What are the top challenges faced by youth today?
Franklin D. Roosevelt quoted “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”.
The youth of today face challenges which are different than what the earlier generations faced and accordingly they need to be dealt differently. The major ones are as follows:
Expectations- Today the pressure on them to perform is the highest than it ever was in any of the generations before. One of the reasons for this is that, today we are more connected to each other than before due to deluge of social media and this leads to the youth comparing themselves with others in a large way. The divide between the have and have nots is much larger and this leads to discontentment and show off happening from the school level itself. Due to dual income concept, both parents are working and they add to the stress by putting their expectations on the children without having much time to support them emotionally. The young generation today is either running with stress and impatience to achieve or have given up hope of doing anything worthwhile.
Because of these reasons, the youth today pretend to live a lifestyle which is not theirs in the quest to stay up or be connected to the friendships or social group they have built. The constant struggle to be accepted, being a part of the friend’s circle, following the same trend their friends follow has lead the youth to live a fake lifestyle where they seem more happier, more daring and more outgoing than what they truly are.
Distractions- The visual media has replaced text that required more concentration. And it bombards them constantly as mobile as become an inseparable part of life for the youth. Young people have to be on their toes constantly in order to stay updated about the new age apps and have an active participation in them so that they can be a part of various social, professional and other similar social groups. They prowl the city in the nights and wake up when the Sun is hot in the sky.
Easy Access – Because of easy access to anything and everything like the media- display of explicit, luxurious and vulgar content without any edit or filters, it has exposed and introduced the youth to make purchases based on influence and so called brand consciousness that is created by the media and peers. Today they find hard to focus on their studies or career or family as the voices that call out to them are louder than the reality.
Substance abuse- Smoking, consuming alcohol, drugs due to peer pressure in the quest to be accepted by the peers and to follow the so called ‘cool’ trend and easy accessibility of these intoxicants have made the youth weaker emotionally and mentally.
Because of all the above mentioned situations, the youth today is all outside, disconnected from himself, and is living in an illusionary world. Many of them fall into depression when they see that the world is not all that hunky dory and actually has hard realities they need to face and big challenges that have to be surmounted.
Most of the youth today lies in low self-esteem, negativity, dependency, comparison, rigidity and discontentment. Issues related to body image and self-image in front of others are more than ever before. Irrational behaviour and fluctuating behavioural and thinking pattern is common in them. Dependency on others for appreciation and acknowledgement is more than ever before.
The connection with the inner-self is lacking and thus they lack the power and wisdom that comes from within to learn and evolve. I can simply say that today’s youth are driven by pleasure and pain. They run towards things that give thrills and run away or push away from things that seem daunting. They are not able to connect or handle or deal with certain emotions and situations that come to them in reality. This results in most of them becoming rigid, stubborn and aggressive.
Solution Today it is only logic and reasoning that will make them understand and bring them on the right path. It is unlike our times, when we did something just because we were told to do it by our parents and teachers. Spirituality has to be packaged and presented to them in their language, so that they can tune to self-introspection and connect to themselves.
Children issues & their solutions
Academic performance: Lack of focus/ concentration/ memory :
1. Homework: Never do your child’s homework as he won’t learn then. Pay more emphasis on gaining knowledge and learning than just obtaining marks. Guide your children but let him/her do the homework even if they make mistakes. Point them to correct sites on the internet from where they can seek information but let ‘them’ focus on the homework. Ensure guidelines for TV/internet time for child’s benefit.
2. Questions in class: Encourage them to ask questions in class during school time to ensure their doubts get clarified. Attend the PTA meeting and check whether your child is vocal in class or not. Discuss his/her favorite subjects and what he asked in class during casual/dinner conversations.
3. Unrealistic parent expectations: Accept that no child in this world- including yours – is perfect. Shouting or hitting a child just widens the divide and hurts their academic performance also. Key is to be ‘firm’, guide your child when they make mistakes. Children (like adults) also learn when they make mistakes. Have a strict conversation when they ‘repeat’ the mistakes. Praise their accomplishments and highlight ‘lessons learnt’ from mistakes. Some parents are too hard/demanding or have a too soft attitude…. both scenarios are not good. Set ‘reasonable’ academic expectations. A knowledgable student with 80% marks who can speak/write well with good analytical skills is much preferred over a student with 95% with no sound knowledge and communication skills.
