Young people are often told, “teenage years are the best years of your life – treasure it”. In town, happy groups of secondary and college students roam the streets, appearing energetic and radiant. However, this is only part of the picture. In Singapore, many problems arise among teenagers. Yearly, figures of depression rates among teenagers escalate and we cannot help but wonder what is becoming of this new generation of young people. Life for many youths of this new day and age involves a painful tug-of-war consisting of mixed messages, unanswerable questions, of emotions and incompatible demands from parents, teachers, friends and one self. For youths, this period of life involves exiting the sheltered period of teen hood and reliance on others, and attaining adulthood and independence. This period in life is concomitant with many problems, as youths struggle to find answers to life, and fit themselves into the community and society. In this essay, I will explore the main problems faced by young people today, the reasons they arise, and the possible solutions to these problems. Firstly is a problem that most youths experience – peer pressure.
The most common form of peer pressure is that which comes from friends. It ranges from the tiniest matter of name-calling and teasing, to the most extreme cases, whereby a teen is put under pressure to engage in activities that are deemed “cool” and risky, like drinking or smoking. In their teenage years, youths consider appearance to be an important element. They feel a great need to be accepted socially, and to know they belong to a group of friends. Something youths are very afraid of is being an outcast in their teenage years, ostracized and rejected by peers who think themselves of a higher superiority because of the risky activities they engage in. Thus few youths live up to their standards in fear of alienation from friends. In an attempt to make themselves appear “cool”, or in their bid to gain popularity, fame and status, most youths give in to peer pressure and engage in these unsafe activities which place their lives at stake. The effects of peer pressure can be devastating. Drinking and smoking has already destroyed the hopes and aspirations of many youths around the world. Dealing with peer pressure is never easy; furthermore, the determination not to give in to peer pressure lies within oneself.
What youths need to realize is that while their peers might be help them in schoolwork, assist in developing their talents, and give them support and motivation to succeed, there are peers that will influence them to do things that will harm them, like smoking, missing school or shoplifting. Discernment is thus essential in the making of friends, and one has to know when a decision will be beneficial, or destructive. One has to go for “quality, not quantity” when making friends, realize that popularity is not very important, and focus on developing strong friendships with peers who have the same ideas and values as oneself, and making friends with those who would respect one’s wishes and individuality. The youth also has to have self-confidence and be able to make a stand for what he or she believes in, and stands by it. Parents also play an important role in helping their children deal with peer pressure. A common reason why many teens succumb to negative peer pressure is that they aren’t sure how they feel about an issue or situation.
They need an adult to be there to guide them, and help them in decision-making. Parents thus play a role in the promotion of self-awareness, and helping them build confidence. Talks with their teens, asking them how they feel about things, will begin the process of helping them explore their true feelings about situations. Through this process, teens will have more self-confidence, and in a better position to ward of negative peer pressure. Secondly is competitiveness within and outside of school. We have become a society of overachievers, stereotyping losing, or not succeeding as bad, and is a stigma of imperfection. Competition can take the form of a spice that keeps life interesting, stimulating one to greater creativity and success. However, most youths fail to realize that competition can be toxic and a pervasive lifestyle. Unhealthy competition affects one’s physical and psychological health. Competitiveness in school is very common – seeing their friends succeeding in schoolwork will spur jealousy within a teen that’s not doing as well, and “winning” will be the only thing on his mind. Many teens are driven so badly by competition in school, that they get enveloped into work, neglecting communication with others, blocking out all other essential part of life, like family and social relationships.
When driven too hard, many teenagers suffer from breakdowns and depression. Competition also takes place at home, in the form of sibling rivalry and feuds. A child might be pressured to live up to the expectation of his parents, or meet the standards that have been laid down by an older sibling. When one is unable to do so, the pressure will make him feel a sense of hopelessness, and thus falling into bouts of depression. Sibling rivalry can also take the form of winning the love of parents. In many families, favoritism of children is a familiar sight. In his teenage years, what a youth needs most is support and love from parents. Should their parents be unable to offer that support needed, moreover favor another sibling; it will cause jealousy and resentfulness in a youth against his parents. Intense rivalry never fails to leave lasting scars on a youth, even into his adulthood. To combat rivalry and over competitiveness among youths, schools do play a part. They play a role in inculcating the fact that while healthy competition is vital for one to maintain a certain level, unhealthy competitiveness is not the only way to success. IN some schools, the system position ranking has been abolished.
This is a good way of concealing the achievers, or underachievers, thus reducing specific rivalry with the top achiever. Thus, unhealthy competition can be eliminated, leaving only healthy competition, whereby the youths will strive to do well; yet without the presence of unhealthy green-eyed jealousy. Parents, instead of showing favoritism, should make an attempt to create an environment where all children feel special and unique. Comparison with other siblings should never be mentioned, so that the child feels no pressure to be as good as, or better than the other. There are many things parents can avoid doing to prevent feelings of enviousness, like not taking sides in arguments or assigning guilt to one particular child, but being always there for any child, freely giving all the support and care they require. While unrestrained sibling rivalry can be unhealthy, competition in siblings that is well shaped and channeled, can teach youths how to achieve their potential.