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It helps to talk

It helps to talk
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First Published: Tue, Nov 29 2011. 09 27 PM IST

Movie: Gone with the wind
Movie: Gone with the wind
Updated: Tue, Nov 29 2011. 09 27 PM IST
My daughter will turn 13 soon. Some images she googled shocked me. She had searched for images of kissing couples from literature and movies, from ‘Gone with the Wind’ to ‘Harry Potter’. She did not view any of the pages for more than 1 minute or so. We are very careful with our behaviour in front of her and with the movies and programmes we watch together. Please help me cope with this. Also tell me if I should confront her about this.
Movie: Gone with the wind
It is right of you to be alert about what you found; however, I think you need not be alarmed or feel that you have to actually “do something” in the form of confronting her or even letting her know that you know.
I use the word “alert” only in the sense of becoming aware that one’s adolescent has entered that stage where there is natural curiosity, and even preoccupation, about such things. This is also perhaps a sign for you that you must talk to her about attraction and intimacy between people.
When you say you are “very careful with your behaviour in front of her”, I presume you mean she has never seen you, as husband and wife, touching in any way, hugging, exchanging tender looks, calling each other by any term of endearment. If so, I would in fact encourage you to not present such a totally asexual, non-intimate picture of yourselves as a couple.
It is a culture-specific thing, of course, whether people feel free to be tender or demonstrative with each other in front of their children, but it is simply easier for children to deal with their own budding sexual curiosity if there is less hypocrisy in the family about such things.
Nothing in your conversation with her, should you choose to bring this up, should “shame” your daughter. Moreover, neither you nor your husband should or need to feel or behave as if you have “failed” in some way. Your child’s healthy interest in reading, the Internet and friends is not under a cloud merely because you have discovered that she is curious about things like kissing.
We have had occasion to point out in this column before that it is very important not to feel or show disgust and rejection when you discover your child may have been surfing inappropriate sites. Let’s help our children walk assuredly and with grace into young adulthood.
My 16-year-old daughter has a boyfriend. He is a good boy, two years senior to her, and is preparing for medical entrance exams. My daughter nags him, suspects him, checks his phone, asks for explanations for every small thing and calls him far too many times in the day and night. I feel she really mistreats him. The other day the boy himself called me up, very shaken because he had raised his hand on her. He said he was genuinely sorry and was not a violent person at all, but he said he was studying and she just went on taunting him. She has not told me about it. I want to help them both. Should I intervene at all?
Yes, you do need to intervene, and you need to involve her father if he has the maturity not to go in all guns blazing at the girl or boy. Your daughter seems to be way off track and out of line about what she wants and can give in a relationship. It is possible that she is insecure and is not handling appropriately the fact that the boy is now in a demanding stage of his life.
First, tell the boy you are going to speak to them both. Then you can come right out and say that you know about the violence, and that it looks like both of them need to take a big step away from this relationship and re-look some of the basic “rules of engagement”. You would need to help your daughter deal with her jealousy issues and the way she communicates with him. Behaving like a pesky mosquito does not make people love you more, is what you need to tell her. Then help her either see how some of these things are unreasonable or are things that this particular boy at this stage in life just cannot provide. In either case, she needs to step back a little or completely.
Her boyfriend also needs to figure out whether he wants to be with someone who harasses him so much that he takes recourse to violence. He needs to spell out to her what irritates him, rather than put up with it and then get violent.
Initially you might find that she gives you a hard time for getting involved in the first place, but the slapping incident is enough reason for parents to get involved in a firm and loving way.
Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.
Write to Gouri at learningcurve@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Nov 29 2011. 09 27 PM IST