It would be stating the obvious that parenting has gotten more complicated in the last decade or so — parents are competing with screens, OTT and social media for their Gen Z and Alpha kids’ attention.
There have been a spate of self-help and guidance books over the years to help parents and caregivers navigate these choppy waters: from how to talk to your child about her first period, about loss, to equipping parents to help kids deal with cyberbullying, body shaming, and more, authors and experts are trying to handhold people through this journey.
The latest entrant into this world of parenting books is The Wisdom Bridge by Kamlesh D Patel, who is the current spiritual guide of the global Heartfulness movement and a grandfather himself.
“[The book] will channel the parents’ energies away from anxiety to appreciation. It will give them a new appreciation of how to tap into their heart’s wisdom and raise happy and resilient children. The Wisdom Bridge will take the focus away from prepare and put the spotlight back on care,” writes Patel in his introduction.
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The idea is to move the focus away from programming kids as super achievers to caring for their emotional health. The author lists nine principles to light up the road ahead. These include, ‘Raising a child still takes a village’, ‘Preparation begins long before the children arrive’, ‘Happy mothers make happy families’, ‘Early childhood is the foundation of wisdom’, and more.
Being a parent myself, I understand deeply the dire need for support, not just when a child is born but through every step of the parenting journey. How else can I navigate deadlines and work meetings without having the cushion of a support system when I am emotionally or physically unavailable for my child?
However, I found the book slightly amiss in taking into account the different kinds of family structures that exist today—what about a single parent, staying in a different city from the family, and not having the option of moving back to get that kind of support? Or, of parents with limited means, who can’t hire a nanny or get caregiving services for their child? What if your job doesn’t leave you with any time to engage with your neighbourhood and even friends at times—how do you then create a village to raise your child?
Patel does offer a solution though. Halo parenting. This is basically involves a set of people, other than the parents, who can act as lights of wisdom for the child. That is the chapter that resonated with me the most.
Grandparents, cousins, family friends—people close to the family—can act as halo parents on issues that the child is initially anxious about approaching the parents first, or they simply represent a safe and secure emotional space. You don’t need physical proximity for it—conversations over the phone, online video platforms, and more, can go a long way in creating this environment. Throughout the book, Patel focuses on technology as an enabler of real-life relationships, as opposed to a distraction or a replacement.
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“Parents consciously cultivate a network of friends and family members who can be present in the lives of their children as they grow into adolescence and teenagers. These are elders their children look up to and like to spend time with. Having a halo network goes a long way towards creating a village for the child,” writes Patel.
Halo parents are not there to usurp your role as parents – they are around to reduce some amount of emotional burden. Look back to your own childhood and the people that acted as support structures—what made you look to them for guidance? Why did they represent safety to you? Look for similar qualities in a halo parent for your child. And, in turn, inculcate those qualities within yourself to become a halo parent to someone else’s offspring. To be part of a community, it is important to be a building block yourself.