“I have no clue who Ammar chats with all night and is always late for college,” said a disgruntled mom of a 19-year-old.
Another one complained,
“Aaah they are all like this these days, I just can’t tolerate my daughter’s friends. I know they are bad company, but she just can’t stay away from them.”
“My son is suffering from acute bronchitis from smoking sheesha every single day after university,” one mom said sobbing with grief.
An angry dad beat his son blue and black upon finding him watching porn videos on the computer, while Mrs. Ahmed argues with her 18-year-old daughter on proper dress code almost every day.
Being a teacher, an education consultant and a professional who works very close with youth and their families, I come across stories like these almost every day.
Many parents complain that their college and university going children hardly eat a meal at home. A 20-year-old student told me,
“We rarely have any conversation besides few basic information exchanges with my parents.”
While parents often share that they don’t have many conversations with their offspring anymore because,
“They don’t want to talk, are always busy with their gadgets, texting or socializing with their friends.”
One parent said,
“My children hate relatives and try their best to avoid them.”
Conversation and situations like these are rising tremendously in families and social settings, leaving parents confused and helpless to deal with them.
Parenting teenagers and young adults has always been a serious responsibility that comes with challenges. The difference these days is that we as parents are fast failing and are finding it harder than ever before to control situations and respond effectively. The media, social media, communications, drugs, consumerism, unhealthy relationships have all become a part of the society and might as well stay there.
So, what do we parents do?
We can’t give up on our responsibility of leaving behind good citizens and sensible human beings. Many might not agree with me, but the problem is us parents, not the society nor the young people we are raising, nor their friends or gadgets. Remember these young adults came in our lives as babies totally at our mercy to groom and shape their personalities. Then why, one fine day, we have all these complaints from them and we blame society, modern developments, and everyone else out there but us!!
I often find parents talking as if these young adults have come from nowhere living in their families. Not that we are not doing a great job of raising them, it is just that we need to approach it differently and reach out to our children, grow them for their future and not for our past following the legacy of how we were raised in the 60s and 70s.
Times have changed tremendously, let’s face it and work around to prepare our next generations for times unknown and challenges unseen.
Here are some very practical tips on raising our teens and young adults:
- Mould them young
The personality development and belief system start the day you have babies in your arms. By the time they are six-years-old, a lot would have already happened, so begin early. If you start by the time your children are teens and young adults, not much can be done.
- How we want them to behave
Things get worse when we try to have our young agree to how we want to them to behave as opposed to the ideas, practices and route that young adults need to choose or adapt to be successful and accomplished individuals.
- Decision making
Teach your children the skill of decision making right from when they are two or three-years-old, include them in making small decisions leading to major ones as they grow.
- ‘Because I said so’ doesn’t work
Being able to differentiate right from wrong is the single most factor which if inculcated early on their lives, will be a lifelong asset. We as teens of the 70s and 80s used to easily succumb when our parents would tell us,
“Well you will do it because I said so”,
No, these the 21st century millennials won’t do the same, don’t even try to rule them, they are better off being a part of collaborative decision making specially if it involves their lives.
So, work on it together!
- Understanding them
Togetherness and partnership is key to a great relationship with your children, try to understand their lives no matter how many times they say,
“Ammi you won’t understand.”
Trust me you will understand but only if for a while you make them your teacher without judging them, their friends or their lifestyle.
- Let’s cut down on the lectures
Don’t turn all conversations into a ‘naseehat (lecture)’ session, despite how tempted you are and how weird their ideas and choices appear to you. The sole reason why our children don’t converse with us is that we love to lecture them at every single possible occasion and conversation opportunity that we have with them. Instead, ask them questions, have them reflect on their choices, ideas and beliefs, you both will learn and come to a common conclusion.
- Community impact
It takes a community to raise a child; I am a firm believer of this philosophy. Unfortunately, we damage that community impact right from the onset when we gossip and bad mouth our relatives in front of our children. They will never learn to respect them, want to socialise with the relatives or look up to role models in the family. This gap is very fast filled by all sorts of friends, gadgets, and activities that we may not approve of.
- Don’t force it upon them
It’s a human psyche that anything imposed is never long-lasting or successful in bringing desired results. Again, if these young people are in a habit of differentiating right from wrong and have developed advanced decision-making power, it is most likely that we need not force anything on them.
- Engaging in home activities
Engage your children in cooking family meals right from when they are toddlers, grocery shop with them, talk about healthy food choices, and eat together. And yes, eat that meal together without turning the meal table into a courtroom. No wonder these young adults avoid eating at home because we keep lecturing them while they eat.
- Get to know them
Learn to get involved in your children’s hobbies and interests, play sports with them, or at least watch and cheer them. Play Lego or video games with them when they are young. Watch movies or read books together as they grow up and later talk about it. This gives plenty of opportunity for conversations. Talk to them about their friends and school life without judging them.