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For the Parent in You



Know Understand Connect



elcome to the inaugural issue of Parent Circle, a magazine just for the parents of Chennai, a first of its kind in India. I am happy to launch this magazine with the blessings of Pujya Swamiji.

When this parenting magazine was just a seed of an idea, I tried to envision its mission. What would be the purpose of this magazine? The answer was clear: To bring together the local parenting community and to empower parents by providing them with the information and knowledge required to make the best decisions for their families. Globalization, exposure and changing lifestyles have given rise to a new set of challenges for the Indian Parent. Recognising this, we bring you well-researched articles and contributions by experts and other parents, so that you, the parent, can make informed decisions for your family.

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Nalina Ramalakshmi Managing Editor Nitya Varadarajan

This magazine is not meant to be a solution for all your parenting issues. However, it will help you to occasionally stop and take a fresh look at your children and yourself as a parent.

Associate Editor Gemmarie Venkataramani

Parent Circle is a magazine built around the all-round development of the child and it clearly addresses the physical, emotional, intellectual and social needs of the child.

Creative Head Rangashree Srinivas

We feature regular articles on education, health, technology, socio-environment responsibilities, our culture and heritage, and humour in parenting. We endeavour to give you a healthy mix of content and resource.

Creative Designer G Swarupa

We as parents are constantly trying to walk the fine line when it comes to parenting: When do we say ‘yes’, when do we say ‘no’? How much freedom is too much? Our cover story, “Parenting as a Balancing Act” explores these questions further. Check out our Summer Special feature for ideas to keep your children relaxed and entertained for the holidays. We have dedicated space for you to express yourselves in this magazine and we welcome your views, opinions and suggestions. Please send your feedback and letters to In celebration of May 8th as Mother’s Day, children have written special letters to their mothers. I join hands with the children in wishing the millions and millions of good mothers a “Happy Mother’s Day”, and keep in mind this quotation from Jill Churchill of O Magazine : “The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one”.

Graphic Designer M Ravisankar Sales Team R Balakrishnan S Visalam V Rajesh Babu Administration Sheeja Sasindran Published by Nalina Ramalakshmi Director, Shri Harini Media Pvt. Ltd. (A Ramco Group Associate) 8/14, First Cross Street, Karpagam Gardens, Adyar, Chennai 600020 Printed by R Dhayalan, Sun Graphics, 51, Gangai Amman Koil Street, Vadapalani, Chennai 600026 To advertise in this magazine call 044 24461066/67/68

Nalina Ramalakshmi Editor-in-Chief


Parent Circle / May 2011

Parent Circle is published by Nalina Ramalakshmi, Shri Harini Media Pvt. Ltd. All editorial material including editorial comments, opinions and statement of facts appearing in this publication, represent the views of its respective authors and does not necessarily carry the endorsement of the publishers. Information carried in Parent Circle is gathered from sources considered to be reliable, but the accuracy of all information cannot be guaranteed. The publication of any advertisements or listings is not to be construed as an endorsement of the product or service offered.


10 Parenting A balancing act

An exploration of how parents walk the fine line when making choices for their children


8 16

Summer Times 32

Ideas to keep your children engaged and relaxed during the summer holidays while building parent-child bonding

Mother’s Day 14

Endearing letters from children to their mothers

The Mixed Bag of Parenting 13 A mother’s viewpoint


 International Family Day  World Tobacco Day

MINDSET  Importance of de-stressing your child




Capturing precious moments perfectly!


A guide to photographing your child

LEARNING  Fuelling an urge to learn in children  Science is Fun


TEEN CIRCLE  Career Choices - Walk beside your child

26 38







 Your child’s health - ages and stages





HANDS ON  A Collage of activities


DESTINATIONS  Summer Vacation - Where to go. What to do.


TECH TALK  Ages and Stages of Internet Surfing





6 53 56

 Bring back Biodiversity in Chennai


ROOTS  Let us look back to where we came from


Parent Circle / May 2011

Cover Photo: Shalin Jain.

Parenting Parents are continuously struggling with questions on where they should draw the line when making choices for their children. Parent Circle meets parents, counsellors and child development experts to understand how this can be done.


eventeen-year-old Karun was keen on attending his friend’s late night party at a farmhouse on the ECR.