RRST Consultation for Children by Neeta Singhal
4. Making resume too late: Most career aspirants make their first resume during the final year of their graduation/studies… which is too late. Ask students in class 11th to make a basic draft resume and over the next 4 to 5 years, ensure that there resume gets enhanced every year with the new skills they learn.
Guidance Most parents resort to instilling fear in the minds of the children and frequently scare them for tough times ahead in case of failure. With a whip even a Lion can jump in a circus but then it is not more than a cat and not self driven. Once parent understands that basic nature of a human is to go towards love, appreciation and success and the reason why the child is underperforming is laziness or fear of hard work or fear of facing life.. then parent can steer towards helping the child to overcome this by Inspiration and encouragement drawn from incidents in their own life and of others. So parents need to excite the child about success, rather than frighten them with failure. Positive self help books of ShivKhera can be given to teenage kids or read out to the younger lot.
Spending too much time on TV /Internet
1. Accept Internet/Offer alternatives: Internet can also be a great learning tool. Do not force your children out of facebook/internet. Social networking is a ‘need’ now and not just an entertainment avenue. Parents should become more computer savvy and add your child as a friend in Facebook. Having said that, do set expectation on how many hours should their children be on TV/Internet. Never take away the computer as the child may get depressed and lonely… set guidelines. Put more creative games in children’s room and spend quality time with your children.
2. Guidelines/Limits: Don’t tell your kids what they should or should not do. Guide them! Both parents must have the same/unified set of guidelines on what is a good amount of time to spend on TV/computer. Tell children the guidelines are not punishments but are there because you ‘care’. First, ensure no computer till the age of 6. For others, suggest upto 3 hours daily of screen (TV and internet combined) time during weekdays and 5 hours on weekend days… that too not at a stretch. Too much screen time impacts a child’s physical, mental, emotional development adversely. Children may lose a sense of keeping track of time, face psychological difficulties or social isolation. Parents need to set a good example by limiting their own TV/internet time.
3. Trust: Don’t sit behind their backs and watch what they are surfing on the internet. You may check their online activity once in a while but trust them. Ensure that children sleep at appropriate time and are not online till past midnight as their body needs the much needed sleep time.
4. Focus of Priorities: Must finish homework first before going online/internet. This will give mental peace to both parents and the child. If the child needs computer access for finishing homework, do check the homework soon after he is finished. Don’t allow children to watch TV while doing homework.
5. Monitor unhealthy information: There is a lot of good, average and trash information available on the internet. Guide your children on how to find out correct, meaningful information when they get school projects. Porn sites full of sickening videos are easily accessible in less than 3 clicks. Keep TV and internet connections out of bedrooms. During dinner/other times, discuss with children what they are watching on TV/internet and their learnings. Avoid computer games full of violence as they propagate aggressive behavior.
Guidance It helps to totally remove TV card and Internet cable and if absolutely necessary also take away mobiles during exam times. Children at this age lack self control, so these measures when done help them eventually. Sacrifice your own TV time also during their exams to support them. Do not get bullied by your children and understand that you have power over them at present which is power of finances. So use that to get them to study and not get diverted by mobile, chatting and Internet. Once the children know that this will be done regularly, they willingly allow these measures without much protest. Working mothers cannot depend on the child to follow TV and Internet schedule. So after discussion with them, print that out on a paper and stick on their study tables, so that they know what period is free for them and what time is for study and be reminded about it. Maybe measures like giving card to maid and then telephoning maid to give back to kids once they confirm they have completed work can be used. Encourage child to do physical activity like cycling, skating, football etc rather than TV or Internet.
Behavioral issues: Stubborn child/Shows disrespect/negative/aggressive/lonely/withdrawn/low confidence.
1. Marital fights and shouting: Children imbibe and learn the most from their parents. Parents having fights in front of children have a long lasting negative impact on their minds. How can you ask them not to shout when the parents themselves shout among themselves? Think! It has 2 effects.. Children either also start showing signs of disrespect/shouting or they may go totally into their shell and become very quiet. So parents must not fight… at least in front of their children. If they do, children should talk to them or intervene.
