Have you ever looked at your teen and wondered if by some chance an unknown hostile being had suddenly taken over their body? I mean how could such a loving, sweet smelling and cuddly baby suddenly turn into such and angry and unfriendly child so fast? Do not despair. You are not alone.
Many parents and guardians agree that the teenage stage could possibly be the most confusing and conflicting time of children’s lives. The sheer enormity of what teens have to deal with these days is certainly overwhelming. Unfortunately, these issues are not going to go away anytime soon. They may even get worse. So what are we to do to help them through this trying stage? In this article, we will go into the world of a typical 21st century teen, look at just a few of what they are faced with and see what can be done to make life easier for us all.
Social issues of the modern day teen
• Peer pressure
It is a known fact that man is a social animal. So are teenagers. They want to be like their friends or famous celebrities, we all at one or the other went through that stage. Peer pressure could actually bring out positive traits in a child. Depending on who they are “hanging out” with, they could actually become interested in good activities like sports or crafts.
However, when the influence makes the teen do, say or act in a way they wouldn’t normally then there could be a problem. It could manifest in a drastic change in hair or dressing style, music tastes and so on. A major danger of peer pressure is the deep desire to be accepted or to impress. When the aim is not achieved and the teen is rejected even after trying so hard it leads to major internal conflict that could last a lifetime. This takes us to the next issue.
• Self esteem / confidence
Your child may feel that the only way to be accepted into the “group” is by acting and looking like the “group”. If accepted into the group, teens would naturally do all they can to remain in. Sometimes even doing things they have specifically been raised not to indulge in. On the other hand, failure to be accepted would make them feel inadequate and unwanted. Feelings of self doubt and anger would follow. Lashing out suddenly, wanting to be left alone are some signs of rejection and low self confidence.
• Cyber bullying
Most adults, including me, have experienced bullying incidents at one time or the other while growing up. It’s almost like a rite of passage for school age children. Sadly, advances in technology have made it transform into something so sinister, even the authorities cannot fully protect teens from. The ease with which the Internet can be accessed by even pre-teens is frightening. Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace have made it possible for people who have major issues in their personal lives to prey on youngsters. Many of these online predators are sometimes decades older than the kids they attack. The internet gives them the perfect opportunity to mask their real identities and many times they get away with these disgusting attacks on teens.
• Violence in media and games
I shudder when I see the kind of games and cartoons available these days. Blood flows freely everywhere and body parts are littered on the floors. There appears to be no escape as even the news shows violence on T.V. Cartoons which used to be innocent and clean have become a major avenue for depicting acts of violence and decapitation. Popular games hardly have any one scene without an act of violence of the other. Kids are encouraged to take an active part and win by using any means available to “kill” their opponents. You soon find that even while playing with each other teen siblings or friends commonly use violent phrases they learnt from these media to communicate. They even practice these acts on household pets to the shock of their parents. The message being passed seems to be “kill, hurt and maim” and quickly too!
• Sexual pressure
Sex is everywhere you look and trust me, the teens are looking whether they want to or not. The pressure to get rid of their virginity is unbelievable. Many parents are still uncomfortable to have “the Talk” with their teenage kids. The children have no choice than to turn to their friends for answers. Too many then end up engaging in what they are really not ready for. No wonder teenage pregnancies and STDs are steadily on the rise each year.
• Substance and alcohol abuse
Let’s face it. Teenagers want to look cool. A stick of cigarette, a shot of alcohol and a dose of pills are not that difficult to get anymore and the age of users is getting younger. Addiction quickly follows. It is now rare to meet a teen that has not tried at least one of these substances yet. This is a particularly nasty and life threatening danger if not quickly checked.
So what do we do and how can we protect these precious lives in our care?
• Do not blame yourself if your teen has gotten entangled in negative habits.
• Shouting, screaming, crying and other outbursts of emotion would not help and will most likely push the child further away from you. Learn to speak with them in a calm and gentle tone. It’s hard when you are screaming inside but it works.
• Take time to understand what your child is feeling, make them realize you are there for them and will always be NO MATTER WHAT.
• From a very young age, encourage your kids to speak out their opinions and make little decisions around the house. This helps boost their self esteem.
• Talk to them about sex as soon as they begin to ask questions about male and female body parts. Let them know in details the implications of sex as they grow older.
• Install parental control measures on their internet and Television access.
• Encourage them to bring their friends home. Interact with their friends without being judgmental.
• Treat them with respect.
This article is by no means exhaustive. There are still many things out there teens contend with but with a little care and understanding on our part, we can greatly reduce the effects on them.