In a world constantly darkening to the concept of altruism, with great expectation, intense competition and an ever-expanding gulf between the “Haves” and “Have-nots”, the adult mind is often perplexed beyond comprehension. The teenagers with their idealistic world view are often left shell-shocked and descend quickly into disillusionment.
A teenager is ever curious about the way things are in the world, “what are we here for?”, “Why are things the way they are?”, “Why are there poor people?”, “Why is there so much injustice in the world?”, “Why do most suffer and few enjoy in life?”… The questions keep popping up and because many parents have been swallowed in by the rat race to make ends meet and aren’t/can’t always be there to serve as role models or give sensible answers to the questions, these young ones inevitably get drowned in the swirling disillusionment all around.
This gap (absence of “home-made” role models) leaves these highly impressionable young ones vulnerable to all manner of fake role models with their pretentious and potentially harmful answers/solutions to the questions teenagers raise (their innate curiosity will not leave them any respite and must be sated). This vulnerability to these elements has assumed frightening proportions with the ubiquity of the internet and other connective technologies; the severity of the situation is underlined by the increase in the recruitment of young teenagers all over the world into vicious, sub-human groups such as the ISIS, other not-too-popular terror groups, kidnappings, rape, murder and increase in reported cases of suicide.
Psychologists say that the things of life are usually over-determined; meaning that there are more than one reason why things are the way they are. What are the cracks through which a teenager can fall into disillusionment?
• Deficit in or lack of parental nurturant strength (this describes the entire architecture of value impartation from parents into children through to young adulthood)
• The startling gap that exists many times between what parents say and their actions
• Discrimination by parents against associations with people from a different socio-economic class
• When parents give up or lose courage in their fight to make a meaning out of life
• Lack of or inefficient monitoring of the company teenagers keep or their influences
• Driving the teenager to be fiercely competitive
• Lack of solid support structure within the family and in the community.
How can we seal the cracks?
• For the teenager, it is almost too late to start building parental nurturant strength, but a parent can still try. The effort (with consistency) will be noticed and acknowledged. Get interested in the life of your teenager!
• Be a role model to your teenager. Be a living emblem of the values you want them to imbibe.
• Do not discriminate against people outside your socio-economic class
• Treat everybody with fairness, respect and dignity.
• If you are getting the short end of the stick economically, don’t give up! Let your courage be evident. Never let them see or hear you complain about your economic predicament or any other thing. What you can’t work on, don’t complain about. But, by all means, never stop working to remove every uncertainty from your home and life/lives. Work! Succeed! Be a pattern of resilience to them.
• Create a network with the parents of the friends of your teenagers; this will serve as a feedback mechanism. Never discriminate against their friends except on the grounds of character. Never go where you don’t want or wish them to go. Invade their rooms, closets, laptops, phones, etc. whenever you notice any inexplicable mood swings that last for long periods or unprovoked secrecy. Never stop mentoring and monitoring them.
• Understand that human beings grow organically. Do not drive them to compete with anybody, but help them maintain a very healthy work ethic and let them grow at their own pace.
• Usually, the most popular support structure, especially in Africa is family. The most potent support group is the religious organization. Encourage them to get involved in religious activities, not just for the religious value derivable, but for the opportunity to give back to society. Again, monitor them!
• Know all the adults (all the information you can access about them) that your teenagers associate with regularly.
• Respect your spouse. Be completed to him/her if you are together. Never use your teenager to score any point with your spouse or ex. Leave them out of your issues. Again, respect your spouse or ex, not perfunctorily, TOTALLY!
• Never speak ill of your spouse or ex (whether before your teenagers or anywhere else-it will stir up disillusionment if they ever hear it.
• Be truthful at all times.
• Celebrate their successes and understand their failures. Be their number one cheerleader.
• Disconnect them from every wrong influence no matter how close they are to you.
• Never encourage or accept any form of idleness.
• Always maintain an atmosphere of positivity in your home.
• Encourage! Encourage! Encourage!
In all, the sum total of the human desire is to be relevant and important. Always give them the opportunity to contribute to tasks in the family and outside it, and reward them materially and with greater responsibilities. Always allow them to speak their minds and to do that respectfully at all times. Do not fail to discipline when the offence necessitates; but let your love, compassion and understanding be unmistakable. Be your teenagers’ number one and best friend and most trusted confidant. It is possible! Go ahead now and make your teenager an excellent gift to the world!