2. Public scolding: Never scold a child in front of anyone and definitely not in a public place as they would obviously feel very humiliated.
3. Unified approach: For setting expectations, ensuring discipline and seeding right values… both the parents should have a unified approach. Never have a scenario where one parent is protecting or giving opposing views than the other parent as that confuses a child.
4. New surroundings: Sometimes, when a family moves to a new city/locality or child changes school… the child initially may feel lonely which is natural. Socialize a bit by calling parents of children whom he would like to be friends with.
5. Praise: Giving no positive remarks on a child’s accomplishments is harmful. Don’t expect your child and his work to be perfect. Praise even his small achievements, encourage him to do controlled experiments even if he makes mistakes and listen to his/her problems. This helps build a child’s self confidence.
Guidance Remember that whatever the child is seeing around him is being absorbed by him like a sponge. It is most important to have a healthy relationship between the parents as this goes a long way in shaping the child’s character and his view of the world. So for children’s sake, parents need to keep their differences aside. Nothing stabilises and grounds a child more in life than seeing happy parents. Also good relationships with extended family (grand parents, cousins etc) is viewed by the child and this helps him shape his view about value of relations. A child’s behavioural issues stem from attitudes of parents.. so parents should introspect themselves and see how they are treating the child to make him feel so. A child can shape up only by encouragement, support and love and not by insult and fear.
Lack of bonding between parents & children
1. Involve children in decision making process: Parents should get inputs from their children when deciding about some household purchases. Make sure to ask ‘reasons’ of why they are suggesting a particular product/service. You will be surprised by the level of good/objective thinking of your children. If you decide against a child’s decision, don’t forget to give a logical reasoning to them. This will also evolve your child’s decision making process.
2. Give them space: Children more than 10 years old- especially teenagers – want their thoughts to be heard and decisions implemented. So gradually give them some space and let them decide what clothes they want to wear, what friends they want to choose etc. But do observe/ensure they are not taking any critical wrong steps and guide accordingly.
3. Eat together: Have at least 2 meals together every week on the dining table with no music/TV on. Objective here should be to talk as a friend and not probe/examine their behaviour. Listen to them and have a healthy, fun conversation. No criticism. Suggest not to attend any phone calls during this time. Discuss their problems, their best friends/teachers, likes and dislikes.
4. Give undivided attention: Parents and children should spend a few hours with each other without getting distracted with TV, laptop, newspapers etc. Praise them for even their small achievements and ‘guide’ them when they make mistakes. Explore giving surprises to each other (see related section for ideas on this page).
5. Be patient: Don’t expect any child to be perfect. In fact, its better for children to make mistakes during teenage years and learn rather than make mistakes later in life on the job or after they get married… as the consequences would be more severe later. So help them as they explore life, guide them what is acceptable and what is not.
Guidance Spice your time together with loads of humour. Share your experiences at work, your struggling days, memorable events of your growing years, inspirational events etc., Children want to feel proud of their parents and see them as moral ideas.. so talk a lot to them and put yourself in that light. Children love to laugh and they really laugh in excess. Be physical with children and hug and kiss them even if they are grown up. Make it a natural habit to hug your child during family time and TV time together.
Sibling (Brothers/Sisters) Problems among brothers/sisters:
1. Sibling rivalry: Siblings behavior reflects a lot of parental behavior. If the parents are not having a comfortable and happy relationship, then their children most often develop a cold relationship also or tend to fight more. Some parents tend to ‘compare’ their children and create a sense of ‘competition’ between them… which is very unhealthy as it may create an element of jealously between their children. If any child feels that one of his/her brothers/sisters is getting regular preferential attention from any of the parent, they should have a friendly conversation with their parent(s) and tell them how you feel.
2. Conflicts/Fighting: Casual fights are common among children on issues like borrowed stuff not returned, verbal teasing or which TV channel to view etc. Such fights within limits are fine and even helps build relationships as long as no one gets hurt. Parents should not leave the argumentative issues to the children for settlement. Key for parents is to take action almost immediately, listen to the versions of both the siblings and discuss accordingly. Children should keep easily misplaced things in a lock box.
