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Updated: May 15, 2014 20:49 IST

Listen to your children

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Caring for children: Dr. Dheep and Dr. Sudha Dheep. Photo: S. James
The Hindu
Caring for children: Dr. Dheep and Dr. Sudha Dheep. Photo: S. James

Sudha and Dheep work tirelessly to ensure kids are given a healthy dose of tender, loving care in these times of pressure and stress

Sudha is a gynaecologist and Dheep is a psychiatrist. While both are well established in their respective chosen disciplines, they are on another mission – caring for the physical and mental well being of children and preparing them to face life.

Both feel that overstressed families and schools pay little individual attention to children these days. All parents and schools seem to want is children who quietly study and score good marks. No one seems to care about their natural development and happiness. The grown-ups are so caught up in their own concerns that they often fail to read the signals of disturbing behaviour among kids. And there is an abysmal lack of guidance or counselling for children in their trying times.

Sudha and Dheep’s preoccupation with this problem came to the fore when Dheep began noticing an increase in the number of young patients in his clinic. “I witnessed a drastic shift in patient profile at the turn of the millennium. More adolescent children with lack of concentration and sleep, anxiety and anger were approaching me,” he says. That is when he thought of venturing into preventive counselling. He wanted to identify children with problems before the problem turned into sickness.

After three years of studying the behavioural pattern among teenagers and doing research, Dheep and Sudha decided to launch a centre for adolescent counselling called TOPKIDS (Total Orientation Programme Kindling Ideal Development in Students). That was a decade ago and still, they feel, people think irrational or abnormal behaviour in a growing child is a passing phase, “Whereas it could be a serious problem debilitating a child's life,” points out Dheep.

Mental health issues continue to be treated differently in our society. Dheep and Sudha feel people should realise going to a doctor for diabetes or anxiety disorder is the same and have painstakingly worked on different modules for parents, teachers and students. But found it difficult initially to convince people about preventive therapy.

Often Dheep’s straight talk would upset people. He visited schools and told them how they were going about sex education the wrong way. “Sex is vast and has to be understood in a proper perspective. But in our society, the emphasis is only on physical intimate relationship,” he says. He wants to change the subject name to “Personal education”.

Dheep is also unhappy about the way schools pick their best students for intensive coaching. This crushes the self esteem of rest of the students. It also has a negative impact on the chosen kids as the hype and expectation can be a huge pressure.

He is also critical of schools which organise summer camps within the same campus during the holidays. “What is the point when the child returns to the same boring classroom for similar activities under the same teacher just for time pass?” he asks.

Sudha and Dheep want to ensure no child ever feels worthless. Through continuing workshops, seminars, awareness programmes and activities, they are trying to reach out, embrace and support individuals between 10 and 22 years. They help them re-energise physically, mentally and spiritually.

Rating depression and aggression, anger and anxiety among teenagers, alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse and suicidal tendencies, the doctors have customised packages that keep all the three stakeholders (parents, teachers and children) involved in developing positive thinking, communication skills and leadership qualities among students.

“If we prevent suicide and emotional issues even in one child and help in instilling confidence and happiness in his or her life, the message goes out,” says Dheep.

Through Topkids Sudha and Dheep organise nature treks, eco and adventure camps, yoga and meditation, arts, crafts and theatre, music and dance and several other group activities. These are over-booked these days, they say. A well established faculty works overtime to ensure families bond, relationships are rebuilt and everything goes smoothly.

The need of the hour is to realise that children are not little adults, say Dheep and Sudha. They require love, care, attention and guidance tailored to their needs. "Let us not lose track of what childhood is all about," they say, "keep the children happily and healthily engaged and see them blossom", they add.

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