Teenagers are considered to be the black sheep of the family and a pain to parents. This is especially so as they enter the transition from childhood to almost the adult they wish to be. It is a given biological period but it is also a critical age which determines who the child becomes as an adult.
Teenagehood, or rather adolescence is the period between the ages of ages 12 to 20. The biological event of puberty unleashes a powerful set of changes in the adolescent body that reflect in a teenager’s sexual, emotional, cultural and/or spiritual passion.Often, it is tough to go through these new grounds. Since each stage of life has its own unique gift to give humanity, teenagers are said to be curious little beings who are rebels to authority. They are explorers and passionate risk takers who obliviously know everything.
“I think people are wrong when they say it is tough being an adult. The real tough stage of life is that of a teenager. This is the stage that determines who you become as an adult. And just for the record, the challenges faced by teenagers are more compared to parental responsibilities faced by adults. The only difference is that they face these challenges with a matured approach,” said 25-year old Festus Itana.
In Namibia, the teenage pregnancy rate is on the increase. Often, you have a 15-year old father who now has to assume enormous, insurmountable responsibilities in caring for a baby. The same age group also seeks to portray a good appearance in Eveline Street and are slowly but surely drowning in all sorts of beverages. Many feature in the jail census and decorate the street pavements at night. Young adults are unemployed and out of school.
Their troubles are not only limited to drinking and unsafe sex, but their abilities are severly compromised when it comes judgment as reflected in the choices they make. Those with wisdom in abundance share their insights with their peers but it often goes in through one ear and out another. “A teenager always wants to try out things that their elders tell them not to do. If they are told to stay away from sex, they will try it out; if girls are told to stay away from boys, in fact, they just want to be closer. If they are told to be serious with life, they respond with the You Only Live Once talk,” shared Martin Absalom who became a father by the age of 15 when he just entered high school.
Martin adds that as a teenager, all he wanted was to enjoy life and fit in circles that did not necessary build him. “I started smoking just for fun. Then I started drinking just because everybody around me was taking a sip. At some point, I also stayed away from school because I felt it was just a waste of time.” Martin failed his grade 10 and when responsibilities started hitting hard, with a child on the side, he joined the army where he has worked until today. “If only I listened, I think I would have had a better job and not just a job for the sake of working. Many of the young men and women you see working in shops and small jobs refused to listen to people’s advice once upon a time and are only realizing this truth now,” he said.
While transition period is big on trouble and going loose when not properly advised, issues of disorientation and discovery play a big role in how teens somehow get off road. The sudden romantic interest and external appearance has been pointed as the turning point if not monitored. Ultimately, it all boils down to the strength of the environment in which teenage hood finds the child.
The role of the parent
“Personally, I have beaten by my parents whenever I did not follow their orders. I grew up with the fear of doing things my elders didn’t like. I couldn’t even try things in secret because I thought they would find out anyways. At some occasions, they took me to the prisons to see how those who did not listen to their parents ended up. They took me to the hospitals to see the patients living with HIV and warned me to stay away from sexual activities. This was a fear factor in my life and it made me to stay away from so many things. When I look at these things today, I laugh but I am equally grateful for surviving this stage, a few of my friends who were then after the good life are now still on the streets,” shared Selma Kaumbi who is now a Life Skills teacher.
While Selma managed to cruise her teenage life without many challenges, she says that the method may not work with every child and thus parents need to explore other alternatives. “Teenagers are hard headed, you can show them the reality of life now and minutes later, they go back to the old.” She advises parents to create a relationship with their children as soon as they are born such that the child knows there are people who care and trust them. Children want parents to always have a solution and this is vital. But time and again, experience with parents fall short of this expectancy so the child makes their own discoveries and their great need for independence pushes them to find their own solution.
“You can imagine a child who does not have a strong relationship parents and they move from the village to the city for schooling. We have 16 to 19 year olds in Windhoek renting and are all on their own. They have no parental eye looking at them every time. A child whose parents did not play their role in educating them about the possible challenges they may face can fall short of the right choices as they take on the word.”
“Beating today’s children has its pros and cons, but I believe the best method to deal with children is to create that relationship of trust. It is a fact that most teenagers do not tell the truth but it helps when the parent is truthful themselves and this starts as early as possible.’
She believes that through this way, parents open the window and opportunity where they can now caution their children about drinking, sex, stealing, choices and staying out of trouble in general. They can then punish them and the children actually understand their wrong doing.
“Children need to have their parents as their first point of reference. By the time a boy comes and tries to draw the girl into bed, the father would already have cautioned against the existence of such evils. Equally, the moment the boy’s friends try to make him take the drugs, he would already know that it is not good for his health and thus say no. but this can only be a s such when the parents have engaged the teenage,” said the Life Skills teacher and mother of two.
Teens need to act too
While it is true that children are more vulnerable and volatile to influence in their teenage years, much of how they go through this period is heavily on their shoulders. With their known rebellious outlook to life, the teenage equally has to play a role in making sure their life does not take the wrong turns. “Firstly, teens have to look at the bigger picture through the lenses of honesty. It is only then that they will understand that who they are in 5 years is determined by their actions today. While it is the responsibility of our parent to introduce the reality to us, it is fully our duty to interpret it correctly such that we do not lie to ourselves,” advised Martin.
Martin is of the opinion that teens need to realize that fast world bring them nothing but early crashes. He made reference to the urge to drink, follow trends and to fit in at all time.
“My parents used to tell me not to rush for sex because it will not go anywhere and in fact, it is only now as an adult that I understand the maturity one needs to acquire before going to bed with every ‘cool’ person. It is basic knowledge that alcohol and drugs are not good for any soul so teenagers need to understand this. If this is a tough one to comprehend, I am sure there are so many people in their surrounding who have failed because they messed up as teenagers- this are living and walking testimonies teens can learn from. If they do not make the right choices, they will end up pretty much like those who they see have failed.”