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7 Steps: Defeating Depression




Torn between seeking medical or religious advice to #DefeatDepression?

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter says: you don’t have to choose.

“In my role as a general practitioner and previously having worked in acute mental health units, I have seen the profound toll that depression can take on individuals and families. This is especially sad because it is a very treatable condition. This webinar will combine medical and spiritual solutions to help us all begin to #DefeatDepression.”

Dr Wajid is a medical tutor and a founding member of the Faculty of Medical Leadership & Management. He is also the founder of, and current board of advisors member to Charity Week for Orphans and needy children.

Leave your questions and comments below for our Q&A session. Any questions that cannot be answered today will be collected and considered for future sessions and posts, insha’Allah.




  1. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    How do you explain to family members how you’re feeling if you don’t understand it yourself?

    What if nobody has noticed that you are depressed and instead think you are just being an annoying person and they don’t try to understand why you are being the way you are or that it’s a cry for help, that it’s scary for you and you are having a hard time dealing with just about everything in life at present?

    What if every day is a struggle, from waking up and forcing yourself to get up and out of bed, to dealing with household chores whilst looking after small children?

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:23 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      What you seem to describe is someone who may be sliding into depression (or is already depressed) but both her and her family are struggling to come to terms with this. It is worth having an open and frank discussion explaining how you feel and that you don’t want to feel this way anymore.

      It may take time. They may not accept or understand at first…. But do not give up.

      Then I would advise seeking help locally –> From an Imam you trust, from relatives or friends who DO understand what you are going through and from the medical community.

      Remember, you will get better inshaAllah. The only question is how long it will take.

  2. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    I would like to talk to someone but am ashamed to because I don’t want my family to think that there’s something wrong with me. But I don’t want to talk to a traditional American mental health professional because they don’t have any insight into Islam, and might blame it as the cause of my problems. Are there any options for me?

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      There are always options inshaAllah.

      Regarding your family – they may already sense that there is something wrong. Many people worry about their family reaction, but no one in the world cares more for you and your health like your family does. They are the people most likely to help, even if they don’t understand or accept first.

      Regarding non-Muslim mental health professionals – being a professional means that they should not belittle the faith or culture of their patients while treating them. If they did so, they would likely get into trouble. You’ll be amazed at how far non-Muslim professionals may go out of their way to avoid showing any disrespect to our faith. I would not let this be a barrier. However, there are many Muslim mental health professionals around too. But do not discount a helper because of their faith, just like they should not discount a patient due to theirs.

      In the end, the person who has to do most of the hard work is yourself. Everyone else is their to help.

    • Avatar


      November 19, 2015 at 10:45 PM

      Why not take a look at I started this to be a community of people dealing with anxiety and depression issues, from a muslim perspective. I have been suffering a lot, and I want to come together where we can eventually establish a solid community, and provide some avenues of relief.

      • WAJiD


        November 23, 2015 at 6:21 AM

        Walaikum asalaam,

        Such self help groups and websites are a real treasure MashaAllah. It is an important and vital tool in the arsenal of weapons to overcoming / living with mental health issues.

  3. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    My marriage is suffering. It’s so hard for my husband and children but I do not know what to do about it :(

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:33 PM

      Walaikum asalaam sister,

      I feel for you. I really do. That one sentence contains oceans of sadness.

      My advice is simple and easy.

      Seek help.

      For the sake of your marriage, your children and yourself… seek help.

      Seek help from a local Imam who will be able to guide you spiritually through the difficulty,
      seek help from your friends and family who understand what you are going through,
      seek help from the medical professionals (therapists/ doctors) who will be able to help.

      May Allah protect your family and bring back happiness to your lives.

  4. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 1:18 PM

    That is exactly what some people think, that I’m not grateful for what I have!!!

    I am suffering from so much pain in my body, I can’t do a lot of the things I used to be able to and I am so frustrated, mainly with myself, which then leads me to take it out on those who are closest to me. My illness/illnesses are so bad, which then manifests itself as an ugly, hideous person that even I don’t want to be around.

