Adolescence is without doubt one of the most important transitional stages in the life of every human being. The reason why I call adolescence a transitional stage is because, an adolescent is neither a child nor an adult! Children view the adolescent as one of them and they wonder why bhaiya (elder brother) or didi (elder sister) is no longer playing with them. Elders, parents and teachers remonstrate with the adolescent for being absent-minded,and careless. Little do they know that the adolescent might be preoccupied and trying to come to terms with his or her sexual, psychological, physiological, and, hormonal changes. The growth of hair on the face in boys, a moustache and a beard, the change in the pitch of the voice, the growth of a bust in girls, gaining of weight, growth of hips, and the monthly periods are all confusing moments for adolescents. This confusion could be lessened if the parents talked to their children counselled them, and told them about proper hygiene! Parents however find it difficult to talk to their growing children about the sexual, hormonal and physical changes taking place. Parents blame it on prudery, propriety and shame which they themselves feel in discussing issues related to the adolescence with their children.
When a child enters into adolescence he or she begins to build up a new character which will be his final character till the end. The adolescent would become either extremely introverted, or extroverted. Garrulousness, noisiness, forming up of gangs, mood swings, and destructiveness would no doubt,cause both parents and teachers a great deal of anxiety. Teachers end up calling such students as problem children, useless students, and good for nothing! In schools of Delhi, adolescents quickly form into groups and act as a single unit (no wonder there are incidents of so called gang wars, where groups of students clash with each other). Loners become subject to bullying and teasing by groups. Adolescents start deciding what is hep, and what is not. The leaders of the groups in schools set trends which are followed by their friends. Justin Bieber is a hero for adolescents in Delhi. It is fashionable to smoke, it is fashionable to drink beer, and the leader also tries to set the pace of teaching in class. Silly questions, funny remarks are passed to irritate the teacher because the students don’t want to learn during that period. All this could have been avoided if only the teacher had been approachable enough and alert enough to see that his students are bored and need change!
In Haryana also, adolescents have the same issues as their brothers in Delhi, and parents and teachers face the same problems. The only difference is that in rural Haryana, anonymity is unheard of , so everyone is aware about what the children are doing outside school, or inside school.Unlike in Delhi, the anonymity of the metro stations, multiplexes, and shopping malls does not exist! Justin Bieber might not be the cult figure for an adolescent in a rural town of Haryana but a cricket player, be it Dhoni or Tendulkar or a film star would be common to both adolescents in Delhi or a rural town in Haryana. It goes without saying that this is an impressionable stage for the child and he is quick to identify with his or her cult figure! Teachers who are tactful, understanding approachable and have a firm knowledge of their subjects can also be idols for their students.
The challenge before the parents and teachers is to be patient and tactful with adolescents. Harshness, distance unapproachability and insensitivity are bound to create problems as far as handling adolescents is concerned. The ability to be a good listener, empathy, along with some strictness is a valuable character trait is a good teacher or parent. In India where there is a shift from a joint family system to a nuclear family system, the child needs to be given time by the parents. In nuclear families where both parents go out to work, the child might not be getting enough time with his or her parents resulting in further alienation between the parents and the child. Often this results in the adolescent resorting to bullying other children in class, or perhaps being noisy in class, or even disrupting the lesson being taught in class. Such a child is, in effect, crying out for help, he needs attention and guidance which he is not getting at home. It is here that the teacher steps in as a mentor and a guide. The good teacher is after all a second parent. Often, it is by setting an example of hard work and honesty that the teacher will endear himself to the teenager!
The challenges before everyone are great, but not insurmountable. The advent of the Information Technology age has brought with it both advantages and disadvantages. Easy access to porn sites, wide spread circulation of objectionable material on multi-media cell phones, lack of supervision of adults when children access the internet, have all added to the confusion of the adolescent. Being bombarded with vast amounts of information (most of it useless) is a matter of concern. The adolescent might not be able to sift through information on the net, and so he might need adult supervision. In this age of Information explosion, the adolescent is spoilt for choice! The adolescent is not yet an adult, and he still needs guidance. He or she needs to be told that steroids are not the best way of achieving his film star’s six pack abs! The child has to be told that excellence in education is as important and excellence in sport. Gregariousness and promiscuity are important emerging character traits in the adolescent.Being an impressionable age, the adolescent is quick to adopt a role model. It is important therefore that the child is exposed to only those role models who are really outstanding and worth following. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that even parents and teachers can become role-models for their children if only they took care to be really honest and sincere!
Parents should take interest in learning about the kind of company their children keep. It is important to communicate with your children.The instilling of sound moral values, teachings from the scriptures, contact with grand parents, teaching of respect for others, all play an important role in shaping the life of an adolescent! While the teaching of sex-education might be frowned upon at the school level, the teaching of moral values, teachings from the scriptures, and loads of co-curricular activities in school might do wonders for the adolescent!