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Where the Mind is Without Fear- Parenting Styles in a Brave New World

Parenting is not an easy journey it is filled with potholes and ditches. With the advent of internet, mobile devices, social media, gaming and other technological advances, many of the challenges that parents face today never existed before. This puts them under a lot of stress and coupled with breakdown in communication between parents and children, the situation may get much worser. 

Very few people get into parenting with any knowledge or expertise and are driven more by instincts and what they have observed in their parents. But yesterday's parenting approaches may no longer be suitable for today and much less for tomorrow. This is a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world and the society is in a constant flux, the joint family system has been replaced by nuclear families and children now crave for more independence and autonomy. 

Most often the expectation of the parents, children, grandparents and society may come under conflict and this indeed causes tensions in families as the children growup and teenage years can be more frustrating and complex for both parents and adolescents. Parents have a vital role to play in society as the future of the nation lies under their guardianship. While the school and college life may equip children with academic, knowledge skills for earning their livelihood, the foundations of a child's personality is nutured at home. 

The 95th Rajgiri Round Table Conference was held on 16th August, 2023 on Zoom on the topic, "Where the Mind is Without Fear..."- Parenting in a Brave New World. The Expert Panel consisted of Dr Pulkit Khanna, Associate Professor and Executive Dean, Jindal Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Prof Sanjose A Thomas, Asst Professor & Head of Sociology at SH College, Thevara, Asha Iyer Kumar, Author, Columnist and Writing Coach, Dr Roy Abraham Kallivayalil, Head of Psychiatry at Pushpagiri Medical College.

The Synergy Forum had Anupama Ramachandra, Fulbright Scholar, Principal of DPS, Electronic City, Bengaluru and Mridula Praveen, Former Principal of Craft World School, Ernakulam, Kerala, leading educator and trainer reflecting on the presentations made by the Expert Panel. The stakeholder group had two students from Nanda City Central School in Coimbatore sharing their thoughts as children on the topic of parenting. The event was anchored by Sreekumar Raghavan, Editor of Pallikkutam, The Education Observer. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

1. Parenting should not become a burden to a level that leads to emotional and physical exhaustion, affecting the parental well-being. This can lead to loss of emotional control, anger, outbursts, frustration and loss of well-being that affects a parent-child relationships. Parents should not be overwhelmed by the duties and responsibilities and find time for themselves for their own emotional and social well-being.

2.Communication between parents and children especially teenagers are breaking down. Most often children turn to the internet, peer groups or other influencers in society when faced with a crisis which may land them in trouble. And therefore, importance should be given to building healthy relationships between parents and children.

3. There are two ministries connected with the India government related to family affairs- Minstry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Going by their activities and mandate, very little effort seems to be taken to handle the issues and challenges in parenting. The focus is more on women's security and protection, child welfare and protection and healthcare. Both the ministries may have programmes and activities that involve parents or beneficial for parenting.

5. There should be more multi-stake holder discussions involving parents, teachers, school leadership, students and policy makers to resolve family and parenting issues that may arise from time to time. Policy makers need to come out of the ivory towers and meet stakeholders in family and parenting to get a better understanding of issues and come up with solutions. 

6. Intense competition and the need to live up to the expectations of the family and society can put children under stress. With no open channel of communication between parents and children, they may end up falling prey to drug peddlers or decide to end their life. Suicides constitute the second highest cause of mortality in children. Building resilience, courage and overcoming fear becomes paramount to face any uncertainties and risks in life. 

7.Both mother and father should walk in the same direction when it comes to parenting even though they may have difference of opinion on many issues.

8. The first five years of a child's life is most crucial in the cognitive, socio-emotional development of a child. Utmost care has to be taken to nurture children at this age and lay a strong foundation for holistic development.

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