    I have changed so much! I’ve become anti social, angry and frustrated. Everything is so difficult for me to do on a daily basis. I need help! It’s destroying my family!

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:39 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      Chronic pain and frustration can often lead to depression. And you are right, this is NOT you. This is a disease and it can make you behave in ways that do not reflect who you are.

      If it is difficult for you to understand how and why this happened, imagine how much more difficult for the outsider to do so. This is where unhelpful comments like the ones you mentioned come from.

      You have already done the hard part. You have accepted that you “need help.” Now, get that help, take that help and start the first steps towards defeating the depression.

      I would advise getting help from your local medical professional, your local imam and your friends and family. Like I said, you will beat it inshaAllah. It is only a matter of time.

  5. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    as salamu ‘alaikum. I am currently on sertraline for anxiety/depression. I tried to do without it for some time, using natural methods…exercise, diet etc. It has helped a lot, and I am now able to work on thinking positively when before I couldn’t even focus…no appetite, no sleeping, forgetful, bored of life.

    Alhamdulillah I am glad I went for the medicine, though reluctantly. Now my question is, what should I do when weaning off the medication in 4 months to not fall back into the condition…what kind of support from others, activities should I partake in to keep myself in the direction of healing…

    jazak Allah khair

    • WAJiD


      November 23, 2015 at 6:30 AM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      In terms of weaning off (it is actually very simple to do so) I would recommend that you do this when your doctor advises you it is the right time. He or she will be an objective 3rd party and can be frank with you. I personally like to leave the medication for a little longer to be sure that we didn’t wean off too early. My senior colleagues would advise me that it is better to wean off during the spring as most people feel naturally more positive in the summer and have more to look forward to.

      With regards to what you can do to cement the recovery, it is very personal to yourself. Counselling and psychotherapy is very good, but changes in your lifestyle (exercising, having a break in the week, planning a holiday etc…) are also useful.

  6. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 1:56 PM

    Jazak Allah Khair for this brother, may Allah bless you! You have no idea how much this helped!
    I have noticed sometimes it’s the family that might be a cause behind one’s depression. Family is your first line of defense, it can make or break you. But what if it’s your family that the reason behind your biggest problem? How should one deal with it?

    • WAJiD


      November 23, 2015 at 6:37 AM

      wa iyakki. thank you for your kind words.

  7. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 2:01 PM

    Is it okay to use medical marjuana as a form of relief from depression?

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      I am not a faqih, but as a medical doctor – the current view is that Marijuana (medicinal or not) is actually more likely to cause depression, paranoia, schizophrenia and many other mental health disorders.

      This is the guidance from the Royal College of Psychiatry in the UK:

  8. Avatar

    zainab fida ahsan

    November 14, 2015 at 2:01 PM

    Q. Any naseeha for someone wanting to overcome procrastination but seems to be getting back to square one quite often?

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:50 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      This is not strictly a mental health question, so the answer is my own personal view.

      Procrastination is common and sometimes the way of the mind getting you to take a mental time out…. but it can also be the luxury of those who have no goal in life or no urgency to reach it.

      If you find yourself procrastinating often, then either get a goal (if you do not have one), change it (if you do have one and it doesn’t inspire you to apply yourself) or change how you try and reach it.

  9. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    I am depressed but I feel I have to hide it because family don’t understand and don’t want to help.

    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 3:02 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      I don’t know your specific situation so it is difficult to give advice. However, often we misjudge our family. They are the ones most likely to help and most able to help too.

      Hiding it is also difficult to do because they often know that something is wrong.

      But they may be scared on how to bring it up or make it a big deal and you may be scared how they will react.

      In any case, I would ask you to seek help locally inshaAllah and your local imam, therapist or doctor will be able to help you bridge the gap inshaAllah.

  10. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 2:09 PM

    Thank you so much!
    May Allah reward you

    • WAJiD


      November 23, 2015 at 6:41 AM

      you’re welcome. jazakAllah khairun for your duaa

  11. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    I would like to talk to someone about my issues. Can you recommend someone in Atlanta, GA?


