My daughter Anshu is 16 years old and studies in the 11th standard. She used to be very good in her studies till the 10th standard, but in the 11th standard, her grades have dropped to a very high degree. Earlier she was scoring 85 % and was amongst the top five students of her class. This year in the first terminal examinations she could score only 70% marks and has dropped the ranking in the class largely. I feel that the main reason for this change is that she is preoccupied with thoughts about the boys in her class. She is more interested in telephonic conversations with them, on going out in the evenings for a ride on C.G. road, for meetings in group and other activities than in studies. I hardly see her with books in her hand nowadays. Earlier she used to even read a few novels, fiction or books other than academics and all that has also stopped. She is spending an increased amount of time with one boy in particular and when I question her about it, she just flicks the conversation away and refuses to answer any questions. I am worried about how this attitude will affect her – firstly next year when she has her 12th Boards examinations and in her life where she has forgotten everything else that interested her.
With the influx of Western lifestyles, dating and friendships with the opposite sex is part and parcel of today’s adolescents’ social pattern. There are many opportunities in the current co-educational system for boys and girls to meet and it spills over to their social life after school hours. Sometimes there is a lot of caring and sharing between boys and girls and often adolescents are not even aware that there is a sex difference and only become conscious when parents draw attention to the relationship. We would be wary of these relationships because we want to protect our children from unpleasant experiences. If you are able to instill confidence in your child, chances are that she will do the right thing. At the same time, you can keep an eye to check out the maturity level of your daughter. If she is very insecure and lacks self-confidence, her need to cling to somebody and withdraw from others will be very high. She may get deeply involved mainly to feel good about herself. It is then that she might find it difficult to have more than one close friend at a time and lack the capacity to share her interests with more than one person.
What you can do?
You need to look into your communication, trust and encouragement methods. If your daughter feels that she is truly lovable and loving, her need to run blindly into somebody’s arms would be less. You need to encourage your daughter to develop relationships where there is more giving, sharing and caring, loyalty, admiration, a sense of fairness and generosity. This will go a long way in helping her form healthy relationships. You have to address the interest in boys as a growing up also. Trust her and discuss her going out without getting emotional. Generally, going in groups should be encouraged. Get on the right side of your daughter. If at the end of it you are able to help her become warm, friendly, caring and responsible, you may have done a good job. It is very important to be sensitive to your daughter’s need for friendships at this stage. Her freedom to be able to choose her friends can often run into trouble because of her inexperience. She may have disagreements, arguments, quarrels and break-ups. This can have a devastating effect on her and her self-esteem can sink low. It is possible that your daughter has found a soul mate in her friend and she is able to relate better with him. You need to look at not why Anshu is having that relationship, but why she is secretive about it with you. Perhaps she senses that you will use your authority on her. It is more important for you to have a relationship with her, which can be a support to her whenever she has trouble. You should encourage her to bring her friends home. This gives a stamp of approval to her friendships and keeps the lines of communication open and the atmosphere relaxed. With time, she will grow more mature and become less emotional. Till that time you will need to keep your cool. It is more important for your daughter to have a friend even if you think that the person is not right for her, has a negative influence on her and you disapprove of the relationship. It is more important for her to be able to develop that judgment herself. Your support can only help her develop that judgment. The other concern that you have is about her studies being affected. Your daughter probably needs a friend with whom she can talk about her studies and discuss it at a peer level. After the 10th Boards, she is probably relaxing. Many children have this notion that they should be enjoying the 11th standard, as they will not get any time to do so in the 12th. This is a myth. You should be advising her regarding her studies and focus less on her friendships. You can help her by asking her to bring friends home for combined studies. This will help her see you on the same side instead of antagonistic towards her. Discuss things with her, disagree with her if you think so, but communicate how you feel and what you fear. Listen to her hopes and fears. The dialogue should help both of you.