“I wish we talked to each other at home!”, was 21 years old Pinky’s response when she was brought to me by her parents for counselling. Before I spoke to the family about the issues they wanted to discuss with me, I asked Pinky if she was comfortable seeing a counsellor for help. Pinky’s eyes immediately welled up as she responded to me. She said she was okay with discussing her issues with me but the requirement would have not arisen had there been enough communication at home.
Pinky’s parents were concerned because she had failed in exams. She had lied to her parents and not written her exam papers. Her parents were not able to understand why she would have done so. They claimed that Pinky wouldn’t tell them the reason. They wanted me to speak to her and find out why she didn’t write exams and what she was planning to do next. After speaking with Pinky, I realized that had there been good communication at home, her parents would have known what was troubling her, they would have been able to help and support her. Her parents were so busy in their respective professions that they had no time to spend with their children.
Pinky took up counselling sessions seriously. She opened up to me and shared freely about her fears, relationship with her brother and her parents, her goals and dreams and the overpowering self-doubt that was preventing her from trying to achieve her dreams. Besides lagging behind in studies, Pinky had also gained 10 kilos of weight in the last 2 years. This was also bothering her and affecting her self-esteem. I discovered that Pinky was a very smart, intelligent and sensitive girl, who needed some caring guidance and an assurance that it is never too late to work towards your life goals. With just a couple of sessions of patient listening and some encouragement, Pinki is now ready to make new beginnings. While my attentive listening made her feel heard and understood, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helped her find out some of her behaviour patterns which needed to be changed. Pinky is now all charged up to face her fears. She is focused on meeting her goals and is learning to form new habits that would help her stay away from being distracted. Pinky is confident that she will be able to pass in her current academic year’s examination along with the backlog of previous year. She has also started eating healthy food at regular intervals, avoiding long hours of starvation and extra consumption of coffee.
Pinky has started initiating short conversations with her parents and is hopeful that soon there would be free flowing communication in her family. She had a lot of anger and resentment towards her parents when I first met her. However, while discussing about her feelings with me, she has come to realize that her parents have always wished well for her and her brother. They have just been poor at expressing their love, affection and concern for their children.
As parents, we want to provide the best of everything to their children. We work hard, put in extra hours of work to earn more money so that we can provide the best of education to our children in the best of institutions. Sadly, in doing so, some of us forget that as providers, besides providing for food, clothing and shelter, we also need to provide a safe and loving environment at home for our children’s healthy growth and development. We need to keep the communication lines with our children open so that they can walk up to us at any time to share all their joys and sorrows as well as to discuss anything that is bothering them. Listening to our children gives us an idea whether our children are happy or disturbed by something in life. Parents often feel communication is all about talking, lecturing, guiding children about what is right and what is wrong. However, listening is probably the most important element of communication, which is often not practiced sincerely. As parents we need to make sincere efforts to understand what our children are “speaking” or “not speaking” to us. We need to listen without being judgmental or critical about what they are sharing. Active listening is a communication skill that can bring greater connection, clarity and understanding to build positive relationships with children.
Disclaimer – To protect the identity of the subject, personal details, including the name have been changed.