    • WAJiD


      November 14, 2015 at 2:53 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      Unfortunately I don’t know anyone there. The likelihood is that someone in your community will be able to point you in the right direction much better than someone outside it.

      Just like when we go on holiday, you pay much more attention to the views of the locals about a restaurant and that of other tourists – similarly people in Atlanta who have experienced depression and got better will be able to recommend a counsellor /therapist/ medic/ community worker.

      I pray that you find the best people to help you, and in the end you overcome it yourself anyway.

      • Avatar


        November 14, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        I am REALLY REALLY impressed by your prompt responses.

  12. Avatar


    November 14, 2015 at 5:32 PM

    I think I’m Bi-Polar. I’ve self diagnosed myself couple of times and most results indicate that I’m extremely Bi-Polar. My mind keeps toggling everyday, I’ve a thousand thoughts racing on my mind and I’m unable to take and make any decisions. My condition sometimes makes me overly Islamic and sometimes close to being a bare minimum Muslim. I’m totally awkward and a big loser. I keep comforting myself that since I’m mentally sick, I don’t have to achieve and this also results in me having low self esteem and terribly low confidence. Many times I’ve also had suicidal thoughts, I’ve inflicted myself with wounds through sharp stuff.

    What’s the Islamic ruling on Bi-Polar? And do I seek medication? Alhamdulillah, I’m technically very sharp and also an Entrepreneur (having worked as an IT Engineer for many year).

    My mental illness is killing me terribly and making me a loner that sits glued to my PC, or smoking to release out my anger or frustration of not succeeding well (or whatever).

    Your insights would be of great help.

    Anonymous Bi-Polar

    • WAJiD


      November 16, 2015 at 4:01 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      I cannot speak of Islamic rulings as I am not a faqih. All I will say that fluctuations in Iman are not a sign of bipolar though and are natural to an extent.

      And I think it would be unwise of me to diagnose you virtually and also for you to self-diagnose yourself.

      There is one thing I can say for certain from your comments – you need help so that you can get an accurate diagnosis and help to overcome this disease.

      Seek help from a doctor/ psychiatrist/ therapist regarding your symptoms and begin the process of defeating it. Believe me, the number one thing most people say once they recover is that they wish they had sought help sooner.

      Just take the first step inshaAllah. I hope this is of some benefit.

      • Avatar


        November 16, 2015 at 5:59 PM

        JazakaAllah Khair for your reply. I’ll go consult a Psychiatrist InShaAllah.

  13. Avatar


    November 17, 2015 at 7:56 AM

    As salamu ‘alaikum
    Glad that I stumbled upon this articles. I’m so depressed with my assignments and final year project. I’ve tried to do it little by little but seems like it doesn’t works at all. I have more than 15 assignments that needs to be submit on next week, research
    presentation and mid term test. I feel like I can’t do anything at all. I’m trying my best to get it done as soon as possible but I feel like this is just too much for me to handle. I can’t rest at all. I’ve been sleeping only for 2 hours this past weeks but still I can’t finish it at all. and the worst thing is I found myself in a constant grief. idk why but my chest feels so stuffy. I can’t concentrate while perform my prayers. I just can’t stop thinking about my undone works. Some people may think that this is just a trivial matters as a student but this is indeed something bigger for me. It’s not just that, I have a problem with my family too. Losing my father is not an easy thing to deal with.

    • WAJiD


      November 17, 2015 at 11:00 AM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      SubhanAllah – a hectic assignment schedule and the loss of your father is enough to make anyone feel low.

      I have a few recommendations that may or may not be useful:

      – The best way to devour a whale is one bite at a time. Don’t look at the 15 assignments that you have but the 1 that you have in front of you

      – Prioritise your assignments in order of most important or due the soonest

      – Escalate early. If the number of assignments are beyond your ability complete, an email to a tutor or anyone else with pastoral responsibility for you to highlight this may help them give you an extension

      However, it is difficult to judge whether you are under stress due to the situation you are in, or whether something more long term is at play. If, after you finish this busy period, you still find yourself with that “stuffiness” in your chest and you do not feel much better – seek help. Whether it be a doctor, a therapist, a teacher or family member … take that step.

