Urgent Support

Being an IITian's Parent

If the same questions arise in the students' minds, often they hesitate to talk to their parents about them.

While they may be very motivated to 'make their parents proud', on the flip side there is much guilt about 'not living up to expectations'. Children may be afraid to talk to their parents if they realise midway that this is not the right career path for them. They wonder if their parents will even understand what they are going through. Unfortunately, many parents do not listen without judgement to their children and may be adopting a complacent attitude -'we know best and don't argue'. This leads to students bottling up their thoughts and making them vulnerable to a nervous breakdown.

Sahaja had been in coaching at Kota since her 8th standard and was making every moment count towards achieving her parents' dream of seeing her as an IITian. The dream did come true and Sahaja entered IIT Bombay with stars in her eyes. She was a little nervous but already starting to enjoy the classes. But However, a few days later, as while she was talking to her roommate Mauli, the latter started crying. "I don't like it here! Looks like I made a big mistake."

A concerned Sahaja asked, "Weren't you excited to come?"

Mauli replied, wiping her tears, I was, ever since I heard my uncle say that getting admission in an IIT would be the best thing to possibly happen. I worked day and night. I didn't even have a proper school life as I was studying hours and hours to crack the JEE. I wish I had used that time to explore other options such as Design, Art or Business Studies. Although I was good at Science in school, now I feel I am not cut out for engineering!"

Initiation

For most parents, it seems like the height of achievement if their child can get admission into an IIT. The expectation that "one's career path becomes set for life" once this entry hurdle is cleared, often leads to much pressure to clear the JEE being imposed on the aspirant from every quarter. If we consider that many students are advised to enter coaching institutes from standard IX or even earlier, the question arises whether they are even aware of other options at that vulnerable age. Will they be able to cope up not just academically but emotionally also? Moreover, once this prestigious gateway is entered, does the path really become smooth or will there be further pressure to perform?

It is best if parents reflect on these questions before deciding on their child's career path.

If the same questions arise in the students' minds, often they hesitate to talk to their parents about them.

If the same questions arise in the students' minds, often they hesitate to talk to their parents about them.

While they may be very motivated to ‘make their parents proud’, on the flip side there is much guilt about 'not living up to expectations'. Children may be afraid to talk to their parents if they realise midway that this is not the right career path for them. They wonder if their parents will even understand what they are going through. Unfortunately, many parents do not listen without judgement to their children and may be adopting a complacent attitude -'we know best and don't argue'. This leads to students bottling up their thoughts and making them vulnerable to a nervous breakdown.

Coping mechanisms

Once life begins at IIT, students realise that clearing JEE is only the beginning, not the end. Therefore as a parent, your role as caregiver and a solid emotional support for your ward will continue to be important.

Firstly, please try your best to understand the academic and social challenges your ward is likely to face in this new phase of life. He/ she will face not only competition in academics, but will also have to learn new skills like balancing time, self-care and goal-setting, managing academics with extra-curricular activities, dealing with peer pressure, and (sometimes) language challenges. It helps them a lot to know that their parents are just a phone call away and will listen to them with empathy. Attempt to reduce pressure by understanding your child’s strengths and limitations instead of comparing them to others. The media tends to create great hype about salary packages, inflating expectations even on freshers to perform at the top right from Day One.

The fact is that temporary failures and setbacks might not be avoided in an environment full of achievers, especially in the initial stages of adjustment to independent learning and relative grading. Instead of taking these failures as disasters, encourage your child to take them in their stride and gradually overcome them. There is a lot to learn and gain if you are not fixated only on grades and also value the branch your child has been allotted.

Seek help

The IITs have a strong student support structure, including health infrastructure. Encourage your child to use it and take the Institute into confidence. If your child reaches out to you or the Institute contacts you on their behalf, please listen without judging. Validate their concerns, not deny them; seek appropriate help and follow through.

Your children have a life beyond their professional achievements. Life does not become ‘set’ by getting admission into IIT, nor does it end if one does not manage to get in or even if one gets second thoughts after the first few steps. With this in mind, if you can keep an open mind to all the various choices available, you might find that your ward is much happier doing what he/she is interested in, be it engineering or any other career path.