Many parents Indian and otherwise find it difficult to talk with their teens about the issues that they face everyday - peer pressure, smoking, drugs, dating, sex, etc. I found it just as difficult getting any teens to agree to talk with me about these for an interview. But one young girl steppped up to the plate and spoke candidly with me. Here is the article that was published in India New England Newspaper last week.
YOUTH LIFESTYLE: Teen Talk
By Simran Silva
Editor’s Note: This project was to evolve as a conversation with a few South Asian teens about everyday issues they face. Unfortunately, getting teens to talk on record was quite a challenge. This article therefore looks only at one teen’s views. It is by no means meant to encompass all teens’ views on the topics discussed. If you are a teen and would like to contribute to the conversation, please send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org with relevant contact information. Anonymous letters will not be accepted.
Today’s youth don’t have it as easy as they did years ago. They are not only dealing with routine things such as life with family, friends and school but also the pressures and situations that some may not realize.
As adults, talking with them is essential but equally important is listening to them, hear what they have to say.
They may surprise or embarrass us with their questions and answers. Nonetheless, if we are to help them, we need to know exactly what they are facing, how it affects them and how they feel about it. It is normal that the embarrassment is there when discussing delicate matters. However, if we don’t have meaningful discussions and leave it to chance, we are asking for trouble.
Peer pressure has taken on a whole new meaning — not subtle for the most part, it entails issues that we sometimes don’t want to discuss. Yet, these issues are real and need to be addressed if we are going to keep our youth safe and help them become healthy adults. None are immune to the stresses and pressures thrown on us by life but with definite support groups in place and professional help they can be victorious.
Parents are not the only ones who feel uncomfortable discussing certain subjects openly; the teens are equally uncomfortable going to their parents or other adults, which is why they turn to each other, creating a recipe for disaster as it becomes a situation where the blind are leading the blind.
Issues like binge drinking, smoking, depression, drugs, dating and teen pregnancy are some of the main concerns facing our youth today, but talking about them and getting help still remains taboo in many instances.
Case in point, there were several teens that were asked to join in this discussion and they agreed to do so, until they read the questions. Many asked if their names had to be mentioned others came right out and said that the questions were too personal and embarrassing and decided not to contribute. However, a courageous young girl of 13, Natasha Sharma did answer them candidly. Speaking on the subjects of parents, peer pressure, dating, spirituality, school and drugs/drinking, this is the essence of what she had to say.
“I believe that honoring your parents is important. I mean they are the ones that work hard to put a roof over your head and food on the table. One of the things you can do for the things they have done for you is to respect and honor them.
They are wise, they have been in certain situations that might be very new to you and I believe that they deserve to know and they might be able to help you out. I look for guidance in my parents when I don’t know what to do and they advice me to do things that make my situations better. C’mon they’re parents they just know much more. Because they love you, they don’t want their kids getting in trouble or getting hurt. And it’s important for them to know where you are because then they aren’t worried that much and they know where to look for you if there’s an emergency.
How do I make real friends? You just do. It just happens. You might find someone who shares your interests and has good morals like you do. It just happens.
As far as peer pressure, someone I knew once said ‘what’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right’. That’s what I live by in terms of peer pressure. I am mature enough to tell what’s right and what’s wrong and I know I wouldn’t do anything stupid or things that might be hurtful and cause harm to people.
Teenagers want to be like others their age, have the things that others have, the cute boys like the popular girls, but being someone else is not always cool, the best person to be is just you. What does it say about a person if they like you for your looks and not who you really are? Don’t try to be someone you’re not; the world wouldn’t be exciting if all the people were the same, that’s why God made us all unique in our own way. Some may have negative feelings about themselves because of the things or situations they have gone through in life. A good way to build self-esteem would be to follow good morals, do good, be kind and learn to forgive; life is too short to be spent in hatred. Give the world the best you can, be proud of who you are.
Spirituality is important for youth but it also depends on what the person has been taught.
I think school has its pros and cons. You learn a lot, academically and gain experience. But then again you learn things that you might not like. Grades are important. Everything you do in life is somehow connected to the opportunities you get in the future.
If you had good grades and your friend has bad grades, you might be the one getting the higher position in a job. When you study hard early in life it pays off later. My goal is to get a good education. Education is very important in life and it is the one thing that people can’t take away from you. In your teenage years your mind is like clay, it’s taking shape and what you learn now is going to stay with you in the future. Also to get a good job that I like, and that I’m proud of doing.
I feel that dating means going out with someone that you have special feeling for. But you have to be careful because sometimes people make you do things that you might regret later. It’s important to know who you’re dating because you wouldn’t want to spend your life with someone that had things they never told you.
Kids get involved with drugs and alcohol partly because of stress and peer pressure. They try to do things that their friends think are ‘cool’. The dangers of drinking and driving are serious. If your friend or the person that is giving you a ride has been drinking, stop them from driving and don’t get into the car with them. You can get in an accident and end up in a hospital or even worse — dead.”