Someone once told me that adolescence is the most wonderful time of a person’s life. As a 14-year-old, I have to say I do not feel that wonderful. Teenagers are supposed to be leading a wonderfully easy life: full of fun and free of stress. Their sole responsibility is to study hard, which according to adults, is a simple task. However, living the life of a teenager is not that easy. Some of them would even describe it as a horrendously awful experience that they can do without. Here are some problems that confront adolescents today.
As society becomes more competitive with each passing year, teenagers face increasing pressure to excel. Even from a tender age, they are loaded with tons of assessment books. They are drilled to work hard and long, with their well-meaning parents breathing down their necks to make sure that they do well academically. As a consequence, many of them are brought up to fear failure; they must not let their parents down. To make matters worse, some parents are known to impose their unfulfilled dreams and wishes on their children. Woes betide teenagers if they are unable to live up to their parents’ high expectations. Their parents will reproach them and even make deprecating remarks and endless comparisons between them and the neighbours’ children. Eventually, arguments break out and the relationship is strained.
In school, teenagers are faced with immense mental strain. Assignment after assignment, project after project – life is one big cycle of schoolwork. Many students often feel like “walking zombies” memorising and regurgitating all those mathematical formulae and historical dates. As if all the schoolwork is not enough, they are constantly bombarded with tests and examinations. In addition, they are expected to excel in extra-curricular activities like sports and music, causing them to undergo added stress.
The hectic education system leaves teenagers little time for social activities and hence, greatly hinders their personal development. Some of them may become reserved, to the extent of being anti-social. Their primary concern is to score distinctions; what becomes of their social life takes a backseat. This kind of thinking eventually filters into adulthood, which explains why many adults put more emphasis on establishing their careers than on starting a family.
When teenagers cannot withstand the demands of this modern society, they turn to their friends for support. Peers are an important influence on behaviour during adolescence and teenagers often find it difficult to resist peer pressure. While peer pressure can have positive effects on teenagers when they are inspired by their peers towards positive behaviour such as volunteering for charity, it can also affect them negatively. This is because peer conformity among teenagers is commonly linked to episodes of adolescent risk-taking like underage drinking and smoking, shoplifting and drug abuse as these activities usually take place in the company of peers. Therefore, when teenagers associate themselves with bad company, they may engage in risky behaviours and become juvenile delinquents.
Some teenagers also face problems with their love lives. Boy-girl relationships are becoming increasingly common among teenagers. Curious about many things, teenagers are more than eager to try them out. Though not without good effects, these infatuations have their negative consequences. Whilst a relationship may help to alleviate the stress of schoolwork, it in turn gives rise to emotional pain when it fails to work out.
The complicated stresses and strains that teenagers face can be quite unbearable. How then can they make their teen years a fun-filled experience?
They can do many things such as planning their time between work and play wisely for a start. They can also share their problems with a counsellor or even their parents. Having regular communication with their parents will ultimately lead to better understanding. Furthermore, a harmonious and cohesive family is a safety net that will provide emotional support when they need it. As for friendships, teenagers must bear in mind that they are vulnerable to peer pressure and exercise caution when they make new friends. Similarly, when it comes to affairs of the heart, they should deliberate over entering into a relationship with the opposite sex to avoid unnecessary heartaches. Only when they become more mature and responsible should they seriously think about a romantic involvement.
Finally, teenagers should note that the various obstacles they face are there for a good reason. As the aphorism goes, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” Once teenagers learn how to cope with each and every problem, they will be stronger and more able to deal with the challenges ahead. Although adolescence may not always be smooth-sailing, it is still a very special phase to be cherished.
Secondary 3, 2010, English Tuition