| A counselling session in progress. Telegraph picture |
Bhubaneswar, June 24: Banker couple Akshay and Ritu (names changed) have been visiting a shrink for the past two weeks. No, it has got nothing to do with their marriage. There is a bigger “turmoil” rocking their family. Or so they perceive. Their son failed to make it to the IIT merit list, after which they have started suffering from pangs of anxiety, sleep disorder and a profound sense of insecurity. When it became too much to handle, they sought professional help.
Academic performance of children and their admission worries are taking a toll on parents, who are increasingly approaching psychiatrists and counsellors to battle anxiety and depression.
Psychologist Namita Mohanty, who has counselled at least five “distressed” couples in the past two months, said that in most cases, the parents were to be blamed for burdening their wards with great expectations, often unrealistic.
“Everyone expects their children to score over 90 per cent marks and study in premier institutions. They focus on one school or college that is considered best in the city or country,” said Namita, who teaches psychology at Utkal University.
“Getting admission there becomes the ultimate goal. But, when the child fails to achieve it, it breeds frustration and tension in the family,” said Namita.
Apprehension over their child’s future is also affecting the parents’ health. The symptoms include sleeplessness, eating disorder concentration problems at work, high blood pressure, irritability and feelings of inferiority and inadequacy.
The parents would also start avoiding social gatherings where friends, colleagues or relatives boasted of their wards’ achievements, said Sambit Nanda, a counsellor with The Learning Clinic at Saheed Nagar. A sizeable number of worried parents is visiting the clinic, especially during the admission season.
“Many a time, the comparison takes place in front of the children. This is humiliating for the so-called non-achievers. It makes them feel helpless, hopeless and insecure,” he said.
While parents, in many cases, resort to anti-depressants, the children withdraw into themselves, stop interacting with parents, and at times, seek to cut themselves off from society.
“Rejection by parents is most painful. Comparison, criticism and punishment create a fear psychosis among the children, who become non-communicative, stubborn, rebellious and destructive. Some of them even hit the bottle, start smoking or using drugs,” said Nanda.
It is not always that the children fail to rise up to their parents’ expectations. There were instances of academically bright students dropping out after qualifying for prestigious institutes, said psychology reader at BJB College Jahan Ara Begum. “Though they have the potential they cannot sustain the interest for the vocation their parents choose for them. They start bunking classes and fall into bad company,” she said.
Namita said family support was most important for children when it would come to making a career choice. “Parents must provide emotional support and encouragement to the children. They must set achievable goals keeping in mind the child’s IQ, interests, aptitude and potential,” she said, adding that students must be counselled from a young age, so that they could make an informed choice.
With such exposure, children would do much better and success rate among them would be much higher, she said.
The psychologist said the parents, too, must realise that imposing too much on children may be counter-productive. “They should know that no two children are alike and hence, it would be unwise to have same expectations from them,” said Mohanty.