3. Depressed/Quiet sibling: If you feel depressed because one of your other brother/sister is consistently performing better than you or you are not having any special skills as your brother/sister has… well, first stop comparing yourself. Remember, you also might have some other unique skill. Be assured that you will also be successful in life if you try your best and work honestly.
4. Time spent with children: Usually parents end up spending more time with the first child which is natural. More photos, gifts, toys etc for the first child and the attention gets divided 2nd child onwards. Very important for parents to spend equal time and give equitable treatment, love and affection to each child without any bias or preference.
5. Attracted towards sibling: Physical attraction between siblings is considered immoral, socially unacceptable and genetically proven to be not beneficial. An initial attraction towards your sibling might be an initial sense of excitement. Talk and spend more time with other girls/boys and over time, you should be able to get over it.
Guidance Sometimes parents tend to lean towards one child more because of his loving nature. But this has an adverse effect on the other child and he may become withdrawn or too negative. Recognise this sooner or later and take steps to show that you care. Always elder child expects respect and ensure that the younger child gives that. Never undermine the elder sibling in front of younger and always push the younger one to take advice and support from elder one to build bond between them. Give responsibilities only to elder child so that he acts his age and feels proud.
Bullying-Child bullying or getting bullied (Bullying by a child relates to hurting or severe teasing a sibling or a friend)
1. Not addressing a problem soon: Ignoring a problem conveyed by your child (like bullying by someone else) or delaying action compounds the problem. Any bullying needs to be addressed as soon as possible to avoid any mental/physical effect on the child. Common bullying symptoms are body aches, loneliness, showing reluctant to go to school or not playing outside with friends. Listen to your child attentively, reassure him that everything will be ok and take corrective action.
2. Remedial action: Ignore the bullying child first. If bullying persists, talk to him/her and firmly warn verbally not to do again. Never hit the child. If the situation does not change, report the issue to the class teacher/school or even escalate to the bullying child’s parents.
3. Bullying between brothers/sisters: A child usually bullys to either seek attention, get some fun or when (s)he feels that the other child is getting preferential treatment. Parents need to think whether they are spending less time with the child getting bullyed or praising one more than the other.
4. Don’t accept it: Bullying usually happens when the child is more powerful than the one being hurt. Talk to your sibling/friend and convey clearly that you feel bad and any bullying/teasing is not acceptable. If the issue still persists, talk to your parents/teachers.
5. Resist hitting back: Do not hit back or hurt someone physically as that will only make the situation worse.
Guidance If your child tends to get physical, enrol him in activities like boxing, cycling, skating so that he is able to expend the extra energy. Martial arts and Yoga helps child to train his reflexes and use them only when needed and not just out of anger.
Strict parents family scenario:
1. Good intentions: Parents sometimes are paranoid about their children, have fear about their safety and may not trust all their friends. Having said that, they desire and want the best for their children. They have years of experience behind them and act as a guide to ensure their child is set up for success, doesn’t get into trouble and makes the right choices. Best to learn from their wisdom. If children are taking a different approach, that’s fine but its better to discuss the pros/cons of their different path with their parents.
2. Friends of children: Lot of fear in parents minds spawns from the lack of knowledge about their children’s friends and their background. Children should bring over their close friends and have them meet their parents. Then have a casual followup discussion with their parents later about some of them over dinner. Allay their fears if any.
3. Make them comfortable: Parents’ fear that you may take some wrong decision that may harm you in one way or the other. To overcome this, share your successful achievements- howsoever small with them. Start taking small matured decisions, tell them the pros and cons of your choices and as you grow beyond your teens, give them a comfort factor that you are gradually ready to take on the world and can behave responsibly. If you are getting late by more than 30 mins in returning home, call and inform them the reason of your delay. Your parents will start trusting you more.
4. Mutual trusted relationship: Love and respect your parents and they will reciprocate it back. Do not disobey them… more you disobey them, more trust you lose. You can fulfill all your desires once you become an adult but be patient, listen and learn from your parents’ experience. You will thank them for that later…. because they care. Tell them that you understand their guidelines/rules and never get into a conflict with them. If you committed to do something, make it happen to gain their trust.
