Managing Issues Of Adolescents
Although parents should be there for their children every step of the way, as they grow, the adolescence period requires even more attention. This is because this period signals the transition from childhood to adulthood. And it could be pretty demanding physically, emotionally and socially, as the growing person is suddenly beset by hitherto unknown feelings and moods, which if not well handled, could be devastating.
How should parents handle this delicate time together with their children, so that they are able to support and guide them to overcome the associated challenges?
Defining adolescence, Dr. Mrs. Chinwe Nwannah, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Akoka, said it falls between 13 and 19 years. However, the physical and psychological changes that occur at this time can start earlier. She explained that adolescence is a period of both disorientation and discovery.
On the steps parents can take to ensure that their adolescent come out as better adult, she said:
“Parents must ensure that they start training their children right from childhood, and shouldn’t wait till adolescence. There is something called primary and secondary socialisation. The primary takes place within the family and this starts from when the child is born, until he/she starts school. At this time, the parents teach the child norms, values and culture of the society, so that the child can become a better citizen or a better person in the society, to behave acceptably. From age two or more, the school, nannies and at times, relatives take over to help the child and build on what the parents had taught earlier. It takes good parenting to know what to teach children. Coming from the Biblical perspective, parents should teach their children as young as possible.”
Nwannah said parents should also teach children by examples, by being their role models. Children learn better and faster with examples. Therefore, it is expedient that parents live in an exemplary manner.
“It is important that parents don’t refrain from spanking a child, whenever he/she is doing something wrong,” she explained. “This is where many parents go wrong. This, however, doesn’t mean that parents should physically abuse the child, while correcting him/her; rather, they are to do so by lovingly correcting the erring child. When you correct children lovingly, and explain to them all the issues involved, they will understand better and change.
“Adolescence is a stage, when children explore a lot, as they want to know everything, as well as, experiment. So, parents should not only tell children not to do something, but also explain why. Also, this is the stage when children tend to perceive their parents as enemies. They believe they are being controlled and subjugated by their parents. This is not saying that parents should not give their children freedom, but it should be done under parental supervision.
“Most times, parents don’t know what to teach or how to correct a child, especially when it comes to sexual issues. This is because most parents are very uncomfortable talking about such topics. Though in the past, people were very uncomfortable discussing sex openly, but the trend is changing now. Most parents, especially the educated ones, who have attended seminars and workshops know how to better teach the children on sex topic.”
She advised that parents should start talking sex to their children, as soon as they know the different parts of their bodies and their functions.“There is what we call the teachable moment. For instance, in the olden days, parents would tell their female children not to allow boys touch them, else they would get pregnant. You can imagine the kind of fears such would put on the girls’ mind, whereas what the parents meant was that, if a man had sex with them, they would get pregnant.
“The teachable moment is better, especially for parents that are not comfortable talking about sex. Some people find it difficult mentioning the word ‘sex’ to their children, as they believe that when you discuss such things with children, they will go wild. But studies have shown that children, who receive sexual education either from their parents or the school, are less likely to be involved or engaged in sexual activities before marriage.
“Parents should also define the programmes their children should watch on the TV. Such training starts from childhood. Parents should teach according to age, and carefully select the words to use in teaching them. But when they are fully grown and have been exposed to biology and the anatomy of human body and sexual organs in school, then they can use the real words.”
Similarly, Akinsanya Adewale Adeyinka, Vice Principal and Head of administration, Janet & John Schools, Gbagada, Lagos, said parents have a lot to do during the adolescence period.
He said: “Knowing that children of adolescent age spend the most useful part of their time in school, with their teachers and other colleagues than they do at home, then parents need to be careful about the choice of school they enroll their children. This is because children are exposed to more influence, peer pressure and peer group in school.
“So, parents should consider such schools as are capable of imparting into their children high level morality, good academic standards and a conducive environment. If a child goes to such a school, the probability of being unduly or negatively influenced will be greatly minimised.
“Parents should also closely scrutinise the teachers in the prospective school, who and what are they like. They need to ascertain that they are not wayward, who must exhibit high level of morality themselves. They must be seen as good and exemplary mentors, who are also responsible and have integrity, and are thus capable of handling adolescents.
“Relating with adolescents is a great task that must be approached very carefully, because during that time, their hormones are running and they want to experience, explore and examine everything that comes their way. They want to practicalise everything, and if proper measures are not taken, it can lead to male teachers’ molestation of female students and female teachers molesting male students in the school. This all boils down to the fact that the teacher’s level of morality wasn’t ascertained. However, if parents must entrust the care of their kids to someone, he/she must be trustworthy.
“The value and content of what is being taught in class also has a part to play in grooming the adolescent to become a better adult. This must be critically examined to ensure that it conforms to the laid down guidance and norms of the society.
“Also, the school needs to involve the students in various activities that will guide them through on what they want to become. For instance, in our school, helping the adolescents goes beyond academics alone, which is why we set up about five different programmes, aimed at teaching students leadership qualities. This allows them to serve as mentees under different mentors under career personalities, who have made impacts on the society. From time to time, we bring them in, while the students also go to the mentors, to observe their terrains and see how things are run there, as well as, how they live on a daily basis. All these things are brought under controlled atmosphere.
“But above all, the most fundamental is religion, which brings us back again to the parents. What kind of religion do they practise and how do they practise it? This is because all religions have one thing in common, which is piety and morality.
“The impact of guidance and counseling in the school is also very crucial, as it helps in paying close attention to the students. For instance, one teacher to 15 students is not good enough to monitor the students’ activities. The work of a counselor is very important, as he/she must always interact with the students, get to know their personalities, what the student is thinking and give recommendations.
“The school can also carry out what is called snap visitation. This is unannounced visitation to the house of the students, all for the purpose of wanting to know how he/she behaves outside school and to be sure that he/she exhibits the right value that is inculcated in school.“The school can also make them one another’s watchdog, by observing the behaviours of other students with whom they live on the same street, neighbourhood, etc.”
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