Even before approaching teenage, the kids are already into the world of dating. Roshani Shinde takes a trip into that world to know the gravity of the situation.
Samira, Nia and Shriya (names changed) all aged 14 one evening were enjoying their girly time. As expected one of the hot topics was… BOYS. While Nia being the regular tomboy hated the idea of even having a boyfriend, while Shriya shares how one of her classmates has been approached by more than 30 boys till date. Samira without even an ounce of shyness states how she already had two boyfriends. Few of you must be aware of a similar scenario; some must be expecting it, while many must be in the state of shock. If you belong to the third category, then this is definitely a reality check for you.
These three girls represent today’s youth, at least from the Metros. Dating early is not limited to just the upper class. The middle class and the lower middle class kids can be seen holding hands at various skywalks and stations and sea near various Mumbai stations and beaches. They are oblivious to prying eyes or glares because space for them comes at a premium.
That the dating begins early is also a source of news and gossip by various maids working in their houses. Until a decade or two back having a girlfriend or boyfriend in school was not easily acceptable. But now it is more of a norm. Even before hitting the ideal age of teens, these school going kids are already aware of the concept of having girlfriends and boyfriends. Most of them already had a few.
Commenting on the same Counsellor Swati Parab says, “Today’s kids have the characteristics of a teenager right from the time they are eight and nine years old. So, I would say not only the age of dating but even the age group of teens has come down.” Dr. Rahul R Ghadge, Consultant Psychiatrist mirrors the Counsellor’s point. Though the practise of a boy approaching a girl still prevails, but the girls are not in a mood to play hard. And this surely makes the approach of the guys easier.
Given that the Indian society has always been prude, how has early dating spread so much so that it has become somewhat of a norm? According to the experts one of the strongest factors is ‘MEDIA’. Dr. Professor Brenda Fernandes, Psychologist, Marriage and Relationship Counsellor says, “Till 20 years back playing carom, cards, chess, ludo was the highlight of childhood, but today’s kids are engrossed in their I-phones and social media. This kills their innocence,” says Dr. Prof. Brenda Fernandes.
Even the other two experts Swati and Dr. Gadge have a similar opinion. According to them internet exposes them to lot of unnecessary stuff for their age group and influences their choices in life. “Even the cartoon characters talk and have girlfriends and that is what they start looking for in real life too,” says counsellor Swati Parab. Along with media atmosphere at one’s family and the inter-personal relation their parents share also contribute to a larger extent. “Kids observe everything from how their parents talk to each other, how they treat each other and according to that their expectations from life and relationships is moulded,” states Swati.
Even the amount of break-ups and divorces happening among the adults leaves an impact on them and they try to walk a parallel path. But the main question is… do they really understand the depth of the relationship? Pat comes a reply from all the experts, which is… “It is mere an attraction.” While Dr. Brenda Fernandes says it is more of a physical attraction, Dr. Rahul Gadge believes it can be termed as ‘Puppy Love’. He says, “They are just curious and at the age of 10 and 12 it is still restricted to going to nearby cafes and max to max clicking selfies together.
For example, Shriya had a boyfriend when she was in grade seven. But one would not strictly call it a boyfriend-girlfriend scenario. They would meet casually in evening at the neighbourhood park and play along with other kids.
In many cases, kids that start dating early do not hide from their parents that they are seeing someone. For example, Samaira lets her dad know everything in detail. Unlike many conservative Indian fathers, Samaira’s father is confident of her daughter with the knowledge that it would not hopefully go beyond chatting or going out to movies. What balances this mutual trust is that Samaira is not neglecting her studies and is doing well both in her studies and the extracurricular activities of the school that she is in.
Samira’s father has his own way of handling it, but the experts have some guidelines for other parents. Dr. Prof Brenda Fernandes says spending quality time with their child is the most essential thing. While Swati Parab is of the opinion that right from the time the kids turn eight and nine the parents should take initiative to have an open discussion with in the family. She says, “If I have to take my child to watch a movie even before and after the movie I discuss about it and indirectly try to pass on the right message to him.” Communication is the key and if needed having a professional help always works the best according to Dr. Rahul. Also being aware of their friend circle, inviting them to each other’s home unknowingly plays a big role.
Kids are definitely trying to grow faster but that’s not the same with the new age Indian parents. Still there are families who strictly prohibit the practise of dating, or even having friends of opposite gender and then there are parents who easily discuss about their exes in front of their kids. Understanding your child’s age, vast changes happening around, seriousness of that particular situation and at the same time making them aware of their right goals in a playful manner will surely make it easier for the parents.