[This feature article came out in December 2012 issue of NTULink - a quarterly magazine for alumni of Nanyang Technological University.]
Understanding youths has never been easy for most parents. Alumni speakers at the 22nd Distinguished Alumni Forum gave their expert opinion on how parents can communicate better with their adolescents.
Mr Neo Eng Chuan (NIE/2009), the Principal Psychologist and Founder of Caper Spring, was one of the three alumni speakers at the forum titled ‘Connecting with today’s youths’. He spoke about contextual shifts in the context of understanding youths: environmental changes that cause deep impact on how we conduct our lives. These shifts include the increasing use of digital communication, the plethora of lifestyle choices, and the primacy of experience – how we feel and what we experience during an activity now takes centrestage. Mr Neo also highlighted the importance to pay close attention to universal human needs such as the need for connection, affi rmation and self identity. In order to understand and better communicate with youths, Mr Neo explained the three principles of connecting by being Curious, Compassionate and Collaborative. These principles play a critical role in communication.
There are a number of factors that will contribute to building healthy mindsets in adolescents. These include cultivating good relationships with families, nurturing positive selfesteem, and possessing a sense of self-determination.
Adolescents get angry a lot. What are some of the ‘tools’ parents can equip themselves with for better confl ict management?
Anger is an emotion that is more prevalent in this age group. Parents need to empathise with the struggle their teenage children might be facing; of the need to assert their independence and forge an identity for themselves. These are important milestone developmental tasks. Parents should treat their adolescents as young adults and reason with them. Unfortunately, very often, parents express their care in a way that may come across as being critical. It is therefore very important for parents to communicate their concerns carefully.
Many teenagers manifest a series of issues from the more common ones like answering back and challenging rules to the more serious ones like self-mutilation, alcohol and drug dependency. For each, what are some of the underlying reasons and how can parents effectively begin to handle such issues?
Self-mutilation can be a sign that the person needs some form of help to express his/her emotional pain. Pay attention to the child’s behavioural changes and at the same time refer him/her to a professional, such as a psychologist. There are several reasons why adolescents participate in substance abuse. A common one would be curiosity and the other being peer pressure. There is also a possibility that they indulge in alcohol or drugs to help them cope better with any emotional pain or relationship diffi culty they might be experiencing.
Time and patience are the two very precious commodities that are scarce for parents. It takes time to engage youths and parents must have the patience to tolerate the uncooperative behaviour some teenage children might display.
The forum chaired by alumnus Ms Serene Loo (WKWSCI/1999 & RSIS/2008), Shell Spokesperson (Asia Pacifi c), also featured alumni speakers Ms Sophia Pang (NBS/1994) and Mr Zaqy Mohamad (EEE/1999 & NBS/2003).
A mother of two and the fi rst Singaporean woman to ski to the South Pole, Ms Sophia Pang shared her personal experiences in communicating with children. She emphasised that whilst all parents should be aware of their children’s activities with friends, they should also respect their children’s privacy. She also highlighted the importance of parents engaging in activities that interest their children, in order to forge a closer bond.
“Youths of different generations have varied characteristics and traits. Today’s youths have grown up with pervasive TV and the internet, and it is crucial that we understand that connecting with them today would be different from connecting with youths of the past generations,” highlighted second speaker Mr Zaqy Mohamad.
The Head of Dimension Data Singapore Pte Ltd’s Sales Unit, and Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC, went on to explain how the hopes and aspirations of today’s youths have evolved differently from those of youths of the past generations. The issues today’s youths are concerned about are somewhat different from those that worried past generations’ youths. Mr Zaqy also shared views of Singapore’s policy makers in engaging today’s youths.
The forum ended with a question-and-answer session featuring interesting discussions with the Forum Chairperson and speakers. Close to 200 participants attended the forum held on 13 October.
© 2015 CaperSpring