REFLECTION: OUR CHILDREN: OUR GAIN OR OUR LOSS

Adolescence means growing up.The root word in Latin (adolescence) means “growing up” and figuratively, it is the period from puberty to maturity, roughly speaking, it includes, most prominently, the ‘teens’ years from 13 to 18 or 19, and perhaps a little beyond, depending on how rapidly the individual matures. They are called teenagers because their age numbers ends with ‘teen’. The adolescence age is a transition from childhood to adulthood.
Adolescence is a period of great biological changes, as young bodies are made ready for reproduction. Adolescence is also a period of significant social changes, as young minds are made ready for the important task of adult life. In this transitory period, the teenager must undergo certain basic developments. The adolescent must gradually establish a personal identity; he must adjust to the major biological changes he is undergoing; he must establish co-operative and workable relationships with his peers; he must gradually achieve independence from his family and he must develop a set of guiding moral beliefs and standards which will help him in decision making so as to achieve consistency of action in this diverse and often confusing world.
We are currently in the holiday period, as many academic activities are on break. This implies that many children and teenagers are currently with their parents either on holiday or at home. Advisedly, this is the ideal time for parents to inculcate in their children the much needed right values before they return back to school. Unfortunately, parents are shying away from this most rewarding task. The most affected of this negligence of ours are the teenagers. The home and the society at large have failed in providing the young with a bridge to adulthood through appropriate training. Meanwhile, our teenagers are burdened with the problem of achieving independence, deciding on future alternatives and establishing a stable identity.
There is the nagging issue of generation gap; this implies the existence of misunderstanding and separation between the youths and adults. Here, the adults view the teenagers as frolickers and unserious, while the young ones view adults as well intentioned but dull and archaic. Notably, the society, most especially parents have come to view the teenage years as a time when the world of the peers and the world of the parents are at war in the life of teenagers.
Aristotle, over 2000 years ago also assessed the adolescent characters as:
“The young are in character prone to desire and ready to carry any desire they may have formed into action.They easily change too and fickle in their desires. They are passionate, irascible and apt to be carried away by their impulses.”
Many parents and observers of adolescent are alarmed, claiming that teenagers today are highly undisciplined, more rebellious, more troubled emotionally and more critical of valuable traditions and value, than were previous generations. Many of these observers see present adolescent behaviour as a threat to the future of the society. Some others admonish us not to worry, that the adolescents of today are more intelligent and better informed than their parents.
It has been discovered that in the 21st century, the average age at which children, especially girls reach puberty is lower compared to what it used to be. This can be due to many reasons, most importantly, improved nutrition resulting in rapid growth.
The teen years, if not well prepared for and properly managed by the teenagers, parents, society, as well as the school (teachers) can be a terrible nightmare. How then can this stage in life be maximized to be a pleasurable one to all parties concern?
Parents must first understand the mindset of their teenagers by realising that teenagers are caught in an in-between transitory world; trapped between childhood and adulthood and they belong to neither. The most complicated aspect of it is that the teenagers are weary of childhood, are becoming embarrassed to be seen as a child, while at the same time, they are uncertain of the future. This is the reason why teenagers sometimes act like children and the next minute are desperate to be treated as adults.
However, adolescence does not necessarily have to be scary or dreadful. If properly managed, the teenage years can be the most enjoyable years of a child. Parents should not spend time grumbling over things that cannot be changed. Instead, they should concern themselves with learning to be better parents and good models to their children.
For the teenagers, they must know that it is natural and good for children as they grow toward adulthood to strive to become independent of their parents. However, teenagers should take care not to ignore their parents.
Parents must be aware of the challenges their teenagers go through or are presently going through and be willing to go through their stormy teen years with them, all the way. Most importantly, parents must do all they can, not to be too emotionally distanced from their children.
With all the information available to the teenagers today, they understand little better than their parents did when they were growing up themselves. However, the teenagers still believe same myths and misinformation that have always been shared between adolescents. Parents must be ready and willing to give their children the right information. The physical changes in teenager’s bodies are strange, often frightening, and tough to understand. Teenagers grow at an irregular rate, with girls maturing two to four times faster than boys do, both emotionally and physically. Internally, their bodies feel certain urges and interest, which they express clumsily by teasing the girls hitting them, insulting them, or in some instances talk dirty. All these seem childish and disgusting to the girls who are mature. Surprisingly, the teenage girls are not secure either, they need lots of assurance. They need to be supported, even when they think they are standing on their own.
Today, the teenager who feels lacking in physical beauty or athletic prowess is not only insecure and fearful, but also angry with their parents for not supplying them with the right genetic material or enough money to buy the right clothes. They may even be angry with God for having made them the way they are. Teenagers must know that they have been wonderfully created by God.
One area that teenagers struggle with is externally imposed values and this is referred to as ‘drawing the line’. When children are small, we draw the line for them. We tell them what is right and wrong and they obey or disobey, but during adolescence, children begin to draw this line for themselves. They often want to experiment to find out what it is like to go beyond the line.
Notwithstanding, teenagers must ensure that they draw the line as soon as possible to avoid indulging in self damaging acts. Parents must honour their teenagers’ personal search for values. In addition, parents who allow their children to express themselves will see less rebellion than parents who are always defensive and condemnatory.
For there to be fulfilling teen years, both the teenagers and their parents must endeavour to appreciate one another as this would go a long way in creating a very cordial relationship. Parents should be able to say to their child “I am proud of you.” This provides positive reinforcement than almost anything you could ever do. Parents must encourage their teenagers, even when they have tried and failed. Teenagers must likewise respect and honour their parents irrespective of their parents’ social and economic status.
God has given humans different gifts and abilities and they are all important. Every child is unique in his own God-given shape, interest and behaviour. Therefore, when parents accept this in their children, they would have come a long way in understanding their children. Teenagers must avoid the temptation of comparing themselves with other teenagers in terms of level of intellect, body, shape, ability and soon. Teenagers must appreciate their persons and accept their individual uniqueness and limitation.
The crises in teenagers’ life usually centre on finding independence from the family unit. As children grow older, parents should begin to loosen the screws; that is, instead of giving order, they should dialogue with them; make them to become convinced of the good value being passed on to them. The teens should be encouraged to join youth clubs in church and make friends with other teenagers from homes with sound moral values. In exercising this independence, teenagers must reciprocate their parents love and respect their good judgment.
It is very disheartening to see the society (government), parents, teachers, even the church betraying the young ones, by failing to protect and guard them from being devoured by the wicked. Like Judas Iscariot, we have sold out the future of the leaders of tomorrow out to the enemy for thirty shekels, at the altar of greed and materialism.
It has become very expedient therefore, that all concerned should support teenagers in becoming responsible adults by providing a solid foundation built upon sharing time, experience, good values, trust and love with them. The teenage years are not made to be endured or feared, but to be enjoyed as a wonderful adventure of growth and progress for both the parents and the teenagers, if discreetly and properly managed.
Thankfully, it is not too late. The past is gone, but we can today buy back the future of our children that we have mortgaged, and we will then certainly have a peaceful and great tomorrow. Remember, our children in the future will either be our pleasure or our pain; our gain or our loss.

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