains are another indication, points out Dr Kamaraju. "Abdominal aches, stress-induced symptoms, headaches, sleep difficulties can be a manifestation of the emotional turmoil that a child goes through in such situations," she says. Remedial actions Taking help from professional counsellors can help resolve behavioural disasters to a great extent, says Dr Chaudhry. Agrees Dr Kamaraju, advising the presence of school counsellors and therapists. Using the right language and helping the child develop a good self esteem after they've quit something is very important, she says. "Words like 'you won't get it, what is this rubbish' are very common in schools these days. What a lot of educationists need to understand is that these words can affect a child mentally," she warns. "If a child wants to quit something, immediately after trying it, explain to them patiently that they need to give it some time before deciding to do so. But if he or she is absolutely hell-bent on giving up or if it is a physical problem, then a parent has to realise that there is a difficulty and that they should stop pushing," Dr Kamaraju says. Taking a break and then getting back to it if a child feels the inclination or interest is another option. Having the right role models to look up to and adequate supervision are also key factors to encourage a child to pursue certain goals, she points out.