Parental Worries About Their Teenagers
Reprinted from Ummah.com
Adolescence is a stage that has its unique features. It is not a period of pinpoint accuracy for an individual. It can start from the age of ten or even sixteen. Generally, it is treated as the teen-age period. So, what happens at this stage?
Adolescence is a period of great change. There are the physical changes, called puberty, as the body changes to make a child physically capable of reproduction. Then there is a social change when an adolescent changes from being a child, dependent on his family, towards being an independent adult. There are also the emotional changes which come as a result of the chemical changes in the body and from coping with more and changing responsibilities.
These changes are obviously a natural progression in the human lifecycle. As boys and girls grow in distinct ways, fathers and mothers respectively should take responsibility of helping the child with the confusion that accompanies this process.
An adolescent suddenly becomes conscious about himself, especially about his body. He needs privacy and time to reflect. If parents can afford it, the child should be provided his own room. In any case, there should be separate rooms for brothers and sisters. Islamic adaab (etiquette) of knocking at the door before entering should be applied more rigorously at this stage.
Every Child is Different
Not every child grows in the same way. Some pass it through peacefully and in a smooth manner, others have a turbulent time. Parents must not overreact with a child who is having a difficult time during adolescence. Any dramatic change that a person goes through, at any age, is difficult and should be treated accordingly. After all, it is a life experience and man cannot recreate life for another experiment.
Moderation in Dealing with Adolescents
Authoritarian parents make things worse for their child. Authoritarianism kills off dynamism and creativity and creates simmering discontent that, most often, gives rise to rebellion at later stage. On the other hand, excessively easy going parents can be either too liberal or indifferent to their child to the extent that they consider him as an adult. To them, guiding a child is patronising! This leads the young person to lose the essence of discipline in life. This could prove deadly in a society ridden with laissez faire moral values.
The best way is moderation, especially in dealing with an adolescent. The Prophet (pbuh) always adopted moderation and opted for the easy path in doing something. Parents have to be firm, fair and just in order not only to lead a happy family, but to prepare the future generation with these fundamental social qualities.
Sibling rivalry is common in a family and it is part of their development. Parents should not over involve themselves in this, or else they can occasionally be outplayed by the children. However, when involved, they should not be biased or appear biased. They should not automatically blame the elder one for any quarrel, although it is natural to show sympathy with the little one. Sibling rivalry phases out with time.
Tools of the Trade!
Experienced and conscientious parents are aware that there are positive techniques to manage their teenaged child. The widely accepted policy of reward and sanction (punishment), if used in proper context and with honesty, leads to a successful upbringing of a child and also solves many problems. There are no rules of thumb in family affairs. However, the following guidelines are proven to be fruitful in dealing with a teen:
Guidance is from Allah alone. Al-Qur'an has recorded that even Prophet Nuh's (AS) son became one of the transgressors. Continuous supplication for the guidance of children is thus essential for a believing parent.
The feeling of family loyalty is important and this can be enhanced in the children when they are involved fully in the family affairs. Family sessions create opportunities for free discussions on any issue under the sun. They create cohesion and homogeneity in the family.
Involve them in Islamic Groups
There are Islamic groups, clubs and associations everywhere now. The teenagers should be encouraged to be actively involved in one of those. Parents can help them 'shop around' for this, as there are some groups who present only a partial or extreme view of Islam. Parents need to educate their teens in how to maintain a balance in their education, family responsibility, Islamic works and social welfare works. An unbalanced life during this period can hamper the child's future career. Parents must watch out who their child hangs around with and positively communicate with him to reduce the parent-child gap, if any exists. In a pleasant home atmosphere, a child would not unnecessarily stay outside.
Entertain the hearts in between hours,
for if the hearts get tired they become blind.
Horse-riding, archery and swimming were liked by the Prophet (saws). Innocent games and exercises are the means for physical fitness and are recommended strongly in Islam. They give innocent recreation as well. Physical fitness is the source of self-confidence and is essential for serving humanity.
Friendship and the Issue of Sex
Puberty changes a child's attitude towards the opposite sex, as his attraction for them grows stronger. The urge for sex becomes a dominant feature. Love takes on a new dimension. This is a time when passion and emotion run high. Many simply give in to their base desires and satisfy their urges in illegal and sinful ways. Islam prohibits free mixing of opposite sexes and as such the teens should be taught how to lower their gazes according to Quranic injunction. Overcoming and controlling these urges requires self-discipline, a positive environment and a strong family anchor.
Good company can greatly help an adolescent in this turning point of life. However, finding genuine friends is not always easy. Parents should be alert during this period and lend their support to their child when necessary. Bad company can ruin an adolescent's life.
School and Career
The adolescence period is also an extremely important time for building a future career. Choosing a school is crucial. It is a basic right of a child to get a good education. Parents must look for the best school they can afford. Mixed-gender schools should be avoided at any cost despite the claim of some people that it is important to know the opposite gender. If it is not possible, parents must be extra careful with their child's Islamic development. They should also avoid a school that has racism, bullying or Islamophobic discrimination. Parents with a gifted, talented or underachieving child should make sure provisions are be made for his needs.
An adolescent gets more and more responsible as he grows. He should gradually be given the opportunity to earn and spend money for himself. This gives him individual choice and freedom. In a family beset with financial difficulties this helps alleviate the situation. Suitable part time jobs that do not hamper education can be helpful.
Responsible Man and Woman
Adolescence is a ladder to becoming an adult, even if someone does not prepare for it. Positive parents make sure that the transition becomes smooth and Islamically sound. Conscientious parents invest in their child so that one day, when they are not there, their child can replace them with full responsibility. As the Muslim world is undergoing a transition period as well, Muslim parents must succeed in bringing out the best in their future generation so that they can genuinely claim to be the 'best of nations' in real sense of the term.
What if Crisis?
Nothing is problem-free in this world. In spite of continuous effort and supplication for a child since birth, he can have problems and create one for the family, especially in his adolescence. How do the parents tackle it? It is really hard and emotionally disturbing for the parents to deal with a problem child. However, should it unfortunately happen to any parent, professional advice should be sought without delay. Timely, professional and caring intervention Insha'Allah brings remedy. Procrastination is the enemy. However, there is no hasty solution. In any case, parents should not give up.
The most important thing to remember is to control their anger and maintain justice, even in extreme situations. Some years ago an Asian father in Birmingham, England, killed his own daughter out of anger. He is now serving a life term in prison. Anger works like a fire and ignites emotion. The Prophetic traditions on anger are illuminating:
Anger is from Devil, the Devil is created from fire, and fire is extinguished by water. So, if one of you becomes angry let him perform ablution. - (Abu Dawud)
If one of you gets angry let him be silent. - (Ahmad)
If one of you gets angry while he is standing let him sit down, and if he is still angry let him lie down. - (Ahmad)
The one who swallows up anger will be called out by Allah, the Exalted, to the forefront of the creatures on Resurrection Day and will be offered any pure-eyed virgin he will like. - (Abu Dawud, and al-Tirmidhi)