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My son, 14, is musically gifted and has already won many competitions and been taken by his music school to three Western nations for performance as well as learning. At one of these places, he was introduced to a family that is a patron of the arts, and they were so impressed that they are requesting us to consider sending him to live with them whenever we feel comfortable doing so. Unfortunately, my son has come to know of this (through the teachers), and is after us to let him go right away. He has always been a loner, and not particularly interested in studies. We were quite surprised to see that he is willing to simply leave. My husband and I do not want this at such an early age, and are frankly hurt and puzzled. How do we handle this? We are not against him going or even settling abroad, but not at this stage. Please advise.

With talented and gifted children, especially those good at a very specific thing, it is doubly important that parents and other involved adults help the child remain, at least to some extent, in the mainstream of studies, friendships, family interactions— all the life skills needed outside of the pursuit of their talent. In this context, it is unfortunate that someone thought it was okay to communicate the offer from these patrons/well-wishers abroad to your child at such an early stage. This offer should have been something told to you as parents, and something that you kept in mind, mulled over and planned for later, in keeping with his age and stage of musical career. A loner 14-year-old, already deeply into his musical pursuit, and finding social interaction, studies, sports, etc., in the everyday system something that he would like to shy away from, now feels that he has an “exit" option that to his mind seems perfect.

While it is no doubt hurtful for you to see him so willing to just walk away, not just from his surroundings here, but from you as parents, I would urge you to see that he is probably not equipped to really understand the implications of being separated from you. Sometimes, parents, in aiding and enabling a talented child to single-mindedly pursue his interest, end up disconnecting him from the ordinary, everyday demands of life. The child ends up taking their support for granted, and cannot see and appreciate their role in arranging things around him in such a way that he is free to concentrate on his music.

What you could do now is to have a talk about this with him, assuring him that whatever this offer is, it is not going to be just withdrawn—he does not have to grab it now. He may not see it your way, but you need to tell him that there are many intangible things that he and you get from his being at home. This conversation does not mean that you tell him “how much we do for you", but that you help him to see why the family unit is important and needed till he is really ready to go.

Academically too, a talented child needs to have some grounding, and you will have to help him make the connect—with what he imagines his future life to be, and what he needs in terms of studies, passing exams, etc. Perhaps you need to do more warm, easy, family things together too. Do have him talk to a counsellor or, better still, one of his music teachers if you can trust him/her to guide him away from the thought of simply going away into his music world so soon.

Gouri Dange is the author of the just released book, More ABCs of Parenting (Random House), and ABCs of Parenting.

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