The Adolescent Years – Judy Dimhoikim, Asst. Prof Education, Tetso College

Whoever said growing up is easy might just be wrong. Adolescence – a stage in every students’ life, has its fair share of highs and lows. Just like adults, adolescents have to deal with problems too big to handle or too hard to cope with. What are the causes? How can we deal with the problems of adolescent life? This week, an educator writes to us about the deeper problems of adolescence and also provides solutions on how best we can handle them.

The Adolescent Years 

A friend of mine recently lost her teenage brother due to suicide. Looking back, I only wonder how it could have been avoided if only his parents had put in some extra effort to understand their young son. Or if there were some way he could have tried to view life from a different perspective.
A teenager engaged in gambling, caught up in drugs , crimes , anti-social behaviour, robbery and the most terrible of all – killing oneself, can be avoided only if adolescents are provided proper guidance with an extra amount of love, affection and care. It is sad to hear about parents losing their young sons and daughters because of one reason or the other.
The child undergoing this stage witnesses a great deal of change in almost every aspect of life. The first and most important change visible in the adolescent stage is the physical change. The adolescent experiences severe problems, which are directly related to physical development. The males worry about being too thin or too fat, or having skin blemishes, while the females are disturbed about being too tall, too fat, facial hair and other defects. Some of them are left depressed, disturbed, and frustrated as they do not have the answers to all these changes.

It is no wonder that adolescence is a period of extreme emotional development. At times adolescents show extreme pessimism. Another time they show great optimism. All kinds of emotions like anxiety, fear, love, anger etc. are extreme for them.

This is why in this day and age, sex education should begin at home before the child goes to school. It should be continued during the elementary school years and should receive greater attention of both, the home and the school during the adolescent period. By referring to “sex education”, I do not mean that the course be labelled as such, but that it can be given a non- emotional title such as a course in personal relations, life adjustment or “family living”, phrases that are less intimidating to the conscious sensitivities of adolescents today.

It is important to get down to the root of the problem. Something that all of us, including adolescents must understand is that the basic cause of delinquency is ‘frustration of some kind’. The need for security, independence, recognition, affection is frequently thwarted to such an extent that anti-social behaviour is employed in an effort to relieve the pent- up tensions. Some of the conditions of life which cause frustrations leading to delinquency are poverty, low intelligence, conflicts within the family, a broken home, lack of affection from parents etc. If these basic needs of adolescents are met then delinquent acts would not be committed. In the same breath, if adolescents make an effort to direct their frustrations towards a more positive direction by focussing on aims and goals in their life, this can help them to channelize their energy towards constructiveness.

In order to avoid delinquency, schools and home also have a vital role to play. Firstly, the adolescent should be given enough freedom to express their responsibility. Secondly, as the adolescent is craving for recognition, their opinion should be valued and they should be given a patient hearing. Teachers as well as parents should stop treating the adolescent as children and give them due recognition. Youths are more in need of models than critics. Thirdly, the adolescent should be given proper love by their parents, teachers and their peer group. Fourthly, lack of guidance creates aimlessness and restlessness among the adolescents, so proper guidance should be organised from both inside and outside the school. As far as possible, individual guidance should be provided. Fifthly, an adolescent should be helped to develop interesting educational hobbies. Lastly an adolescent suffers from emotional hunger and so parents, teachers and friends should continuously praise and encourage them.

Teachers and parents should be made well aware about the self-conscious nature of the adolescents. Even if nobody observes them they think that they are being observed by everyone. One measure to deal with this is that they should never be too overtly exposed, especially negatively. We must devote a certain amount of attention towards the needs and problems of the adolescents. It is futile to punish misbehaviour. The root cause should be removed. We must help adolescents to properly train their emotional energy and divert them towards the constructive ends.

Besides parents and teachers, there are certain ways an adolescent can handle himself/herself. It is imperative to understand that every adolescent is unique. Negative comparison with others should be avoided, especially in terms of physique, achievements and abilities. Adolescents should be aware that they are at a stage of great emotional instability.  Strong feelings like love, hatred, anger, sadness, happiness etc are part and parcel of adolescent life. Therefore before an extreme decision is taken, adolescents must not jump to faulty and destructive decisions. Continuous introspection by every adolescent can be a very healthy practice.

No stage of human development has been studied, observed, or speculated about as much as the stage of adolescence. Philosophers, psychologists, educationists, even laymen, have spewed forth a million words on what adolescence is, what adolescents do and what an adult society can do for them. Those who have tried to carefully study this stage in the cycle of life and have taken the trouble to probe the factors that cause the adolescent to be perceived as something or someone extraordinary, have found that adolescence is a normal and integral part of development. However, the needs discussed above are important to aid their development, which ultimately includes both the collective effort of parents, educators and adolescents themselves. 

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