5. Talk and stay calm: Children must share their life/problems with parents and talk when they can give you undivided attention. If you are not getting their time… tell them that you need to discuss a serious issue. If any parent is crossing the limits of aggression or physically abuses a child, convey specific incidents/examples which are not acceptable and how would they feel if something like that happens to them. If the situation doesn’t change, talk to a responsible/respected relative and seek advice/mediation. Never run away from home as you may face more problems. As you grow, treat your parents as good friends show respect and seek advice on your problems. Even if you don’t get a satisfying answer, this helps in building long term relationship.
Guidance All are not blessed with the perfect set of parents and many of their issues stem from the traumas and struggles they have gone through in their life. So adopting a sense of acceptance and forgiveness and developing self respect and identity goes a long way in giving you a state of balance within yourself. Tomorrow you will be a grown up adult leading life of your choice and your parents will be old and dependent.. Do not let the past pull down your tomorrow.
Children attending too many parties
1. Deadline: Setting a deadline is important as it conveys that parents ‘care’ about their children. Its also necessary from a child’s safety point of view. Hopefully, children appreciate and thank their parent’s oversight. Be a bit flexible on what the ‘return home’ deadline should be depending upon the nature of event your child is attending.
2. Late: Children should make a phone call if late by more than 30 minutes. Also, getting late should be more of an exception than a norm. Late evenings/nights should not compromise your sleep time as it may impact your school the next day.
3. Limit on parties: Depending upon the nature of your social circle, you may decide to limit the number of birthday/other parties to ideally not more than two in a month. This is in the interest of children to ensure their right sleep time and growth/development.
4. Setting up for success: Parents doing this are not setting up their children for success in real life and their children may have difficulty dealing with external world or while performing on job. Children should also discuss/study money matters and understand the value of money by the time they become an adult.
5. Beware of ‘date’ drinks: Do not leave your drink unattended as it might be prone to some mischief from any of your friend.
Guidance For late parties, arrange to pick up child yourself or through a driver. This ensures that teenage kids are safe. Also speak to the mother of the child holding the party so that you are aware of the location and timings. Your child needs freedom but ensure that the rope tied to them has one end in your hand. Keep numbers of couple of their friends ready in your mobile so that you may call to check on them in case he/she is late and not picking call. Keep numbers of some of their teachers also, so that you can call them up to check once a while if acceptable. If a child knows that he/she is monitored, it will ensure that he will not lie about any event.
Surprise your parent/child section
Some creative surprises that you can give to your parent/child to build a long lasting, trusted relationship
Points for Parents
1. Weekend morning surprise: Parents may wake up their kids on a Sunday morning and take them to McDonalds or a restaurant they like for breakfast. Obviously, focus is not food, but spending time together and talk.
2. Surprise play: Suggest or initiate playing a game with kids under 12. With teenagers, just a walk/drive or striking a conversation on mutually interested topics does wonders.
3. Accept mistake: Even parents make mistakes at times… and that’s ok. What’s important is to realize the mistake and be vocal about it. Accept it and spring a surprise by saying ‘Hey sorry guys, I made a mistake.’ Not many parents say this to your parents but it goes a long way to solidify bridges of relationships.
4. Weekend surprise outing: Take them to a movie/mall.
1. Gift movie tickets by booking tickets online and directing details to your parents cell phone. Ensure their availability before booking.
2. Reserve a dinner outing. May also facilitate keeping a framed photograph of your parents at the reserved table before they arrive.
3. Hand over an envelope to them that has an excellent photograph of just your parents along with a nice note.
4. Help do a household chore and volunteer for a task which you usually don’t do.
Guidance Make birthday parties and anniversary special by planning together as a group. A success by a child like getting award or high rank should be celebrated with extended family also so that the child endeavours to repeat it and not lower down. Just go on car rides around the city late at nights with kids for an ice-cream. Kids love family time. Ask kids to plan the weekend and tell you and you will find that they have more ideas than you because of friends.