Teenage is a period when an individual forms his beliefs and values about life that is mostly shaped by the experiences happening in life. Teenagers are vulnerable to all sorts of attractions and distractions as they are in a state of peak mental, emotional and physical development. Recklessness rules their personality and the habit to question values and principles becomes a common practice. Most of them never even second guess in breaking rules or defying them, though with the tinge of guilt in their minds. Even if they will do something that is considered morally wrong, they will carry a heavy burden in their minds. Eventually, they will hide the truth, if they don't have a friend, supportive teachers or loving parents to share their dilemmas.
Emotional Support for Teenagers: The Vital Fundamental of Parenting
Be it you or me, we all have been there. Being from a family of teetotalers, I carried a huge guilt when I first smoked a cigarette and boozed out at a friend's party. Same may be the case with you, or for that matter, with all parents and seniors. I was afraid of my parent's reaction. What will they think? Won't they be disappointed by my behavior? I have brought a bad name to them. And so on. Questions haunted my mind day and night unless I opened up to my father and told him the truth. It was the defining moment in my relationship with my father, who handled me with poise, equanimity, love, care and with some tinge of humor. After that incident, dilemmas of right and wrong have always confronted me but in the gradual process of growing up, they have been dealt with as per the situation. Why I'm laying stress on the need of support is that teenagers always need some healthy levels of emotional support from closed ones. If they are not getting the respect, love and a emotionally supportive atmosphere in their homes, they become restless and eventually, drift away from the normal course of behavior.
Excerpts from the Journals of Teenagers
There are countless number of things that circulate in a teenage mind especially because they lack the emotional maturity to take the wisest decision. Some typical examples of moral dilemmas for teenagers include the following.
※ I cheated in the maths paper yesterday. I was nervous but I ended up copying few sums from Lucy, sitting next to me. If everyone is doing it, why shouldn't I? It was just a matter of few marks. After all, I'm didn't copy the entire paper.
※ Ten days are left in this month. I have sufficient pocket money to manage the remaining days. But John, my best buddy, needs money to buy books. Should I ask dad for some more money? No. No. He will be upset. He has to manage the house, after all. But then, John is facing financial problems. He has requested me for help. Shouldn't I help him?
※ Whenever I go out with my friends, it is Kevin who buys snacks for me, even if I say no. Being in a group of friends who have sufficient pocket money to spend for hangouts, I find it embarrassing to borrow money from him. He is my closest friend and he never asks for his money. But it is wrong from my side. I don't feel good every time he pays for it. Should I quit the group or tell Kevin what I feel? But why should he leave the group just because of me? Should I ask my parents to increase my pocket money? Well, it won't work, I think.
※ Sally, my classmate is celebrating her 14th birthday tomorrow. She has invited me and Linda, my close friend for a grand party. But the problem is she has also invited Melinda in the party. Melinda is the same girl who verbally abused Linda couple of days ago. Linda is not going in the party, she has emphatically told me so. Sally is my good friend. Now, If I go, Linda won't talk to me. If I don't go, Sally would be upset. Should I talk to Linda and explain her my situation? Should I hurt Sally on her birthday? Won't Linda understand my situation, she knows me well. Huh, it is terrible to choose between two close friends.
※ Samantha has been my close friend for the past four years. We both are in high school and she is planning to move on to a different state after her high school. Of late, I have observed she is getting closer to Jack, another guy in my class. She has been behaving a bit different with me, nowadays. I don't understand why. All of a sudden, Jack has surfaced in my close friendship with Samantha. I know he is good in sports but I'm equally smart in literature. I don't know what feelings I have for Samantha but I miss her not talking to me now, as she used to do earlier. I tried to ask mom about all this stuff going on in my mind but she was busy on phone, to understand my situation. I think I should write dad a letter asking for some advice. That will work.
※ Why do mom and dad fight every time I'm there? What have I done? They don't help in my home works. They give me food and clothing but what about the love? Now, they are getting divorced. I don't want to live with either of them. Though, I will miss mom if she is not there. Wish I could tell them all this.
Helping Teenagers Deal with Inner Conflicts
✔ Never force them to accept anything. Explain them what you want to say, with care, love and probably positive examples.
✔ Right from their childhood give them healthy doses of values and principles. The first step in such cases is to inculcate healthy habits in their personality. Good habits create tremendous discipline and confidence in kids.
✔ Be the right role model. Children grow up watching us. If we are fighting and complaining, they will end up doing the same.
✔ Broaden their horizons by giving them good books to read. Don't enforce principles and rules like a dictator. Remember, teenagers need time to accept things.
✔ Don't just explain what is wrong. That brings unnecessary amount of pressure and guilt as teenagers just focus on end result. Always focus on why a certain thing is wrong. Don't just say, "smoking is wrong". It is a negative way to shrink their horizon and maturity. Instead, make them understand how smoking kills lungs. Take examples from their biology lessons. Show them examples of people around them who are suffering from lung diseases due to smoking. That will go in their heads easily.
✔ Help them understand that reel life and real life are two different things. Not all that is shown on TV is real and must be followed.
✔ Encourage your children by awarding them gifts based on their achievements. If you celebrate their little successes and appreciate their efforts, they will be overjoyed.
✔ Don't stop teenagers from presenting their viewpoints. Now this habit is developed right from childhood. Whenever your kid wants to say something, listen to him or her patiently, without dominating. You must assure that your kids are able to speak about their wants, needs and what they feel. If they won't open to you, it will eventually bring in lack of communication in your relationship with them.
Helping kids deal with moral dilemmas is an essential step parents must take. The role of teachers can't be underestimated in this endeavor because teenagers are often influenced by their teachers. There are lots of interactive class room group exercises through which teachers can help teenagers understand several situations in which issues related to right, wrong and morality arise frequently. Once the teenagers grow as confident adults, their outlook broadens and they will be able to live a life completely based on their own intuition and understanding. It is the greatest responsibility on parents - to make their teenagers a responsible citizen.