(WFS) A 15-year-old girl is alone at home and a stranger comes and says he is a distant relative. Should she open the door? Another girl's relative makes her uncomfortable with his behaviour. Should she discuss this with her parents?
During her home tuition sessions, a 14-year-old girl is left alone in a room with a young male teacher; in the recent past she has been uncomfortable with his behaviour. What should her approach be? A boy is showing undue interest towards Neha, 15. She likes him as a friend, but doesn't want their friendship to go any further. How should she handle the situation?
A 16-year-old boy is travelling by bus; a man sitting next to him touches him inappropriately. Is this possible and if so, how should he react?
As these and many other casebook scenarios that confront adolescents in everyday life come under scrutiny at a recent workshop in the Delhi, the audience leans forward as one, eager for answers. As workshops go, the subject is not new. What makes it a unique event is that the participants are not, as one might assume, youth in the 11-19 age group, but, rather, child specialists or paediatricians who admit they could use a few pointers on how to counsel adolescents.
As a practicing paediatrician at the Northern Railway Hospital in central Delhi, Dr D P Pandey deals with adolescents all the time. "But there are certain psycho-social issues of adolescence which we do not come across all the time, especially issues related to sexuality," he points out. "So we were not aware of this problem."
Dr Pandey was among the 100 paediatricians - from various hospitals across the country - who participated at the workshop organised by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP). On the occasion, the IAP released a 'Module for Adolescent Care', a training manual to assist doctors in counselling teenagers.
The module discusses the characteristics of adolescence, the physical changes that boys and girls experience, and teen issues such as emotional changes, scholastic backwardness and body image concepts. Sexuality issues are handled in a skilled and adroit manner - in the garb of "family life education" instead of sex education.
In terms of content presentation, the module subscribes to the traditional moral values applicable to a large majority of teenagers and their parents in India. At the same, it allows child specialists to interact with adolescents on issues like HIV/AIDS and high risk behaviour within the concept of family life education, says Dr Harish Pemde, Secretary of IAP's Delhi Branch and the IAP Adolescent Chapter in Delhi.
Over the past four years, more than 1,000 doctors across the country have been trained by IAP to incorporate the module in their practice. The IAP proposes to conduct health check-ups in schools drawing heavily from the real life examples and frequently asked questions of adolescents documented in the module. "We have already started such partnerships with both government and private schools in Delhi. We are also enlisting the help of local NGOs such as Salaam Balak Trust, Butterflies, Prayas and Mobile Creches so as to reach a larger number of adolescents living in slum and rural areas", says Dr Pemde.
The Academy's programme to sensitise paediatricians towards the special needs of adolescents is a comparatively new one. "We first started our training programmes for doctors four years back. We have a total of 15,000 members all over the country, of whom 800 are members of the Adolescent Chapter and not many are trained in adolescent health," says Pemde. The manual is a direct result of feedback received from participants at IAP training programmes requesting for more information and understanding to help them address adolescent issues and offer counselling both in schools and hospitals.
The new IAP manual provides guidelines to parents on the challenges facing teenagers and how these can be approached and managed.