Indian parenting has come a long way from when parents would have a panic attack if a song with double meaning lyrics would play on the television. Today, more and more parents are opening up to the idea of discussing physical intimacy with their children and much more. We are talking about diverse topics such as finances, bullying, shaming, career choices, hobbies, and everything thing in between with our children. But how many parents are discussing love with their children? Moreover, how many parents discuss their own relationship and everyday matrimonial struggles with their kids?
- Indian parenting has come a long way, with most parents openly discussing topics such as sex with their children.
- But how many parents are open to discussing love and relationships with their children?
- Are we afraid of baring the faultlines of our own relationships to them?
- Or are we reticent about giving the agency to question our choices and behaviour?
We are talking about diverse topics such as finances, bullying, shaming, career choices, hobbies, and everything thing in between with our children. But how many parents are discussing love with their children?
A lot of parents refrain from discussing love and long-term relationships with their children because they feel kids are not ready for such conversations. These are not discussions about fairy tale romances, but about what lies beyond that promised happily ever after. And about the effort it requires to keep a relationship afloat. How every relationship is different and why some work while others don’t. However, parents may be underestimating their children. Kids observe how their parents behave and act around each other and that may end up defining conduct in long-term relationships for them.
All parents have that awkward story to tell when their child asked them questions about intimacy in their relationship, and no, I am not talking about sex here (even though there are plenty of anecdotes on that too, am sure.) To avoid such embarrassing questions, a lot of Indian parents act rigid and distant towards each other in front of their children. There is no holding hands, and even hugs are a big no-no. Out of sight is out of mind, we think. However, there is a lot for kids to pick up from how we as couples act around each other. The way we talk, our fights and arguments, how we joke or pull each other’s leg, or how comfortable and happy we are in each other’s company.
Kids observe how their parents behave and act around each other and that may end up defining conduct in long-term relationships for them.
Children will eventually take these ideas to their own long-term relationships when they grow up, often subconsciously, and then they may feel stumped when their partner doesn’t approve of their mindset. So as an adult, they may think that there is no place for romance or affection in a relationship once you are married, because that is what they have grown up observing, and it may not bode well for their relationships. Somehow it is even more difficult than opening up about sex and sexuality, because here you may feel like you are putting your relationship on a dissection table. We hesitate from talking about relationships because we know the faultlines in our own and we do not want to expose our children to them.
Especially, when it comes to girls, the only briefing we get from our moms, before we dive into a marriage is mostly about “adjustment”. Yes, once you are married it gets easier to open up about how irritating wet towels on the bed are and other mundanities of a long-term relationship, but by then the damage has already been done. You have already walked into a relationship with a set of ideas about how it is supposed to be, and obviously it isn’t what you thought. When expectations aren’t met, or when one partner tries to burden their relationship with the stigmas they carry, leaving no room for changes, it leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Which is why parents must talk about love and relationships with their children. Sustaining a long-term relationship is a task that requires a lot of effort, and they must walk into adulthood prepared for the labour that goes into love. Also, talk to them about failures and separations and why it is okay to walk away from love for your well-being. As parents, it is our responsibility to raise our children to be competent adults. When we know what a significant part relationship and romances are of adulthood, then isn’t it our duty to prep our kids for them, just as we prep them for their career?
Image Credit: Jumbodium blog
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.