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School counsel for parenting challenges

- La Martiniere posts advisory on Facebook to encourage guardians to discuss ‘issues’

One of Calcutta’s top schools has come out with an exhaustive advisory on parenting at a time when “there seems to be more confusion, more aggression, more depression and more stress in children than ever before”.

This isn’t the first time a city school has tried to send out such a message. But the La Martiniere schools have turned it into a campaign by posting the advisory on Facebook, a deviation from the practice of using parent-teacher meetings to raise such topics. “It is a take-off point to communicate with the parents. A school cannot work on a child in isolation,” said Ruvena Sanyal, counsellor at La Martiniere for Boys.

The advisory tells parents to feel free to meet and discuss “any issue” with the counsellor.

Film and theatre personality Ramanjit Kaur, whose elder daughter is in Class VIII and the younger one in lower nursery, is delighted that such an initiative has come from the school. “To be able to meet a counsellor on any working day to discuss anything about my children is encouraging.”

The guidelines include developing good listening skills while communicating with the child and giving undivided attention to him or her. If that means switching off the television, putting away the mobile phone or newspaper and postponing household chores, so be it.

Parents are also advised to maintain eye contact, appropriately respond to the child and wait for him or her to finish before replying. The guidelines mention that as far as possible, parents’ inputs should be limited to PEP talk (praise, encouragement and positive talk). Encouragement rather than criticism works well with children, the advisory states.

“If looking at the guidelines a parent feels a twinge somewhere that he/she isn’t doing this and if it can make the person think about doing it in the best interest of the child, we will have achieved our objective,” Sanyal said.

According to counsellors, children become anxious and insecure in homes where parents are abusive towards each other. “My counsellor, at any point of time, deals with 120 children who face problems across the spectrum like frustration from violence at home, issues of separation and learning disorders, and we need to take it up and sensitise our parents,” said Sunirmal Chakravarthi, principal of La Martiniere for Boys.

The advisory requests parents to track the Facebook page for more information and discussions on issues concerning growing children. “We posted the advisory on the La Martiniere Fees page on Facebook so that many parents could immediately access it,” said school secretary Supriyo Dhar.

Apart from easy accessibility, putting up the advisory on a social networking site meant demystifying something that might have appeared as a school sermon. “Parents of children who need help often don’t come to meetings. Here, we can reach out to parents and encourage them to be more in conversation with the counsellors,” said Lorraine Mirza, principal of La Martiniere for Girls.

Some parents have already taken the opportunity to also remind the school of its responsibilities. Rajarshi Sengupta wrote: “I fully agree on all the points. May I however point out that my daughter, in a new section in Class 5 post-summer vacation, did not have a class teacher yesterday on the first day of school reopening. Today, she has a…temporary teacher. I am sure we can expect the school to have a Dedicated Teacher to spend Quality Time with the children in a new section...”

The post had 159 “likes” till late on Wednesday.

“Whether a parent will follow the guidelines will depend entirely on the parent. Parents think what they are doing is best for the child,” said 43-year-old businessman Vineet Kapur, whose daughter is in Class III at La Martiniere for Girls.

Psychiatrist J.R. Ram welcomed the La Martiniere initiative. “The fact that they have broached the subject shows that they are conscious of the problems and are dealing with them instead of just responding in a reactive way when some problem occurs,” he said.

But will an advisory make a difference? “It might not if it is a one-off measure, but it will if it means a dialogue with parents,” Ram said.

expert advice

Put away whatever you are occupied with to listen to what the child says

Appropriately respond to what they are saying, with a nod or ‘hmm…I understand’ or by asking relevant questions

Wait for child to finish, then summarise what has been said to show you have understood

Don’t get carried away into giving your own opinion, advice or relating your own stories

As far as possible, your inputs should be limited to PEP talk: praise, encouragement and positive talk

What has been your toughest parenting challenge? Tell ttmetro@abpmail.com