Saturday, February 18, 2012

Teen years can be so lonely

     I HAVE three teenage children. I may not qualify professionally as an expert of teenage angst or their psychological make-up but I do have first-hand knowledge of dealing with them on a day-to-day basis.

      They are three special people in my life who still have the child in them but who wish to be treated like adults but without the responsibilites. I know there are similar young people in other families too.
Being a teenager today is difficult and I don't envy them. I prefer my boring teenage years because I didn't have any difficult issues to worry about.

      Life was simple: go to school, get good grades, have family holidays, listen to pop music.  Cigarettes, drugs and sex? Those were things as alien and as far away from our reach as the farthest star.

      Now, however, things have changed: nothing in society can be at a standstill.

      For teenagers, there are too many temptations whether in the home (Internet chat rooms and pornographic sites) or away from home. Teenagers have so many options to have fun and parents have too little control.

      Once our children are out the door, we have no idea nor any control over what they do or with whom they spend their time with. If adults cannot resist temptation, why do we expect teenagers to do otherwise?

      The role models they see today are not exactly setting a good example - read the newspapers and there will be at least one report about incest.

      As always, forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter. And if we cannot behave, can we really expect our children to do the right thing?

      Newspapers try to be teenage-friendly with their once-a-week teenage supplements but the young people who do write in about their experiences and who do enjoy working with the papers are not the ones with the problems.

  Teen magazines are a good thing and the editors are fully aware of what is permissable within the pages of their magazines and what are not. But then again, teenagers with problems aren't likely to read them.

    What I think a lot of parents and adults forget is that being a teenager is a difficult thing.

      It is scientifically proven that a teenage boy, once he reaches puberty, has hundreds of times more testosterone in his body. A girl is suddenly aware of her body changes too. We have to see the changes and we have to react.

      It is better to be a nagging parent than to be a distant one.

      At the same time, as soon as we - the parents - refer to our children collectively as "them", then automatically we create an undeclared war of "them" versus us.

      I am guilty of this offence myself and I find I mimic the same worries and the same anxieties as other mothers.

      How often do mothers say, "Oh, you know what teenagers are like?" And with statements like that, we are already telling ourselves they are alien to us.

      Perhaps we shouldn't think of our teenagers as a group of people whom we are unable to understand. Let's not forget that we were teenagers once and we too thought our parents didn't understand us either.

      My belief is that being a teenager is a lonely phase in the life of a child - physically,  emotionally and mentally they are no longer children but neither are they adults. It is a hard place to be.

      When teenagers have problems, they turn to their peers because the constant complaint is, "My parents won't understand". And they are half right.

      We have to make an effort to see things as they do. But usually, as parents, we feel we know life better than they do and stubbornly cling to what we believe is right. True, teenagers need guidance but not if it distances them from parents.

      I asked the opinions of some teenagers and why some of them do the things that they know are wrong.

      The answers varied: some talk about friends who take drugs because they wish to be accepted by other teenagers they consider "cool". Some stay at shopping malls because their parents are at work and it's lonely at home.

      Some say it is out of boredom that they seek solace outside their homes.

      One of the answers that I didn't expect to hear is that teenagers have low selfesteem and without encouragement from their parents, feel worthless.

      They may complain about parents being too strict but actually they want it that way because then they know their parents care.

      The bottom line seems to be, that however much they may grumble about how strict their parents are, they need the attention and concern that the strictness signify.

      I have to admit I am not the greatest mother but I am very proud to be able to say my children are among some of my best friends.

      I know they keep secrets from me but I pray they are not serious ones. I am no psychologist but I reasoned to myself that the only way I can get to `read' their minds is to watch what they see on TV and make them talk about their friends and teachers.

      Whether I like it or not (and most often I don't), I sit on the sofa with my sons and daughter watching television - it is either the nature channels, Disney or Nickelodeon, or MTV.

      I watch while cowering behind a cushion, scenes of crocodiles devouring their prey, or snakes slither with apparent grace. I have watched programmes about bats, spiders, frogs and whatever other animals that are nightmares for parents.

      I watch pop stars scream their guts out _ apparently they are singing what is considered a song although to my adult ears, there is no melody there whatsoever.

      I watch babes and hunks singing hip-hop, R&B, rap and sometimes the odd ballad or two. My eyes and my ears are assaulted with images and sounds that I wouldn't call inspiring but I wouldn't choose it any other way.

      If being with my children means I have to forego my favourite channels, then I will do it, although most of the time I am looking at other things apart from what is on the TV screen.
      As for the music - ah well, I just get stuck to my mystery thriller book and it becomes bearable background noise.

      Parents feel that the authorities are not doing enough to keep their teenage children out of trouble. The authorities, on the other hand, feel it is the parent's duty to do so.

      In fact there is no point in blaming one or the other for all the social ills and problems that take place in our society and for whom the teenagers are particularly susceptible to.

      I may be wrong but I think that everybody and nobody is to blame.

      Instead of talking at our teenage children, it's about time we talk to and be with them. When we've done that, we won't feel we are so clever after all.

     We have questions to ask but if we try, maybe our children can tell us what the answers are.
      The one constant mistake we make is that we always underestimate our children's capabilities. They can be heroes if we believe in them hard enough.

      At least that is what I dream can happen

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