I feel so bad to hurt him

I am friendly with a boy in my class. He seems to be very serious about our relationship. But his friends and others who know him tell me that he is using me and he doesn’t really love me. When I asked him about it, he said he loves me a lot. At times, I think of quitting this relationship but I can’t, as I too love him, and feel so bad to hurt him. I don’t want to break his heart.

 Sounds like you're in a dilemma about whether you should listen to your boyfriend's friends and discontinue your relationship with this friend, or follow your own feelings. Right now, he seems to be like the moon as – you see his good side, others see him "a user".

Remember, there is no smoke without fire, and with many people - mostly 'his friends' warning you, it makes sense to speak to them directly or ask a trusted friend to do so on your behalf. Ask them what makes them think/say that he is using you. Observe his behaviour with others. Find out whatever you can; you owe it to yourself.

Reflect on whether your relationship with him is healthy. If you "feel bad when you hurt him", "don't want to break his heart", and "can't stop myself from loving him”, these could be signs of an unhealthy relationship. You can be caring and compassionate, but you are not responsible for his behaviour (thoughts, feelings, etc.); you can only be responsible for you. If you respect yourself and decide that a relationship needs to end if it is harmful to you even if you love him – it is your right! The choice has to be yours.

So even if you are continuing with the relationship, follow relationship safety rules, and take your time to commit. If he is genuine and isn't using you, time will surely tell; till then you will have taken steps to be safe.

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I’m not allowed to use social media

My parents do not allow me to use Facebook or Instagram, but girls my age and even younger use them. My friends tease me about not being on my social media sites. I feel embarrassed to admit that I’m not even suing WhatsApp! I’ve tried to convince them to let me use social media as I do well in my studies, but to no avail.

It seems like that you are not only embarrassed but also feel frustrated that you cannot convince your parents about letting you use social media.

Be clear about why you want to use social media; it will help you to manage how much time you want to spend on it and what you put on it. Do some research on the safe use of social media – creating strong passwords, who to befriend and who not to, how to block users, what kind of posts are safe to place. Create a chart of safety rules you will follow for each site you want to be on.

Acknowledge and appreciate your parents’ love for you, and their concern for your safety. Encourage them to share exactly what they are worried about. Seek permission to share with them the research you have done because you want to be responsible user. Sharing information can help both of you to learn about safe use of social media. If they don’t agree, be patient and continue to discuss it with them. If they agree, put up the rules chart in your home and stick with it. Let your parents monitor your use for a while till they are convinced that you are doing fine. Keep communicating with them. Keep their trust and stay safe.

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My grandfather is very depressed

A few months ago, my grandmother passed away, and since then my grandfather has been very depressed. I try to cheer him up and make him happy, but it seems like all the happiness has vanished from his life. My family and I give him a lot of support and love, but it seems as if we are intruding in his life.

You sound quite sad and at a loss about what to do for your grandfather though you are trying your best. Your grandmother’s passing away must be very difficult for your grandfather to bear because he spent many years with her. Naturally, he is full of grief. He needs the space and time to come to terms with his loss. Get him to meet your family doctor or a physician who can advise him on exercises and diet, and help monitor his health and mood progress. He might listen to the doctor more easily.

Your family can help him integrate with daily life as best as he can. Encourage him to talk about your grandmother and listen to his memories. Start engaging him in daily activities – such as laying the table, planning the menu, or organizing the shopping etc. You can be his buddy for some time. Get him to join a yoga class if possible. Perhaps your dad can join him for some time. Slowly encourage him to meet his friends/others of his age group, if there are any close by (with all due Covid protection measures). If your family can identify any reliable support groups where people who have lost their spouses can get together, you can encourage him to join.

Give him a couple of weeks; if he stills doesn’t show signs of coming out of this, seek help from a counselor/psychotherapist in person who will help him to deal with his grief.

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I don’t know what I’m good for!

I’m quite upset because I don’t know what I’m good at. At school, I never get good results despite studying hard. I don’t have any friends even though I try to be friendly with everyone. All the others have something they are good at and enjoy doing, but not me. I feel confused and lonely.

You seem quite depicted that despite trying hard, you don’t know what you’re good at, and don’t get good results or have any friends.

Be a patient with yourself. This is the age of changes and uncertainty. A good way to approach it would be to say, ‘Things aren’t working, so this is an opportunity to make changes!’ Reframe your problem from ‘I’m not good at…’ to ‘I want to know what I am good at; I want better results; I want good friends’. Focus on attitude + knowledge +skill building. Commit to what you do, and don’t give up. Even those who know their talents require coaching/training (knowledge), lots of practice (skill building) and discipline (attitude). Interest a Learning (Knowledge + Skill) a Enjoyment a Greater interest… This is a cycle.

For anything that you want to do/learn, if you focus on ‘how’ to do it and enjoy participating in the process of doing it, the results will come. We often focus on results, and lose the joy of participation. If you enjoy learning the guitar and put in the effort, you will become better at it quickly. Similarly for studies – setting study goals, studying in 25-minute slots daily, using study skills, and practicing through papers will lead to better results.

This applies to friendships, too. Use skills of listening and empathy, express interest in others, share your interests and build personal connections in addition to being ‘pleasant’.

Success is dedication to learn something despite challenges. Try it and you will go far!

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I keep thinking of a way to solve her problem

I'm sad because of what my best friend is going through. She broke up with her boyfriend and has changed a lot. She doesn't talk to anyone in our class and no one wants to talk to her. She was a very good student but after the break-up she is not interested in studies. I keep thinking of a way to solve her problem due to which I am not able to concentrate on my studies. Please help us.

It is wonderful to see how you are standing by your friend in her difficult time. Not being able to solve her problem is making you quite sad and frustrated. Unfortunately, it is not possible to solve someone else's problem for them. It is possible to support them through the tough period.

She needs time to work through her own feelings. She has become silent because she is bottling up her feelings inside her instead of expressing them. If she is willing, encourage her to seek help either from the school/college counsellor or any other counsellor.

As a friend, you can encourage her to talk whenever she feels ready. When she does, help her to voice her feelings; does she feel angry, hurt, dejected, rejected...? Avoid giving any advice. She may possibly be blaming herself, thinking she is a fool, or feeling she is not good enough. Right now, she may not be interested in anything, but gradually if you can do some activities together such as going for a walk (if possible) or joining a yoga class, it would be a great start. You could do some mandala colouring together; or if she prefers it, encourage her to write. Slowly draw her attention to the world outside by talking about casual things. You just being there for her is the best help.

Most importantly, keep a close watch for any signs that she may harm herself in any way. If you suspect that she might, immediately break confidence and inform the counsellor/her or your parents/your teacher/any trusted adult.

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