By Francis Ewherido
I often beg my children that they should not allow pollutants to contaminate their thoughts and minds; that their thoughts should be the dominant paradigm in their peer group.
I also remind them that nobody in this world, except God, can love them more than their parents.
In addition, I drum it into their heads from cradle that there is nothing they cannot discuss with their parents and if anybody tells them not to tell their parents anything, that person is evil.
The odds are heavily stacked against today’s parents, but we must take the bull by the horn.
Parents must also help their adolescent children sort out the contradictions that inevitably arise at this stage of their lives. For instance, their bodies tell them that they are old enough to have sex, but the Bible (Quran) says something to the contrary.
Do you allow their peers to help them “resolve” the contradiction like many of our parents did in the past, or you look for an ingenious way to sort it out? Many parents find it very difficult discussing sex with their children. In truth, it is not an easy topic to discuss with children.
One very helpful way is to allow your Bible (Quran) do the talking while you amplify. The major advantage here is that the children know this is God and not their parents talking.
The other advantage is that if as a parent you have a personal failing that can erode your credibility, the fact that you are only quoting a higher authority helps.
*But parents must bridge, if not eliminate, the gulf between what they say and what they do. Children get confused when you preach one thing and do different things. As they grow into adolescence, they begin to resent you; some adolescents hate hypocritical parents.
Another strategy is to be frank with them about sex. No need telling your children that sex is a bitter experience, because their peers and school mates have already told them that it is pleasure beyond description and comprehension. They should rather be told the dangers of sex when engaged in inappropriately.
Thankfully, even children in primary school now know that the HIV virus that leads to AIDS is transmitted primarily through sex. Adolescents should be aware of the dangers of engaging in sex at an early age.
Beyond sexually transmitted diseases and emotional trauma, it can result in teenage pregnancies and complications during childbirth. Pregnancies thrust upon adolescents responsibilities they are physically, emotionally and financially unprepared for.
Apart from disrupting education, a child outside wedlock diminishes the stock of a young girl. Adolescents must know the consequences of the choices they make. You owe them that as a parent.
We can also help our children through adolescence by guiding them on the journey of self-discovery and living their passions. This can help keep the child busy and focussed. Parents must also guide their children on the proper use of the internet. There is limitless information on the internet to help adolescents develop themselves and enhance their innate endowments.
There should also be restrictions and rules for usage of the social media. For instance, parents should be friends with their children on Facebook, so they can be followed on their activities. Children should not be allowed to have strangers as friends on Facebook. I also feel children should get to a certain age before they are allowed to have personal cell phones.
Now that they are on holiday, discuss with them and agree on what they will do to get them busy. There are youth camps, youth programmes and other activities. Do not leave them to watch television 24 hours a day or allow them to be idle. An idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop.
Whether or not we like it, adolescents will do stupid and dumb things; they will be involved in activities they are too ashamed to let parents into; they will gamble and take foolish risks; they will make mistakes, they might stray.
Proverbs 22v15 says “children just naturally do silly, careless things…” What is important is a solid foundation, so that when the storm subsides, they will see clearly, realise whose sons/daughters they are and retrace their steps. Proverbs 22:6 says: “train a child the way he should go and when he grows up, he will not depart from it.”
Very true! Our religious beliefs are very good sources for character formation. Parents without religious beliefs have natural law to guide them. Natural law was partly what our forebears used before the advent of Christianity and Islam. Our parental prayer is that young people do not do irreparable damage before they come to their senses.
If you read stories of armed robbery suspects, one of the recurring decimal is parental neglect at some stage of development. We must make out quality time for our children, especially during the early stages when they are most vulnerable. These days some parents sacrifice their careers or engage in economic pursuit that will give them room to give their children quality time. All parents should come up with an arrangement that enables at least one of the two parents give quality time to the children.
This naturally brings us to the family size. We have dwelt on it extensively on this page (Before Number four, Saturday Vanguard, July 5 and 12, 2014), but it is important to reiterate, even at the risk of sounding like a broken record: “Bear only children you can adequately cater for and give quality time.”