      May Allah make your affairs easy for you.

  14. Avatar


    November 17, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    RAMADAAN 2014

    • WAJiD


      November 17, 2015 at 11:25 AM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      MashaAllah, this is wonderful to hear. Of course, who would disagree that the shifaa and cure is from Allah and that the Quran and the remembrance of Allah gives peace?

      However, I would say that just because medications were not part of the solution for you does not mean that they won’t be for others. There is nothing wrong with the medication inherently and (according to research and their chemical properties) they do not make people drowsy, lose interest in things or lose concentrations. In fact, those are the clinical features of depression that you are describing.

      In any case, I am very happy that you have got better without medication but that does not mean others will not benefit from them.

  15. Avatar


    November 17, 2015 at 9:52 AM

    I had a question about people suffering from mental illnesses that may have confused their situation with black magic and are therefore unable to face the fact that they are suffering from a mental illness, what advice would you give to help someone see their situation for what it is. Thank you.

    • WAJiD


      November 17, 2015 at 11:28 AM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      In Islam, the existence of black magic is real. So is the possibility of it affecting human beings in certain circumstances.

      However, it would be a tragedy to confuse a mental health illness (which is far more common being one of the most prevalent form of illnesses on Earth) with the much rarer black magic.

      This is why it is important that if someone is confused which they or a loved one is suffering from, they will do well to see an Imam and a mental health professional. Between the two they will be able to advise accordingly.

  16. Avatar


    November 17, 2015 at 1:11 PM

    Allah is always with us. What we need is patience and completely trust over Allah. HE always has a big master plan but we people failed to understand that. I got depressed because my parents arranged my marriage many times but before any good thing happen there comes any disaster and spoiled my family’s dreams. Sometimes in depression I’d like to stop doing namaz . After that I realise how stupid I was and completely turned my mind,body towards Allah. Now Allah has gifted me a good man who respect me and we are gonna marry very soon. May Allah bless everyone with good mental and physical health.

  17. Avatar


    November 18, 2015 at 1:22 AM

    I really appreciate this webinar.
    I have an advice for my sisters:-Dear Sisters ,we will never be happy with our Marriage everytime.Life has its own ups and Down.Ignoring is the best Policy.The more you tell the People about your Problems and discuss about it,the more you would feel lost.One thing I remind myself in time of distress is-“The Price of all this little troubles in my life is Paradise.Allah has Promised Paradise to a Woman with whom his husband is Pleased.So,Naturally it is not easy to keep him pleased everytime otherwise Allah wouldn’t have Promised such a big thing to us if that was so easy.”Just smile and forget.Everything heals with time.

  18. Avatar


    November 18, 2015 at 8:40 AM

    Assalamualaikum wbt.

    R’s comments above could have been written about me. I have always suspected that I suffered from varying degrees of depression ever since I gave birth to my first child 8 years ago. It all started from really really bad postpartum which sadly, was exacerbated by my own family member, my mother. I believe I was so scarred from this that it carried over to my firstborn (I breastfed him throughout, and I have heard people say that our emotions carry to our child during nursing. No wonder my son is so emotionally vulnerable until today).

    From then, I think I have never been able to quite fully recover from my up up and down bouts of depression, and I have tried to deal with it as best I could. Of course, I never sought professional help because of the stigma and because I was made to believe (by myself and others who were well-meaning) that it was all in my mind and I was allowing my emotions to take control of my life.

    The sad thing is that I often take out my frustrations on my closest family members – my children and my husband. I have no family support save for my husband (I swore after my experience with my mother after my first child that I would never seek help from her again, and she isn’t complaining). Instead my family (parents and sibling) load me with their problems with no regard as to how I feel, so I often feel like I’m sinking or even slowly and painfully sliding into madness. My husband is empathic as best as he can be, but he’s just human, and when the battle is between me and him, he tells me that it’s all up to me and I just need to get a grip of myself. He doesn’t understand that I want to but I can’t. That has always been the crux of our fights during our marriage, especially after my first child.

