By Fr. Roy Cimagala
PARENTS of teen-aged children or those still in high school and early college are really up to some tricky and difficult challenge these days. I am sure they would prefer to tackle other kinds of problems than dealing with their adolescent boys and girls who are in the middle of a dizzying process of transformation in their lives.
All of a sudden they discover that their children are becoming independent-minded and even rebellious, who like to stay out of the house most of the time to be with their friends, and many times unmindful of schedules and other responsibilities.
Given the temper of the times and the increasingly distracting character of the environment, the challenge parents face with respect to these children has become complex and complicated indeed.
It’s imperative that parents be adequately prepared to handle this situation. They should not take this responsibility for granted. It certainly does no harm to them if they attend regular parenting formative classes, since there’s always need for reminders of basic things, let alone, keeping abreast with pertinent current developments.
For example, they need to study the implications of the new things that are the common elements in the adolescents’ lives today—the internet, other gadgets, malls, fashions, the use of money and free time, etc.
Dealing with the adolescents is definitely not a matter of controlling them. That is not the way to bring them up properly. It is more a matter of guiding them, of being with them to give them those timely pieces of advice, reminders, suggestions and, yes, corrections. It’s a matter of motivating them to use their freedom and their other talents and endowments correctly.
Everyone passes through this difficult stage, and so parents should readily understand what their children are going through at this stage. Yes, they can draw from their own experience, but they should also deeply realize that there are new things that they really need to know so as to learn how to handle them.
In this regard, parents should always make it a point to create an atmosphere of harmony at home. The idea is to make the home bright and cheerful, never gloomy and tense. Regular and naturally established moments of dialogue and family conversation, in meals and family get-togethers for example, are a must.
It is in these moments that the parents can closely monitor their children and listen to them so as to understand them as well as to teach them. As much as possible, these practices should become normal daily family activities, already in place while the children are still young and very moldable. This will prevent conflicts and war in the family when the children become adolescents.
Very crucial for the children to understand as early as possible is the value of faith and religion, the need for prayer, the sacraments and virtues, the development of the proper sense of rights, duties and responsibilities, etc.
Children have to know the value of time, the vital and intrinsic relation between work, study and rest. They have to learn how to deal with their emotions and passions. They have to realize the organic connection between freedom and responsibility.
These have to be taught, of course, in a gradual way, as in an inclined plane, always considering the concrete conditions of the children and the circumstances of time and place. In this regard, parents should be pro-active, taking the initiative to plan the formative program of their children and not wait for problems to arise before they move.
This is all worth the effort. There’s no bigger concern to the parents than the proper upbringing of their children.
Parents, of course, should set good example first before they talk. Adolescents are most sensitive and resentful when given lectures. But when they see their parents walking their talk, they readily obey and follow. Actions speaks louder than words.
Parents have to know how to tackle the relevant issues affecting their children—pornography, laziness and idleness, complacency, consumerism and materialism, affections and affairs of the heart, human sexuality, the ‘barkada,’ etc.
In this regard, a certain firmness and clarity has to be exercised even if affection and understanding should never be lacking.
That’s why a good degree of intimacy between parents and children should always be maintained and developed. Parents should take the lead in this, always coming up with initiatives—like planning excursions, eat-outs, fiestas, birthday celebrations, etc., plus continuing personal chats. These things should not be taken for granted.
The art of motivating children should be mastered. Children need constant affirmations of parental love.