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kids on couch

When the couch is a cure-all


Once upon a time, when children were disobedient, picked their noses and refused to eat the paranthas in their tiffin-box, they would get a wallop on their derri?re. Today, they get yanked to a psychiatrist instead. Mental health professionals are increasingly viewed as fairy godmothers with magic wands and are fast taking the place of priests and grandmas.

While joint families were the norm a couple of generations ago, with relatives doling out dollops of advice, the modern era is marked by nuclear families and advice from psychiatrists. Now children are taken to psychiatrists to 'cure' them not just of serious 'problems' but also an aversion to fruits.

Mental health experts say this is neither a good thing nor a bad thing;just a sign of the times. But many feel it's better that parents pick psychiatrists over faith-healers and black magicians. TOI-Crest brings you a list of some quirky afflictions for which parents put their kids on the couch


There was a time when children who refused to mind their Ps and Qs were punished for their behaviour. But now, children who do not touch the feet of their grandparents, refuse to attend family functions and do not follow societal norms when it comes to party etiquette are taken for psychiatric treatment, says Dr Harish Shetty, head of the Counsellors Association of India.


The generation gap is in no way a recent phenomenon. Everyone and their dog bear a grouse against their parents for not having understood them in their teen years. Parents aren't far behind when it comes to complaining of the shenanigans of the new generation. But it no longer ends there. Dr Harish Shetty says that teenagers with spiked hair are being brought in for counselling to talk them out of their new hair-style.


If you were born in an era when mixing freely with the opposite sex was taboo, watching your child do so can well be akin to a culture shock. Dr Harish Shetty points to instances where teen girls are brought for counselling for "talking to boys".


If your five-year-old daughter does not like eating bananas, it's a good idea not to force her to swallow them. But this is precisely what the parents of a perfectly healthy fiveyear-old tried doing, as they felt it was grossly abnormal for a girl her age not to eat bananas. This led to a troubled relationship between the girl and her parents. They even brought her to Dr Pulkit Sharma in the hope that he would get her to eat bananas. But when Dr Sharma told them there was absolutely nothing wrong with her aversion for the fruit, and instead focused on their unrealistic expectations, they immediately questioned his competence.


Sometimes, parents have tried curing their children of illnesses they do not have. For instance, one woman took her seven-year-old son to VIMHANS claiming he suffered from epilepsy. She even narrated detailed episodes of his convulsions, which led doctors to believe that the boy suffered from a severe form of the illness. But various neurological and psychological assessments showed the boy was perfectly normal. When the mother found out about the reports, she dramatically changed her version and claimed he suffered from autism. "A psychological analysis of the mother showed that this was a case of 'Munchausen by proxy syndrome' where the parent fabricates an illness in an otherwise healthy child, "says Dr Pulkit Sharma.


This is possibly Indian society's greatest affliction;the inability to accept that one's child wants to marry outside the community. Psychiatrists across the country have been asked to use everything from hypnosis to electric shocks to "cure" young people of their love. The father of a young girl in Mumbai even asked a psychiatrist to lock his daughter in a mental hospital till she forgot about a boy from another caste whom she was in love with.


Achartered accountant once took her adult son, who was gay, to Dr Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist at VIMHANS. "She requested me to use anything under the sun - electric shocks, hypnotism, psychotherapy, medicines, surgery - to change his sexual orientation, " says Sharma. Psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria says it's one of the commonest reasons for parents to bring their children to counsellors. "Parents have asked me to help re-align their son and convince him that he is not actually gay, "she adds. Dr Sanjay Chugh recalls the time when the parents of a seven-year-old brought him in for counseling, as he would often dress in girl's clothes.


An 11-year-old who played games with objects that weren't meant for the purpose he used them for was brought to Dr Sanjay Chugh. "For instance, the boy insisted on playing badminton with a cricket bat, "says Chugh. While the boy's parents were worried he had trouble with comprehension, it turned out he was simply experimenting with objects around him.


It's not for nothing that psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria keeps a 'magic' wand by the side of her table. She does, however, proceed to tell her clients that it doesn't work. Parents whose children are slow learners have asked Chhabria to raise their child's IQ. In another instance, the mother of a threeyear-old asked Chhabria what she could do to ensure her son grew up to be an engineer.


Reader's opinion (1)

Ritu PathareApr 10th, 2012 at 12:21 PM


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