    And then recently was the worst. I have been put on some medication to lower my estrogen levels for medical reasons and that has wreaked havoc with my hormones. Less than 1 month into it and I have slid into the very pits of hell. This has been a very testing couple of weeks because whatever depressive (but suppressed) emotions I had before this are now manifesting themselves and I have little control over it. I have been consulting my obgyn on a few occasions since, and told her that I do not want anti-depressants, but it had been very difficult. And so I have been trying to find alternative ways to resolve this. Your webinar however, has made me feel a little less frightened about anti-depressants (at the back of my mind, I feel as if perhaps that may be the only thing that can work, but I tried to banish the thought).

    Finding people who understand and be supportive has also been very difficult, but my husband has a better idea now and is trying to do better at this. Other than him and one Muslimah sister whom I am very blessed to have in my life, that’s it. Rightfully that should be enough isn’t it, but I think at the back of my mind I still carry the heavy sadness that I could not find that support from my own parents and that they would either never believe it something if I were to tell them this, or they would not pay much heed to it as they are more focused on their own issues. I know that is also my great test as their daughter, but it does make the relationship a very difficult one to carry. :'(

    Pardon the lengthy comment. Your webinar struck a nerve, Masha’Allah.

    • WAJiD


      November 18, 2015 at 4:18 PM

      Walaikum asalaam,

      SubhanAllah. So much suffering and so much strength.

      I am glad that the webinar helped you become a little less worried about medication, but remember – discuss with a specialist first if that is the best option or whether counselling is better or even both together.

      When it is your own family member that you feel has helped trigger the depression or exacerbated it, it can be very difficult. However, for good mental health – I would always advocate rebuilding relationships especially within the family. It can be through small and simple steps and it may take some time, but it is important. I believe this is one of the reasons that the Prophet (SAW) forbade cutting off ties of kinship.

      Remember, depression and low mood is not a once in a lifetime experience. Like chest infections or broken legs, you may get it again but the important thing to remember is that YOU WILL GET BETTER again inshaAllah. This is not me that is saying this, but Allah says this in the Quran and any mental health professional will tell you this as well.

      • Avatar


        November 19, 2015 at 8:13 AM

        Jazakallahu khayr. I take great, great comfort in the fact that you took the trouble to reply to my comment. May Allah bless you for your efforts to help us, aameen.

  19. Avatar


    November 19, 2015 at 10:57 PM

    My issues most recently have been with my relationship with Allah and Islam. I have fallen into the lowest point of depression, despair, over feeling rejected by Allah in my relationship with Islam. I am a full time Islamic studies student living in Saudi Arabia, and I am totally feeling rejected and demotivated to study because I have not found the comfort in Islam I once had, with so many confusions and demotivations, and an overall feeling of decline in religion to the point where I feel rejected and not good enough, even for Allah. the fact that the Quran provides cure is established, yet, I have never been more unhappy in my life just having Allah and trying to come closer to Him. Feeling pushed away, adds to my old beliefs that I am not good enough, no matter what I try or do. Also dealing with so much stress and pressure in religion, that I have felt like giving up completely because of all the stress.

    Anyways, I started a blog and community for sufferers dealing with anxiety and depression issues, from an Islamic perspective. Please join the community and I hope that we can start developing that community and help each other survive. Any imams or psychologists are welcome as well, to increase the help and support would be a great thing.

    Counseling and Therapy gets to be expensive, and I feel that having this avenue will do wonders for us.

    • WAJiD


      November 25, 2015 at 2:19 PM

      Asalaam alaikum brother Amir,

      I would like to make a point that I also made in the webinar – be careful of turning your low mood into a spiritual crisis. Us Muslims, we are spiritual beings and many times we have a crisis in one area of our lives (our health, finances, relationships etc…) and we manage to transform it into a crisis of faith.

      It need not be that way.

      This is not to say that spiritual crises exist. They obviously do. However, if you are feeling low or flat – seek help from mental health professionals first and when you are better, then it will be interesting to see if those spiritually low feelings still are present.

