By Mirra Ghosh
Are you truly communicating with your child?
We all like to mask ourselves, be it with a face-lift, a false smile, or a confidence layered on insecurity. Often when it comes to facing our children, we wear this mask most of all.
“I don’t want them to see me cry.” “They shouldn’t know about our personal problems.” “I don’t like burdening them with our financial situation.”
While this strong parental urge to protect is understandable, what are the implications of this sheltered lack of communication?
To put it simply: if a child never sees her parents cry, or fight, or worry – when she faces those emotions herself, how does she know that she must communicate it to them? Parents often complain their children don’t come to talk to them when they are having problems at school, or with friends. And I inevitably ask, “Well, do you go talk to them about yourself?”
I am not encouraging role-reversal or a constant heart-to-heart with your child about every thing that happens to you. But, as often happens in South Asian families, there are so many things we are not willing to talk about with our children that inevitably we hinder our communication.
We say less, they learn less. They talk less, we understand less. And so this pattern strengthens over time, until one day you are faced with a teenager who lies about almost everything, and can barely display a touch of emotion.
The accumulated result of such communication was clearly depicted in a recent reality TV show that created a storm in India: Sach ka Samna. Based on the American show, The Moment of Truth, contestants were hooked up to a polygraph machine and asked a series of personal questions about their life. Average citizens, film celebrities, and revered sport stars came on the show and admitted many inconvenient truths—from a husband having sex with another woman while his wife slept in the adjacent train compartment to a transsexual actor who hid his identity from his parents; from a woman secretly married to her brother-in-law to a man who couldn’t admit his real occupation to his in-laws.
In a culture that suppresses anything that might bring shame or dishonour, the show was bound to succeed. It was an outlet for those who had spent years in silence. Unable to say it to their husband, mother, brother, or uncle in the privacy of their own home, here they were, blurting out the truth to millions of viewers on national television.
The unknown world was easier to talk to than the people at home.