His mother Sudha was uneasy and worried . “I knew there would be drinking and no adult supervision in the party. I did not want to disappoint my son either,” she confesses. Sudha was torn between wanting to give her son freedom and her deep concern for his safety. She expressed her fears to her son and did not allow him to attend the party. Her friend, Benita did send her teenage daughter to the same party in a car with a driver with the rider that she should return if anything got out of control. Each parent handled the situation differently. Neither parent was right or wrong. Yet they tussled with the same issue: How

10 Parent Circle / May 2011

a balancing act

Photos: Shefalii Dadabhoy


Kavitha Shanmugam

much freedom should be given to children? Sometimes, parents debate - Am I turning into a Tiger Mom (too strict) curbing my child’s sense of self ? Or, am I giving in too much? When do I stop hovering around my children like a ‘helicopter’, let them explore their own lives and make their own mistakes? Take the case of a book editor and former teacher Indira Jayakrishnan who walks a fine line disciplining her single child, Aditya (13 years). She resisted buying him a portable game console (PS 3) for a year, as she felt that such a toy did not merit ‘ridiculous’ investments. “I wondered whether I was too harsh with Aditya; he was under tremendous peer pressure’’, she says. The Jayakrishnans finally relented after his good performance in the final exams.

Dilemmas like how to prevent overeating of chocolates by a five-year-old or when a pre-teen daughter should be sent for sleepovers, exist perennially. Says Usha Venkatesh, mother of a teenager, “One may have to decide whether or not to allow a 12-year-old to open a Facebook account. A rational approach for the parent is to become her child’s friend on Facebook and keep a watchful eye without restricting her freedom to explore.” Counsellors, child developmental experts and parents admit that there is no formula to this balancing act. Each case is situational and each child has to be handled differently. Some broad guidelines exist however. Impose limits: To start with, the parents of today who want to be ‘liked’ by their children should stop feeling guilty about

Parenting with a balanced approach Balancing a busy schedule and teaching the toddler to eat on his own It is less work to feed the child yourself than clear the mess or worry about him not eating enough. You could start him off with finger foods and get the child to explore and eat by himself on weekends and evenings.

Parent’s measured response to an indifferent academic performance Ask the child, “I know you are not happy with your marks, can you figure out the reason why you are not happy? Maybe you could try doing your studies differently.”

Handling a three-year-old’s tantrums

imposing ‘limits’ or boundaries: “Children need limits because it makes them feel better and secure when they live within a certain structure,” points out American developmental psychologist Laurence Steinberg in a published interview. City family counsellor Brinda Jayaraman endorses this view. “Parents need to clearly express to their children the extent of freedom they wish to give them, why they are doing so and the consequences if the line is crossed. That is a balanced approach.” It is not something you can accomplish overnight in a dictatorial manner. Brinda speaks of a Chennai teenager Mina and her mother who came to her for counselling after the communication between them had completely broken down. Mina used to spend hours chatting on Facebook even as her anxious mother tried to ferret out what was happening. Mina was chatting with a male classmate on Facebook and ended up sending him intimate short messages from her phone. Her mother stumbled on this, cut off her access to the computer and phone. Mina was warned of dire consequences if she continued to talk to the boy. The frustrated girl withdrew and secluded herself. Mother and daughter came to Brinda for counselling. In a few sessions, Brinda explained to Mina that she had to respect her parents’ belief systems. The downside of an infatuation was laid out threadbare. Her freedom was removed because she had misused it and now she had to

Parent to the child: “I am sorry but I cannot buy you this toy since I bought you one last week.” Go to the next room and ignore the child’s attention-grabbing tantrums. He will stop crying and beg. Be firm, do not relent. He realises that crying has not achieved anything, and goes off to draw or play. The balanced parent never raises her or his voice.

Controlling screen time If your child is always watching TV or playing PSP, you could ensure that he gets the PSP only on weekends when he does not have exams. Television viewing should be regulated to an hour a day and measured hours on weekends after completion of homework.

Handling teenager’s requests for sleepovers at a friend’s place If you are not keen on this, explain that each family has its own value systems. “I would love to send you for sleepovers but that is not possible as we live by certain beliefs. I will not interfere with your beliefs once you are on your own”.