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The Hyperactive And Inattentive Child | Dr. Hatem Al Haj

Dr. Hatem El Haj M.D Ph.D



child looking at cherry tree


Some kids are fidgety and hyperactive, as if they are “driven by a motor,” constantly moving around, bouncing off the furniture, and unable to stay still and quiet. They may be also quite impulsive, so they can’t wait for their turn, blurt out answers before you finish your sentence, and intrude in on others. Others are inattentive and out of focus – almost always. They are disorganized and forgetful, and they lose their things regularly. These criteria could be bad enough to qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD, which is Attention Deficit And Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Some may have the inattention alone, others the hyperactivity alone, while a third group has both.

This spectrum of disorders may lead to poor performance in school, inconsistency in work, emotional immaturity, and social difficulties, but let us not forget that these kids may have some special strengths as well, such as their boundless energy, enthusiasm, humor, and creativity.

The diagnosis of ADHD will need a specialized health care provider to make, but the following tips will be helpful for kids who share some or all the aforementioned criteria, whether they have the disorder or not.

Since a big part of the problem that will lead to most of the difficulties in schooling is the disorganization and lack of focus, it is recommended that we help those kids stay organized and on task through the following measures:

o Consistent schedules and having daily routines even when it comes to the waking up rituals: going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth and putting on their clothes. (Older kids should have prayed fajr before sunrise.) Have the schedule on the refrigerator or bulletin board in their study or bedroom. (Don’t forget to schedule time for play and wholesome recreation.) Let the child be part of the planning and organizing process.

o Keep in the same place their clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Use notebook organizers and color-coded folders. If you homeschool, make the day structured and buy them a desk where they can put their belongings, and if you send them to school, make sure they bring back written assignments.

o Decrease distractions as much as possible. If you home school, then I suggest for you to keep a quiet environment as much as possible and avoid excessiveness in decorating your house (particularly their study place) with knickknacks and pictures. Maybe this would provide us a reason to try (and hopefully appreciate) minimalism!

o TV and videogames are bad for all kids, and even worse for kids with ADHD, except when permissible programs are watched in moderation. See the AAP’s guidelines for “use in moderation.”

Some tips for parents and guardians

  • Consistent rules must be in place. Rewards must be given to the children when they follow them, and punishment must be judiciously used when the rules are broken.
  • Kids with this condition may have low self-esteem, and it is detrimental to their welfare to further lower it. Thus, praise good behaviors frequently even if they were little and expected, such as putting their shoes where they belong.
  • Do not be frustrated with the inconstancy of the child’s performance. He may get a 100% on one test and then fail the next. Use the first to encourage them and prove to them that he can do better.
  • One on one teaching/tutoring may be needed to enable the child to keep up with the schoolwork.

Should we use medication?

Medications are sometimes needed. You must consult your doctor regarding their use.

Here are my non-professional thoughts:

  • Prescribing those medications should never be a kneejerk reaction. First, we must be confident of the diagnosis, then, try all other modalities of therapy, and finally, entertain the option of pharmacological intervention.
  • Medicating the children should never be for the interest/comfort of the parents or teachers; it should be only for the interest of the child.
  • Medications should be tried if the child is failing to keep up with learning knowledge and skills s/he will need in their future, and other therapies failed to help them
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Loving Muslim Marriages Episode 3: Are Muslim Women Becoming Hypersexual?

Saba Syed (Umm Reem)



Loving Muslim Marriage

Are Muslim women with sexual demands becoming “hyper-sexual,” being negatively influenced by life in a Western, post-sexual revolution society? Allah made both men and women sexual, and the recognition of a Muslim woman’s sexual needs is a part of the religion even if it seems missing from the culture. This segment is a continuation of the previous week’s segment titled, “Do Women Desire Sex?”

To view all videos in this series, as well as an links or articles referenced, please visit

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How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari



I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.

While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.

Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!

  1. Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.

In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.

  1. Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
  2. Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.

A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.

Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!

In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.

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