It has been quite a while since I crossed the threshold from being a teenager to the years beyond, but some things seem to have changed very little from how they used to be all those years ago.
From childhood till a couple of years into your twenties, the only time I was allowed to shut my bedroom door was when I changed my clothes. Although I now have the liberty of keeping the door shut whenever I want, the liberty comes at the cost of slightly raised voices and light debate.
Even last evening when I shut the door my mother got up from her nap to come and check on me after a while. Not that my mother is suspicious about anything untoward I might be up to, but why she came to check on me, in the safety of my own room, is out of my comprehension. I am not the only child who has been subject to such affliction.
Privacy in our country is considered to be an adult indulgence not something which children (considered by parents to be of an age ranging from infancy till the 20s, which in some cases stretches further) are not entitled to. Whether forbidding children to shut the door or walking into the room without knocking, parents here feel that a certain level of privacy is not required by children, because the “what do they have to hide from us?” attitude exists widely.
While this can be overwhelming for children, especially teenagers, parents' intrusion in parts of the home and outside is not always a result of a compulsion to control, but a result of concern and fear that their child may come across harm's way.
“I used to accompany my daughter to and from her tutor's place when she was doing her O and A Levels and wait for her while she was there. Now, that she is in university I don't accompany her everywhere. She has reached an age where she can take care of herself and understand right from wrong; I don't think that she needs constant chaperoning any longer” says Naseema Rahman, mother of a 22 year old.
Like Naseema most parents are conscious about their children's whereabouts and activities till they are old enough to go to university or in some cases till they graduate. In most cases this stems from the fact that they consider their children to be extremely vulnerable and easily impressionable, leading them to believe that their children may fall prey to or be tempted into something undesirable.
Girls and boys alike are subject to various forms of prying and intrusion from their parents.
“My mother checks my phone regularly and stays the entire time I am at my tutors'. She fears that I might be going out with a boy which is quite frustrating since it is not true” shares a rather disgruntled Raha who is 17.
When they are out of the house without a chaperone, most children receive calls from their parents every now and then asking for updates about who they are with and where they are. While in a country like ours, safety can never be taken for granted and parents' worrying is somewhat justified, the way they go about trying to address it can get a bit over the top for the recipients.
“I know that my mother goes through my stuff every now and then because she suspects that I smoke. Thing is, if I did actually do it, I would not be stupid enough to leave proof in my room” says Zain, who has just started university.
Parents' concerns range over a number of issues starting from what children might be exposed to on the Internet and television, who they might be befriending and whether they are the right kind of company for their children, whether their children are romantically involved with somebody at an age that is too early, whether they are involved in substance abuse or something as simple as basic security outside their homes.
The way parents here deal with these issues can be rather frustrating and confusing for children. Given the somewhat reserved social structure here most Bangladeshi parents prefer not to have talks with their offspring but to pursue them like detectives.
It goes without saying that obviously every child is not transparent in their activities or intentions, but accordingly, not every child is not up to something untoward either. There is also always the grey area where children may do things which is not wrong or extreme, yet which their parents might not approve of, thus ensuing in a strained parent child relationship and also at times instigating the child into something worse as a rebellious outburst.
This is a two-way road and like every other relationship efforts have to be put in from both ends. Talking with children is the very first step in alleviating unnecessary concern, troubles and conflicts.
As mentioned before, talking is rarely considered an alternative here; and on top of that keeping an open mind in accepting the fact that the children belong to a different generation altogether and that there are a number of things that are normal or a way of life for that generation even though it may seem outright unacceptable to the parents, is rarely considered.
Similarly, children are afraid and reluctant to share many of their concerns or issues with their parents fearing extreme repercussions from the other end based on their assumption that their parents will not be accommodating to the concept of the issue at hand.
Parents should talk to their children about any concerns that they may have on any issue. If they fear that their child might take up smoking, they should instil in their children, from a very early age, about the evils of the habit; if they are concerned that their children may be engaging in romantic relationships at an earlier than acceptable age, again they should share with their children their concerns, what could go wrong and also keep in mind how youngsters' minds work.
Parents should always remember the fact that the forbidden fruit holds the most attraction and they should be tactful in dealing with children, because, no matter how strict parents are children do find a way around them, which could consequently result in much disastrous outcomes.
As far as children are concerned, to get trust they need to be able to earn it. Indulging in activities that they themselves know is detrimental to them, and then blaming their parents for not being trusting enough is not going to get anyone anywhere. Children should acknowledge the fact that there are valid reasons for their parents to worry about them, although that too should not be obsessive.
Ordering children to keep the door open, checking through call lists, texts and belongings and confiscating phones at night is not going to stop your children if they are set on doing what they want; likewise, getting involved in things that you know, at the back of your head, are not right and blaming parents for acting the way they do, will not help if you become addicted to drugs or fall victim to harassment. Both parties need to work on it, talk and be honest, both to themselves and the opposite side, work out boundaries, decide on signs that signal necessity of intervention.
Suspecting children and resisting parents only worsens this tie which is too precious to ruin; try opening up and see the wonders it can do.