Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Jun 2018 12:38:28


By shweta patwardhan

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tracked how sluggish children become once they hit the teen years. The study, funded by US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, shows that while 90 per cent of 9-year-olds get a couple of hours of exercise most days, fewer than three per cent of 15-year-old do. For parents to watch their active young ‘star’ turn into a lazy couch potato can be frustrating and disturbing. But most kids go through this phase. After a couple of fights, the conversations can bring you closer to your teen even though you think the devil’s gotten into him. Take Harmohan Singh for instance. His 17-year-old son Gurkaran suddenly wasn’t keen on any activity. “As a child, Karan was always active. But as he grew into his teens, he stopped going out or enjoying any outdoor activities. When he wasn’t sleeping, he was sitting in front of his computer,” says Harmohan. “I tried talking to him, but he just wouldn’t listen.” Though a small percentage of teenagers still take part in sports, a large number of them become inactive as they grow older, says senior paediatrician at Max hospital, New Delhi. Obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure are sometimes the outcome of those lazy teenage years. This is also a time when the teen’s diet and schedule goes haywire. Needless to say, at a stage when nutrition is most important due to hormonal and physical changes in the body, this change in diet can cause your teen harm.

Dr Anand says this is because a number of students get busy with their studies and by juggling school, classes, tuition and sleep; they barely manage enough free time for anything else. “The environment, with the pressure of exams and mark-sheets leaves the child too tired for sports,” adds Dr Shyama Chona, former principal, Delhi Public School. But for Dishant Sheth, school work wasn’t entirely the problem. The 15-year-old Class-X student couldn’t concentrate on studies. He’d much rather “freshen up” with a game on the computer before opening his books. Madhvi, his mother was fed up. “Five minutes after sitting down to study he says he has a headache but after hours on the computer he’s all right,” she says. “All he does is sleep, play on the computer and go out with friends. And to think that he won medals for his game of table tennis only a few years ago.”

Every time she told her son to take life seriously, not sleep till 2 pm and stop playing games, he’d turn around and tell her that she didn’t understand the stress he was going through. “I’m already confused about what I want to do and to top that I have to deal with my parents’ unreasonably high expectations,” says Dishant. “I don’t even sleep all that much, most of the days, even weekends I’m up early in time for school and tuitions. I only oversleep when I’m stressed or if I’m on holiday.”
Clinical psychologist Samindara Sawant says this is a period of stress for teenagers. “They’re getting messages that they’re older and should take more responsibility. But when they take decisions on their own, parents and elders tell them that they’re too young,” she says, “Occasional moodiness and inactivity is natural, most teens go through that phase. But when it becomes an everyday phenomenon, the parents should try talking to the teen.” Dr Anand says it is also important to listen to the “unspoken words.” These are the most ‘fun’ years of their life, and not many of us look back to regret sleeping those few hours extra. And if you have a teenage daughter, the changes may be different. So your daughter will probably be lounging all day but one call from her friend and you’ll witness the most animated conversation you’ve seen in months. This isn’t because she doesn’t like or trust you. She needs to know that you’ll understand, and when she realises that, she’ll probably come and tell you what the conversation was about. Most teenagers realise, after years of fighting, or silently rebelling, that their parents did have a point.

Harmohan didn’t find it too difficult dealing with his son because they shared a close bond as father-son. “A lot of kids answer back, but luckily Karan never did. He didn’t fight, he did start to understand. He didn’t shut off his computer, but he did make an effort to mingle with other boys in our building,” Harmohan says. Now 28, Gurkaran is a software engineer. At 24 he realised the importance of exercise and even started swimming and jogging. They key is to make sure you can communicate with your teen, say experts. “Parents have to try and find out if the child has a problem because the teen may not feel comfortable expressing it,” says Dr Anand. “I know of this man who hated noise, but his son loved rock music. So the man bought two tickets to a rock concert. When the son asked his father who the second ticket was for, the father replied ‘that’s for me’. I know it can be frustrating for the parent, but remember, we were all teenagers once.”
(INAV) l