Teacher, and wife of late Major Mukund Varadarajan, Indhu Rebecca Varghese, shares how parents can raise teens to be responsible and patriotic citizens.
By Indhu Rebecca Varghese
Breaking news bothers him. He is now on the cusp of becoming an opinionated adult. Also, he has started taking a stand on issues such as war, elections, scoop and corruption. But does that make your 15-year-old an adult? Does that mean he is getting a comprehensive picture?
When Mukund was alive, there were not many instances of children coming up to us and stating that they wanted to join the army. But, Mukund’s death was a turning point in the way things were perceived by many children. They walked up to me and Mukund’s father, and said Mukund was their inspiration, and that they wanted to join the Armed Forces.
As a teacher to 15 and 16-year-olds, I have seen many of them wanting to join the army. It is amazing to note that many teenagers are eager to do something for the nation around the time they are finishing their high school and charting their career paths. It feels great to see such levels of patriotism in a country where it often comes out only during cricket matches.
Appropriate dose of right inspiration at the right time can work wonders for your teens. After all, the feeling of patriotism is not something that can be instilled in one day. If I allow my four-year-old to play with the national flag, crumble it and then throw it away, I cannot expect her to protect and respect the symbols of our national unity when she is 15.
Times are such that textbooks are used for religious and political propaganda. Teenagers are, sometimes, exposed to the ideologies of a particular party. This will not provide them with an overall awareness of the political situation in the country. This is where parents come into the picture. They have to make sure that children have adequate information to form opinions and stand by them. This can be achieved by watching news channels, contemplating on televised debates, and having open forum discussions at home. Children, nowadays, are better informed than we were at their age. Parents should be sensitive to this and act accordingly. If your child supports LGBT rights and you do not, do not chide them. Learn to accept their viewpoints. If you turn against their outlook, they will also end up being intolerant. Always remember, they are susceptible.
Each generation is different. I, at the age of 15, had it much easier than today’s teens. Substance abuse, peer pressure, etc. are just some of the many traps awaiting teens today. The illusion of a stable, faithful marriage at home also cannot fool them. They are insightful and clever. Compared to their counterparts of yesteryears, teens today are more evolved and better at handling things. But, this does not mean they do not need the backing of their parents. Always be aware that the teens will need someone to talk to. They live in a world where TV has constantly propagated that being in a relationship is not a taboo. As a follow-up, there will be broken hearts and promises. Do not judge them, and most importantly, do not belittle their emotions. Parents need to help them get through it tactfully, and should not scare them as this will only lead to your teenagers becoming rebels. The same goes for friendship as well. Your 15-year-old might want to go for a sleepover to a friend’s place. Let him go, and give him the space. Having said that, make sure you know which friend’s home your teen is visiting; know the friends and their parents. Give your child his window, but be alert.
Death and broken friendship is a difficult situation. And going through it at 15 years of age is worse. Whether your teen derives closure out of the situation or sinks deeper into depression, depends on how adults around him handle it. The ones who are left behind, be it a spouse or grandparents need to explain the complexities of life and death. If it is the death of the father, boys tend to take up responsibilities, and girls start looking out for a father figure. Make sure these longings and shouldering of responsibilities are controlled and do not end up affecting his psyche. The parent who is left behind must be strong. I have my moments of depression. Everybody does. I might be depressed for 60 minutes and happy for one minute. My daughter will see that one minute of happiness and smile. This helps me remain cheerful. Take away all sorts of pressure and ensure your presence when needed. Tell her that life is unfair and it is a difficult time, but no matter what, everything will turn out to be fine. Teach her to remain positive, because that is what the person who passed away would want from her. Parents need to understand the benefits of friendship as well in this scenario. My friends have been a great wall of support after Mukund’s passing away. I have around 6-7 friends whom I can call at any time of the day or night. They never preached, nor did they advise. They were just there, assuring me of their presence. Children, teenagers especially, might be able to open up to their friends more than parents. They rely on that and are proud of that.
In a gist…Being a 14-year-old is challenging. Add to this a myriad of friendships, heartbreaks, chaos, and it becomes a vicious cycle. In spite of the difficult state of affairs, teens today are tactful, and well-aware of the world around them. As parents, all you can do is understand the significance of their development at this stage. All in all, be your child’s friend, his confidante, his shoulder to cry on and his anchor to bank on!
Indhu Rebecca Varghese is a teacher at the Army school, Bengaluru and wife of late Major Mukund Varadarajan
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