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Teenagers face real challenges during the ages of 13 and 19. During this time they are exposed to a lot of external and internal struggles that determine the decisions. It is also the period where they go through alot of “firsts” – coping with hormonal changes, puberty, social and parental pressures, school pressures, as well as encountering many conditions.
Many teens feel misunderstood as they experience issues that their parents/guardians are not aware of . It is vital that their feelings and thoughts are validated and that the validation comes from their parents. Here are some of the struggles that teens in Kenya face, sometimes all it takes is to be aware of the issues:
1. Self Esteem
This is one of the most common problems that affect teens as they hit puberty. When their bodies start changing, they also begin comparing themselves with their peers and what they see on social media. This in turn creates pressure on what they wear, how they speak and how they look causing a low self esteem.
- Teenage body image issues are a real concern that can affect them to a great extent. If your child idolizes models and social media influencers, you need to tell your daughter how images are photo-shopped and filtered before they are published, especially to make them look perfect.
- Once your teen comes to the realisation that celebrities who look glamorous can also look very ordinary, she will have a better sense of how unreal most media portrayals of the body image can be.
This is the time that your teen may experience their first menstrual phase. They can be faced with a lot of questions about what their body is going through and it is the perfect time to speak to your daughter about the changes they are experiencing.
- Make her accept and realize that this is a natural process that every girl goes through, as you teach her how to track the monthly occurrences.
- Teach her how to deal with emergency situations by always carrying a pair of underwear and sanitary pads in their bag.
- In case she suffers from headache or bad menstrual cramps, ensure they have painkillers with them at all times.
- Most teenager girls are at risk of iron deficiency during this time in their life. It is imperative that they have a balanced diet and, in the case of anaemia, iron supplementation
3. Peer Pressure
A lot of teenagers feel good when they have friends or belong to a group that makes them feel appreciated. Sometimes, this does not lead to the best decisions. It is very easy to pick up bad habits in an attempt to find a place in society and feel accepted among their peers. What can you do for your teenage child?
- Build lines of communication that are so strong that your children always look at you as allies and not as enemies.
- Be very consistent in explaining what peer pressure is as you encourage your teen to think autonomously and do what makes them happy rather than please others
- Explain to your child that her opinions, choices, hobbies, habits make them entirely who they are. They don’t need to do things to make others feel good.
4. Cyber Bullying
Bullying is one of the worst teenage problems and it affects millions of youths. When you bring in the easy access to technological devices then you enter a whole new world of cyber bullying. The internet and social media platforms allows teens to bully their peers anonymously. Your teen may feel low and keep to themselves out of fear.
- Talk to your child often and inquire about their wellbeing
- Children sometimes need reassurance that they are not the only ones who face such problems. This eases them out a bit. Teach her/him how to come out of such situations and be open with them on how you dealt with similar situations in your teenage years
5. Health concerns
Diet is an important factor in a teenager’s life. It is crucial to maintain a healthy diet as their body is constantly changing and they will need specific foods to facilitate this. However, there are many cases where eating habits of teens are poor and not monitored. You tend to see girls inclining to the slim-anorexic look as the boys stuff themselves with junk, high calorie food. How can we as parents encourage healthy eating?
- Lead by example
- Provide a healthy and complete meal whenever you pack it for lunch or put it on the dinner table.
- Involve them in:shopping for meals, making vegetables and fruits interesting, creating meal plans as well as in cooking.
6. Substance Abuse
This is a major problem that most teenagers, girls and boys, face across the world today. In most cases, peer pressure introduces teenagers to this dangerous habit. Teenagers resort to substance use to ease their stress, feel secure and assured from within.
- It is important that parents, schools and also the media educate the young children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and how drugs affect their bodies. If they are taught properly, by example, then they will be able to make an educated choice.
Hormonal changes in the body add to the strain put on scheduling, prioritizing, achieving goals, fulfilling parental expectations and conforming to peers’ expectation. You can see this through mood swings, aggression, losing interest suddenly and sometimes even a complete break down of the individual.
An extreme version of this could lead to depression and this is where parenting intuition comes to play:
- One of the best ways to ensure you are aware of what your teenager is going through is by keeping an open communication.
- Look for signs of depression in your teenager. See to it that they behave normally, remain happy and occupied in various activities that they enjoy.
- Also, look closely for signs of suddenly talking or drawing about death, suicide etc. Seek professional help immediately.
Tell us about the problems that your teenager faced and how you solved it. Do you have more typical teen problems and solutions to contribute?
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