Handling teenagers staying out late at night Teenagers need to be accessible by phone when they are out at night. If they resent the control, explain: “If something happened to you, I will be blissfully asleep and not be able to help. I just want you to be safe”. rebuild her parents’ trust. The mother was also made to understand that she had overreacted. Natural hormonal changes in teenagers could trigger such situations. After all, the daughter had obeyed her mother and not met the boy. This was reason enough for the mother to return her daughter’s freedom to her. Give reasons for the limits: The mistake the mother made was to fly off the handle, without trying to meet her daughter halfway. Brinda Jayaraman says “Parents fail to patiently explain the logical outcome of their children’s actions to them.” Empower children: Children should be made responsible for their actions and learn to think for themselves from an early age,” she adds. However, parents treat children like porcelain china, do not let go,

and end up frustrated when children do not toe their line. For example, a child should be made to face the outcome of not completing his homework instead of having a concerned mother nagging him all the way. “He will learn once he is chastened a couple of times at school,” advises Brinda. Indira gives an example of letting go. Her son recently pestered her to allow him to cycle down to his friend’s house in the neighbourhood. He had to cross two crowded traffic signals and she was understandably anxious. He was stubborn and she allowed him. Indira reasoned with her husband that the boy had to learn from his own experience. She says, “ My heart was in my mouth till he returned.” The episode ended well with 11


The mixed bag of



have only one question to my mother and I urge all mothers to ask the same question to their respective mothers please. The question is this - “Why didn’t you tell me that having children and rearing them would be a task akin to separating husk from grain even while your head is thrust inside a potter’s wheel which is turning at a speed of 120 rpm?” I am so dizzy with all this parenting paraphernalia. Frankly, I feel like a farmer, potter and blacksmith rolled into one - speaking metaphorically I mean. We have to ‘sow’ the seeds of good habits, ‘shape’ their character and ‘mould’ them into worthy people. Heh - as a writer and with my literature background, I suppose I am only equipped to write horror stories on my attempts at being ‘farmer, potter, blacksmith’ and the remaining blah. Really, why DIDN’T my mother tell me? It is what I call the conspiracy of the mothers worldwide to conceal the hard facts and reveal only the mushier bits to their sons and daughters. But why blame the mothers, we too have our blinkers on stubbornly and don’t see things for what they are. Haven’t we all watched Johnson and Johnson’s ads? And what do we do? We coo at the baby on TV and say ki-kiki, ku-ku-ku and jiji-jiji-jiji. For godsake,

the ad is about NAPPY CHANGING, but which potential parent sees it? We only ogle at the kid and throw up prayers skywards beseeching for a child that will look just like an ‘Amul or Johnson’s baby’. Reality comes and bites your rear only after you find yourself lifting both feet of your child 20 times a day to change that ever wet nappy. Now where did the father go? He is not even here to read this article on nappy changing.

Jaya Madhavan and assessed the situation in less than a minute. He immediately sat down next to me, put my head on his lap and began to vigorously rub some balm onto it. My little daughter not to be left behind sped to fetch me some tea made with her kitchen set. “Here drink this,” she said proffering invisible tea in a very green cup, the size of my thumb. I hugged them both tight. Believe me, I really became alright with that tea and my son’s healing touch.

A smile Initial hysteria over and two glasses of cool lemonade hence, I can muster just the amount of objectivity to state that children are indeed eligible be categorized as “wealth” (selvam) under eight types of wealth scheme (the Ashta Lakshmis). No better time to understand this valuable truth than during illnesses. I was down with severe body ache and pms. My mood was swinging and I really felt like clawing the furniture. It was time for my children to return from school and I had made no tiffin. My heart sank when I heard the bell ring. I would have to get up and fix something for the kids. My son came in

blink &J J s r e y n pra wealth so ul happy fa ers ould m mood swings Amdaughter ther? mother nappy responsible mushy

and a tip! Resist the urge to say “I told you so” to your kids.n

Jaya Madhavan is a poet and an award winning children’s novelist. 13

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Parent Circle is an English Monthly magazine published from Chennai. India. Parent Circle is both a print and online magazine built around t...