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What are the main problems experienced by young people?

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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 oneself. 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 stand 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 who’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, favouritism 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 favour 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 overcompetitveness 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 favouritism, 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.

Lastly, a problem that exists among youths today is strained family relationships due to a generation gap. The generation gap is whereby parents and teens have different thinking about things – from clothes and music preference, to values and beliefs. Many parents lose influence on their teens and teens value peer opinions above parents influence. Today, tension between parents and youths is widespread within many families in Singapore. There are also cases of teens leaving their homes and not returning for a few days because of unhappiness caused by this.

The tension and strain that exist come about because parents do not understand or support their teens, and the teens, in their eagerness to achieve adult status, resent the restrictions placed upon them. Self-acceptance and tolerance of each other’s mistakes and imperfections is not present in this relationship, and thus causes teens to distant themselves from their parents, creating an unbridgeable gap in the relationship. This causes a gap in the relationship, as both parties fail to understand, appreciate or identify with each other. Teens invariably believe that their parents are overly anxious and overprotective. The gap in the relationship gives way to tension and strained relationships, ending with intense and heated arguments and quarrels over minute and unimportant things.

To solve this problem, it requires a good attitude in both parents and teens. Youths themselves, should show the required filial respect to their parents, be understanding and respect some decisions that their parents make for them. Parents should show an attitude of respect and faith in the child. The control they exercise over their child should be done with understanding and sympathy. With this mutual trust in each other, the youth will see themselves the way their parents see them. When given the trust to be able to make decisions, the youths will step out into the world and discover themselves as well as how the world works, survive mistakes and adversity, learn from the consequences and thus strengthen themselves emotionally and psychologically.

A method to adopt in improving family relationships is whereby the government organizes activities that will help to improve relationships and create a bond between both parents and youths, building a bridge and eradicating the stereotypical idea of a “generation gap”.

All in all, strained family relationships, pressure from school and family and competitiveness lead to one main problem: stress. This is an increasing problem among youths in Singapore, as we see figures of depression and suicide rates among teenagers escalating yearly. Some teens become overloaded with stress. When it happens, inadequately managed stress can lead to anxiety, depression and can yet again lead back to drug or alcohol usage.

While stress cannot be completely avoided in this phase of teenhood, one can take control of his or her life, to deal with it and make it less painful. A simple way of dealing with stress is taking frequent rests, exercising, taking time off for oneself, and staying calm in the face of difficulties. Youths can also join a peer support group, which exists on the Internet, in schools and outside schools. This serves as a form of

Another important form of liberating oneself from the cuffs of stress is through communication. This communication involves seeking help, most appropriately from parents. However, should there be a problem with communicating with parents, the youth can approach someone he or she trusts, like a close friend. This will allow the teen to share his burdens with someone, relieving himself of a heavy load.

On a concluding note, youths do experience many problems, however, we must realize the major role that youths will play in the future society, and take on a positive outlook on it. We must have hope in youths and the potential they have in making drastic and valuable improvements to the community. Indeed, teenage years might not be the best years of one’s life, but the lessons learnt from the problems and trials a youth goes through, should be treasured as a means of helping one to mature and grow.

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