KARACHI: A teenaged girl was operated on three times only because of “a deeply conflicted childhood”.
Another teenager had to deal with her mother crying in her lap, as her parents fought.
These and some other issues were brought up during a workshop on parental conflict, organised at the Institute of Training and Consultancy by Dialogue, a forum that aims to gain insight into human psychology.
The psychologists believed that if your child is a “control freak”, is totally submissive, serves the role of your caretaker or is physically unwell, it is possible that he/she has seen you fight.
“Marital conflict itself is not as bad but the extent to which it goes and the way it is handled is what actually affects the children,” said Dr Rakhshinda Talat Hussain, who is the former chairperson of Karachi University’s (KU) psychology department.
As one of the trainers of the workshop, she spoke about the international research on the subject during her presentation. “In such [unstable] households, children can develop emotional, psychological, physical and psychosomatic disorders, such as stomach aches, head ache, fear, anxiety, etc.”
Children whose parents are in conflict show disorders such as, aggressiveness, disobedience, lack of social skills, etc, said Dr Hussain, quoting the research of Cunnings and Davis (1994).
“In our society, the role of mothers has grown over time. They are not just looking after the children but also working alongside men to make ends meet,” she pointed out. This not only leads to the neglect of the child but also causes conflicts between parents.
In such households, children start considering themselves as the source of argument.
The joint family system, common in our society, also leads to greater chances of parental conflict, she added.
KU’s psychology department’s current chairperson Rubina Feroze discussed the role of parenting and the needs of children’s psyche. Being a mother of a young girl, she took examples from her own life to explain how parents’ behaviour often shuns the child.
“When we are busy, we may brush aside our children and often ignore them but we should not do that,” she said.
According to her, parents need to do five basic tasks: sustenance, stimulation, support, structure and surveillance.
“Instead of just noticing the bad aspects of our child’s behaviour, we should also give them positive affirmation,” she suggested.
Factors that lead to a better, more productive childhood include low household density, availability of a safe play area, parental acceptance and lack of penal measures, parental response, availability of learning material and a variety of experiences.
Referring to their initiative of starting a charged consultancy service, Dialogue coordinator Sohema Rehan said that people in Pakistan need psychological help all the more now because of the issues prevailing in the society - the general mood of sadness and the problems arising due to alienation.
According to her, low self-esteem among our people can only be removed through positive reinforcement. “That’s why psychological services are useful not only in day-to-day life and on the domestic front, but also in official settings,” she said.
She gave the example of weddings, when a lot of emphasis is placed on the wedding function and attached ceremonies but no one gives training in life skills.
The focus of Dialogue’s consultancy service is on relationships, she added. Their workshops and lectures are designed for parents, teachers, doctors, health workers, care givers and students with an aim to enable a better understanding of human actions and behaviour.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2011.