by Christine Apikul

As a mother of a just-turned-teen and a tween, I was keen to learn about the challenges they are up against in this age of accelerated change, stress and distraction.

A forum at BGF brought teens and parents together to raise questions that were at the top of their minds. These questions led to discussions on a host of challenges faced in the family, at school and at work, and in romantic relationships.

The question that hit hardest was from a teen who asked: “Why do I feel a sense of emptiness the moment I wake up?”

It broke my heart to hear the question, but it also brought back forgotten memories – I had felt this too when I was a teen. Navigating the teenage years was tough for me and I imagine it being even tougher today – having to deal with dangers in both the physical and virtual worlds, fierce competitions, and more frequent calamities and crises.

Other questions from teens that the forum touched on were: How do I find my purpose? How to forget past relationships? How to deal with jealousy? How to convince my parents I don’t want kids? How to let go of pressure we put on ourselves?

What struck me was, parents face these challenges too – we are not that different after all. Aren’t we all on the same road? Whether teens or parents, we will always be judged by others. We all have to deal with peers, parents, relatives, neighbours and strangers. We all want to be accepted and respected.

There were a number of takeaways from the forum, but for parents, two stood out. On the one hand, we must work on ourselves, understand ourselves – what we want, what triggers us and why. Particularly, watch how we deal with anger, disappointment and sadness, because our children are watching.

On the other hand, we need to make the effort to maintain close connections with our children. Spend time with them, listen to what they have to say, see things from their perspective, accept them for who they are.

The road of life is tough, and it is going to get tougher. We are all bound to make mistakes and fail along the way, but the important thing is what we learn from them. We can’t take away our children’s pain, as much as we might want to. But we can offer them our presence and assurance that we are always here for them.

The teenage years need not be a time of frustration and fear for both teens and parents. I believe it can be an exciting time for learning and growth, for overcoming challenges and empowering ourselves, for both teens and parents. Yes, us parents can learn a lot from our children.

There aren’t many opportunities for parents and teens to come together this way. Forums like this are so important for reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles.

The “Road to Real Happiness: A Forum on Overcoming Challenges Faced by Today’s Youths and Teens”, organized by gloWithin and BGF Youth Connection, was held on 29 February 2020. On the panel were Kumara Bhikkhu and Max Lee, and KC Chiang moderated.

Buddhist Gem Fellowship