Free Press Journal

Imagine: No Child Left Invisible by Shelja Sen- Review


Title: Imagine: No Child Left Invisible

Author: Shelja Sen

Publisher: Hachette

Price: Rs. 350

Pages: 272

The way we talk to our children become their inner voices

The way we talk about them become their life stories

  • Shelja Sen

Adolescent psychologist and family therapist, Shelja Sen’s new book ‘Imagine’ wants you to ensure that ‘No Child (is) Left Invisible’. Sen proposes to the book’s chief audience (namely parents, teachers, and caregivers) to try to understand what happens to a child at school or home, how s/he learns to communicate as a result of the experiences garnered in these two places. While at first glance, it seems that the book is primarily meant for teachers to check the impact of their words and actions on children, in reality, the extent of the theories discussed is wide, including parents and all manners of guardians in its purview.

Most importantly, Sen points us to identify and stamp out the culture of shaming. Reflect for a moment and recall, if you have ever called a younger sibling or child by a negative/derogatory adverb or adjective because they did not do as asked, you have potentially aided in conditioning them to think of themselves in an unsavoury way and ‘feel invisible’ as against loved and cherished.

A child performs well at a certain activity, and we term him/her good; they perform poorly, and they are tagged as bad. ‘You are just lazy’, ‘I am so ashamed of you’, ‘You are stupid’, ‘At this rate, you will not get anywhere in life’, etc. Unthinkingly, we buttonhole children with these abominable labels and saddled with these ‘broken identities’ that they think of as truth they carry the narrative for their entire life, without any scope for editing it with anything remotely positive, even in the confines of their mind.

Borrowing the five anchors of parenting (Connect- create the foundation of parenting; Coach- build the necessary skills in children through an understanding of their unique wiring and temperament; Care- nurture ourselves for more wholesome life; Community- build caring ecosystems for children to thrive in; and Commit- sustain the courage and compassion) from her earlier book, ‘All You Need Is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting’, Sen makes a simple case of how we can prevent unthinkingly hurting children by throwing such negative ‘dominant discourses’ their way and thus, shaping their lives more consciously and positively.

It helps that Sen clarifies her theories with ample examples drawn straight from real life. She reminds us that validation in any form, even a simple kind word from a parent or teacher, has a lasting boost on the child. Most of us would remember instances when a patient ear of a gentle teacher or guardian helped us tide over tough times while fortifying our spirit. She underscores the importance of creating emotionally strong spaces for children in their homes and classrooms to aid in positive conditioning.

The rationale of this volume is to make elders accountable for their communication styles and examine its impact on the emotional growth of children. Just as eternal vigilance is the price for liberty, so is constant vigilance necessary in how we communicate with and treat children to ensure no one is left ‘feeling invisible’. As teachers and parents, or a sensible adult concerned with the healthy upbringing of the next generation, this book best kept handy for ready reference.