(Part 2) Parents as Counsellors

Counseling-triennale[Continued from here]

What are the opportunities/signs of counseling for parents?

If the child appears:

  1. Unhappy
  2. Aloof, uninterested/withdrawn
  3. Unusually reserved
  4. Seems nervous and afraid
  5. Shows unusual behaviour or looks disturbed

Even under the above tremendous pressures, each child has a different absorption capacity. As a parent, we need to develop such a bond with them that we can read their unsaid words, silent body language, etc. If we suspect some turmoil, we should be available for him at the cross roads. As the right moment occurs, he may share his miseries with us. We can’t be over inquisitive or nosey- especially if the child is older and a self-driven individual who wants to assess his own developmental capacity. He may share with parents once the trouble is overcome as he reflects back and relieves himself. It is a moment of growth and wisdom for him.

What does it mean to be your kid’s counselor?

  1. Your children feel comfortable to open their personal matters before you. (They can unload the emotional garbage which might include crying, blaming, accusing, swearing, etc.)
  2. They feel safe to share their worries and most personal concerns with you. (He needs to feel heard completely with no hurdles, judgments, rebukes, threat of punishment, negative reaction from your side as a parent.)
  3. They consider you wise and trustworthy and therefore value your advice. (Perceived credibility is the actual credibility.)
  4. You can easily know when your child is disturbed and need support. (He might withdraw, stop eating, slam doors, look moody, try to be aloof, etc.)
  5. All of you feel good and relaxed after the session. (The emotional strength of the parent needs to be developed so that he/she doesn’t end up needing a counseling session after hearing out his/her child’s worries.)

 The counseling framework for parents
1. Prepare yourself
Do your mental homework before approaching the child. Imagine all possible problems and their causes, the kid’s perception of the problem, expectation of the people around the kid from him, etc.

2. Spare time for a session
Find a peaceful place and choose the best time.

3. Be happy and stay calm
Tend to your own emotional landscape so as not to react before the kid when he is unloading his emotions before you. It is essential to conquer your own mood first.

4. Encourage your child to express his problem
Convey care and warmth through your body language, facial expressions and tone, etc.

5. Listen actively
This means no interruption, no pretend listening while you are multi-tasking, etc.

6. Rephrase what you understand
This is important so that the child’s intention and purpose is understood with clarity and no miscommunication happens.

7. Acknowledge the feelings of your child
Albert Einstein once lamented: “Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me.” Taking care of your child is easy. Taking care of your child’s feelings is challenging.

8. Ask about the causes and expectations
Analyze the problem and situation with your child. Don’t offer an immediate solution or suggestion yourself.

9. Give confidence and offer helpful tips
Let the child take a responsible decision himself.

Lastly and most importantly, children will learn best, when they are trusted, valued, owned, encouraged and made comfortable. This does not mean that we surrender to their whims and fancies, let them disown their responsibilities, bend and break the family rules. It certainly means that we treat them with respect and empower them to take value-based decisions in life.

Adapted by Rana Rais Khan from an interactive workshop at L2L Academy Karachi

(Part 1) Parents as Counsellors

counselling-in-the-workplace-1When was the last time your child came to you to share something? A survey conducted in the city of Karachi with a sample of significant number of kids/teenagers indicated the following results:

They were asked: “Who are those five people in your life you can trust blindly to share your inner most troubles/stressors in life?” The percentage that included one parent or both parents at the fourth position or maybe last position among the five preferred individuals was as follows:

77% – 11 – 14 years

60% – 14 – 17 years

30% – 17 – 20 years

Appalling responses surfaced. The younger age group could somewhat trust either of the parents but not both. The older group was most comfortable with a virtual friend. The oldest sought counseling from complete strangers. In their sight, the parents were too naïve or outdated to understand their issues. They felt worse, when confided in their parents.

We might fathom this better, if we take the example of a mirror. What is the function of a mirror? It reflects our image with all its beauties and flaws. And we all love to admire or gaze at ourselves in it. However, the day this mirror finds a voice and dares to offer judgmental phrases, its opinions and perceptions about us, how many of them will survive? Maybe none. Their fate will inevitably be shattered.

A counselor is similarly a person, who places a balm on an emotionally injured person’s wounds. He does not cut open gashes with his scalpel to infect the wound further. The role of a mentor steps further to help analyze the injured, as to why and how he is injured in the first place. But that comes at a later stage. Clearly, there is a difference between the roles of a counselor and mentor.

Role of parents as a counselor

Our children today are passing through an era, where they face a lot of turbulence and challenges socially and emotionally. Firstly, Allah (swt) has placed within every person a mechanism to subside his hurt feelings. This threshold again varies from person to person. If a person is unable to settle these inner disturbed emotions, his family serves the purpose of ideal counseling. Why?

