The foreword by Prof Perminder Sachdev, Scientia Professor at the UNSW, gives you a glimpse of what to expect from Dr Shail Chaturvedi’s latest parenting book Raising a Child.
Dr Sachdev writes, “Raising a child is arguably the greatest joy as well as the biggest challenge in one’s life. There are times when it appears to be the hardest job of all, and yet it may also surprise you with its natural simplicity. The wisdom on child rearing comes from knowledge accumulated through ages.”
This sets the foundation for the book.
Dr Chaturvedi has done well in contrasting parenting methods and thinking between her own upbringing in India, and what she has observed and counselled as a practicing psychiatrist in Australia.
For parents in migrant communities, the challenge of raising a child who can adapt well to their new country while retaining the values of their cultural heritage is ever-present.
One only has to read the cry for help on social media pages from new migrant parents regarding the trade-offs they face with young children as they settle into a new country. The care equation is bang at the centre of it all: should mums delay work until school commences; how do you pick the right childcare facility; is childcare even a good idea.
As young parents navigate the child-rearing route alone, away from their traditional support structures, this book has the answers they might well be seeking.
Planning a pregnancy? Currently pregnant? New parent? Young parent? Dr Chaturvedi gets into your world whatever your parenting status.
The sections on mental health issues particularly appeal, given the author’s professional training and expertise, such as postnatal depression. (The numbers here are staggering: of the 300,000 women who give birth every year, 12% experience depression, and almost 1 in 6 experience anxiety). This is not discussed often enough as you prepare for
the birth of your child and parenting.
Childhood illnesses, often a source of great confusion for young families, are well explained. Adolescence brings its own set of trials and tribulations for both the younger as well as the older family members: challenges of nutrition, self-esteem, bullying, substance abuse etc. Dr Chaturvedi’s observations and guidance here are valuable. Complex issues like explaining stranger danger, new forms of family such as those with same-sex parents, even sexual deviation, are all discussed.
While the book is comprehensive, perhaps it needed to have more focus on the teenage years. Two specific areas in particular, at which migrant parents are often at a loss, could
have done with closer attention. One is mental health: depression in this age group is currently at very high incidence, with youth suicide being the leading cause of death. Potential strategies for coping with issues of bullying, self-image and self- worth would have been beneficial.
The second issue that parents are struggling to come to terms with is a ubiquitous aspect of modern-day teen life, and at the same time, one of the most pressing parenting issues of our time: safe behaviour online, the policing strategies to employ and the disciplinary actions to enforce.
Topics for another parenting book, perhaps.
Where Dr Chaturvedi’s special perspective comes to fore is her strong faith in the old Vedic philosophies, which wafts gently through the book. There is much to take away for instance, in her unpacking of the dialogue between Arjuna and Lord Krishna captured in The Bhagwad Gita: check it out to help prepare your young person for the real world. (The gist: allow yourself to be in touch with yourself on an emotional level, but ensure that your decisions are made on logic, without the interference of subjective emotions.)
Raising a Child does allow for the emergence of a fusion culture where the winners will be those who can amalgamate the Eastern and Western perspectives to child-rearing. While both systems have their own particular strengths, those who have a toehold in both, have the advantage of picking and choosing that which suits them and their children best.
Raising a Child by Dr Shail Chaturvedi is published by Balboa Press. It is available at www.penrith-eye- specialists.centre/shop for $21.95. Funds raised from the sales will go to a children’s cancer foundation in India.