Youths nowadays are very much attracted to the social media. They need to know the things that are trending, so they will not feel left out when they are with their friends. Social media is also an avenue for them to express their thoughts and feelings. Through this, they hope that they will get their friends’ attention. Parents are encouraged to spend more time bonding with their youths instead of monitoring them through social media. If parents want their youths to spend more time with them and less time on their phones, they should consider setting aside time for the family to be together, away from their phones.

Another important aspect of a youth’s life is relationship. Relationships are important to youths especially peer relationships. Youths have a strong need to belong to a group - their peer group. Friends or peers, being closer in age and of the same mind set, are better able to understand and support each other. Unfortunately peers in relationships may mislead and confused each other. They are easily influenced by each other and by what they see and hear in social media, books, magazines, all of which may not impart values that resonate with those of their parents and community. Parents are seen as nagging, censorious, and likely to scold if they come to know of anything that the youth may or may not have done. It behoves the parents to hold off on the reprimanding, be more supportive, open minded and communicate with their youths. Parents are encouraged to discuss and actively listen to the enquiries posed by the youths about relationships especially questions on sexuality.

Teenage years is a period of time whereby youths go through many changes in their lives. Puberty can be very unsettling for youths as they experience many physical and psychological changes. They start to be very concerned about their self-image, how others perceive them, and they believe that others will take note of every little detail about them, hence they can get obsessive about their appearance etc. Youth undergo many adjustments the moment they start secondary school. This is the first step towards independent thinking and spending more time with their friends/peers than family. They challenge parental authority and become rebellious. They want their autonomy and start to develop their own ideas about how they want to conduct themselves. They often think that they are invincible, infallible and indestructible. They perceive themselves as more knowledgeable than their elders and trusts their friends. Parents should perceive the behaviour described above as part of the youth’s developmental stage towards adulthood. Parents should be opened to discussing with their youths topics deemed important by them. The youths should be allowed to experiment and try out different things that does not involve self-harm and or breaking the law. This will allow them to discover themselves. Keeping an open mind and guiding the youths will provide them with the flexibility and opportunity to develop themselves into adults who will pay it forward in their lives. After all, it will be more worrisome if they do not become more independent in thoughts and deeds!

In addition to a better understanding of our youths, here are some tips on how to better support them:

v  Attend to their problems by listening first before giving advice. Avoid minimising their problems.

v  What about nagging? Nagging infers disapproval and criticism. Nagging will only push youths further away from their parents.

v  Strengthen bonding by engaging in activities with them, not just by instructions.

v  Seek to find out and understand what and why things happen to them before making a judgement. Provide them with opportunities for clarification, this will prevent doubt, confusion and resentment at later stages.

v  Everyone deserves respect, including youths. When we respect them and their opinions, they will in turn respect us.

v  Be patient and be receptive to their opinions. As they start having their own ideas, they will not be welcoming if opinions are forced on to them. Checking in with their feelings shows concern and consideration. It helps to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem which in turn allows them to develop maturity.

It is a fine balance being a parent and a friend to your youths. While there is a need to be firm and set appropriate boundaries with them as parents, there are also times to be friends and be open in the communication with them. Maintaining this balance is key to a healthy and respectful relationship between parents and their youths.