If an external counselor is hired, he is an unknown authority who is unaware of the affected persons’ context, background, strengths and weaknesses, etc. A close relative or friend again will have to brief the expert thoroughly. This expert in light of his learning will review the case and offer an expert advice which may or may not work eventually. But family and specially parents who are a natural institution of counseling must be able to dissolve up to 90% approximately of problems in their kid’s life. They brought them into this world, raised them up, can read their face and feelings like no one can, provided they share a special bond.

Realistically in order to become ideal counselors, parents need to learn some qualities. It is pivotal for them to understand that if they do not serve the role of effective counselors, their child will go somewhere else to address his needs, as humans do not live in isolation. But this counseling will be at the cost of values. It could be to a friend, who offers them relief in the form of an innocent ice cream or a puff of a cigarette or indulgence into drugs or alcohol or other profanities, etc. It could be simply an icon on their internet screen that is constantly available and luring “Do you want to chat?”

And this does not mean that the kid is bad/evil. It must be understood that when an individual is emotionally disturbed, three areas are negatively influenced: his thinking ability, his behaviour and his creative potential. He is so desperate to find relief that he can’t rationalize his own choices. As parents, the first thing that needs to be done is to pull the child out of disturbance and bring him towards normalization.

What could be the probable pressures in your kid’s life?

  1. Academic
  2. Parental
  3. Peer

On top of the above puberty/adolescence brings its own physical changes that create havoc in a child’s body now transforming into an adult. This is a time when most kids are emotionally weak and vulnerable.

What kind of perceptions a child is locked into and might travel through in a month about himself and others?

  1. I cannot be good at studies.
  2. Teacher will be angry at my work.
  3. Subject is difficult and boring.
  4. Everybody will laugh at my question.
  5. I never have a good idea to share in class.
  6. I am not intelligent and creative. I am stupid.
  7. I cannot speak well.
  8. Teacher does not like me.
  9. I always have disturbing thoughts.
  10. I don’t know whether I am right or wrong.
  11. I wish I was born free.
  12. Nobody is pleased by my work.
  13. Nobody likes to be my friend.
  14. Nobody likes me.
  15. I soon forget what I learn.
  16. I can’t solve any problem on my own.
  17. Nobody understands me or trusts me.
  18. I am a bad boy/girl.
  19. I quickly get bored, don’t know what to do.
  20. I feel restricted; I don’t have freedom in my life. Everyone scolds me.

Some children think any of the above for a while, unstuck themselves and move on. Those are the ones, who are intellectually developed and emotionally secure. Other kids think and get stuck in their negative perceptions and begin to lose themselves. That’s when they underperform.

[To be continued Insha Allah…]

Adapted by Rana Rais Khan from an interactive workshop at L2L Academy Karachi.

A Blessing in Disguise – Your True BFF!

niceI left the room and saw her anxiously waiting for me in the hallway. She grabbed my arm and hastily led me into an empty classroom, next to the room where I had just finished delivering a talk to a group of teenagers. She quickly closed the door and started explaining.

“I have been meaning to talk to you… I have a request.” she said, suppressing her overwhelming emotions. “Can you talk to the girls about the importance of the ‘mother and daughter’ relationship?” Fighting back her tears, she struggled to speak. “You know… we were very close… me and my daughter… we were friends… best friends… but now she has become indifferent towards me and doesn’t want to share anything… I don’t know why, I’ve tried everything… I can’t seem to reach her.” Saying this, she burst into tears.

This was one of many heart wrenching incidents that I have come across, where parents feel a drastic tear between them and their children. The most evident, expressive and apparent relationship is between a mother and her daughter. This mostly starts off as a bond between the two, but due to various reasons it weakens, breaks or in some cases is destroyed.

I have been a firsthand witness to relations that had gone through a complicated phase in life, because this important connection was missing from their lives. However, the consequences vary from situation to situation. Therefore, one cannot place a finger on the core problem and cover it under a blanket statement.

Nevertheless, there is no problem, for which Allah (swt) has not given a solution. First, we need to understand what the problem is. Second, we need to ask ourselves, if we consider it worth solving. Third, if yes, then how do we solve it?  Because sweeping it under the carpet would mean knowingly marching towards destruction.

Essence of a Relationship

Why do we have relationships? To feel worthwhile, to be nurtured, loved and cared for. What do we want from a relationship? Primarily, a firm relationship rests on the foundations of respect, trust, love, confidence and support.

Generally, the relationship that fits the above mentioned criteria is experienced between friends. Friendship is the only relationship that we are not compelled to establish. This allows us to have a choice; thus, we carefully pick and choose like-minded people for befriending. Whoever ‘clicks’ with our personality is worthy enough to be our BFF or ‘best friend forever’ or bestie, as commonly used nowadays by youngsters.

Who is a Best Friend?

As per the general criteria, who is a ‘best’ friend? Someone, who cares the most about you, who is always there for you, regardless of the situation, conditions and circumstances; someone, who tries to understand you, who wishes the best for you and is always eager to help you; someone, who fears losing you and is there to rectify your situation, where you are prone to harm; someone, who wishes the best for you and helps you work towards it and who loves you selflessly and unconditionally. Above all, despite being aware of your shortcomings, they stick around and put up with your weaknesses, while helping you throughout your life.

Role of a Best Friend

A BFF is not the one, who expresses what you want to hear and is there to support you in whatever you do, because she wishes you to be happy in life. Instead, a true bestie is the one, who says what is better for you and is there to correct you, when you go wrong, regardless of your reaction towards her. She is there to connect you to the true source of everlasting happiness, your Creator, by showing you the light amidst darkness and the positive amongst the negative. She is there to guide you to the source of all Khair, so you may rise from your misery and recognize the beauty of life.

a true bestie is the one, who says what is better for you and is there to correct you, when you go wrong, regardless of your reaction towards her.

Who, in your opinion, truly comes up to the criteria of being your bestie? Before your mind starts scrolling down the list of your friends to pick the most worthy out of them all, let me give you a hint that this best friend of yours is someone, who lives somewhere in the background of your life – your mother.

She is the one, who has been and probably still is doing all  and more for you, just to put a smile on your face. She in reality is that ‘insignificant’ friend, who is ready to trade the world to purchase everlasting happiness for you, if she could.

Remember the last time you felt despair, and how things took a U-turn, and it all worked out in the end. It was because of this friend’s secret pleas and Duas that did wonders. It was not because your ‘best’ friend at school or college listened and agreed with your complaints about the whole situation that helped you strive through – it was this ‘insignificant’ friend, who found ways to make it happen (by the will of Allah (swt)).

She in reality is that ‘insignificant’ friend, who is ready to trade the world to purchase everlasting happiness for you, if she could.

Instead of lending her shoulder for you to cry on, she was there to help you regain your strength, so that you may never feel the need to cry in front of anyone, except your Creator.

Remember the times, when she tries to approach you and you give her a deaf ear, assuming her concern to be an irritating lecture. How you coldly switch off even before she has offered any advice, because you have conditioned yourself to believe that no matter what she says, it has to be against you; just because you think that she does not understand you. While giving others an opportunity to express their opinions and showing your respect for what they believe in, did you show a little compassion towards her views, opinions and beliefs?

Being your un-acknowledged but true best friend, she does not only overlook your indifferent behaviour towards her, she empathizes and justifies it for you. She wishes that you stay happy not only in Dunya but in Akhirah, and such a friend is a blessing that is there to escort you to Jannah, Bi izn Allah.


The Women in Your Life

Women in Your Life

  1. Centre of gravity

As a man, you must understand that every woman in your life wants herself to be the focal point of your life. This includes your caring mother, your loving wife and your affectionate sister. Give them all their share of attention and love and maintain a balance in it. It might sometimes feel like walking on a tight rope, but you will be able to nip many evils in the bud, if you can master this art of attention-giving. Chat with them, compliment them and make them feel cherished. Find out what they want to hear from you. Be expressive and warm.

  1. A bankrupt account

Too often, we are tight-lipped about matters that bother us. Learn to communicate this to your loved ones. Let the women in your life know what heightens your misery. It may include seeing discord at home, picking fights over trivial matters or expressing unnecessary criticism. Inform them that it breaks your heart when they behave in a certain manner. So the next time any one of them slips, she would know why you are upset and would not build tolerance for anti-family behaviour. When the Prophet’s (sa) wives requested him for a raise in their monthly stipend, he left them for approximately a month, as a clear indication that worldly affairs were not his priority.

  1. A place for all

As a married man, you will have to decide each and every person’s place and rights in your life. You will respect and care for your mother. You will seek her guidance, as she knows you well and is experienced about matters of life. Getting married doesn’t mean that you will not spend time with her anymore. Similarly, your wife is your trusted companion; she is the closest to you. You will shower her with love and provide for her needs. She will offer you support in ways that others can’t. In response, you will support her, especially in matters related to your own family and your kids’ upbringing. Your sisters will look up to you, if younger, or treat you like a boy, if older. You will have to love them back and be there for them, when needed. Communicate this to all the women in your life, so that none of them would try to twist your arm for dominating you.

  1. Old versus new

This is a challenge in which most men fail. At the expense of new relations, they sometimes abandon their old ones. A mother will always be a mother; no one has contributed or sacrificed what she has in raising you. As per the Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth, she does have the greatest right over you, while you have the greatest right over your wife. As you enter into the delicate marital relationship, you will have to get to know her better and not take your marriage for granted. Above all, communicate to all parties the importance of both old and new relationships. No one will be forsaken for the other one.

  1. Apples and oranges

The last thing you want to do is draw comparisons between the women in your life. If Aisha (rtaf), the fourth highest narrator of Ahadeeth, could not bear to hear our beloved Prophet’s (sa) praise for his beloved wife Khadijah (rtaf), after the latter’s death, can our women fare any better than that? Women are insanely jealous. If you ever try to compare your mom’s recipes with your wife’s recipes (even if you are right) or vice versa, you may end up in deep trouble.