Youth in Focus: Challenges and Opportunities
The youth of today are at a stage or period which is on the brink of enormous change. Youth has often been described as being at a crossroads. It involves an enormous transition from childhood to adulthood.
Youngsters have left behind the mindless, carefree existence of a child and are poised to face the exciting and challenging world of an adult. They find themselves in new settings. They are expected to perform many new and different roles.
There is enormous freedom that is newly experienced by them which they sooner or later realize is accompanied by equal amounts of responsibility. This scenario is all the more challenging and stressful in modern times. Globalization and the following sociocultural transformations, information explosion, etc. have resulted in value conflicts and constant struggle among young minds.
Youngsters are often described as being lazy and lacking motivation. They are said to have no goal or ambition in life, to simply drift and waste their life.
They are frequently reprimanded for being selfish or self–centered, for living in a dream world and totally away from the realities of life. On the reverse side of the coin is the fact that the youth are also found to be more adventurous, and full of new ideas.
Age is on their side; what they lack by way of experience, they make up through their freshness and high energy levels. There is more optimism among the youth, hopes and dreams for the future. They have a more positive outlook towards life, not yet tainted by life’s practical experiences.
To quote a great master, “Youth are not useless, but USED LESS!” The youth are reservoirs of untapped potential. Each individual is unique with tremendous talents and possibilities.
Their scope is endless not yet limited with unnecessary constraints. The fear factor is also often numbed among youngsters. They are more likely to take risks, rather than follow the beaten path. They are enthusiastic and more willing to experiment.
However, adults and people surrounding youngsters tend to ignore the strengths and merits of the youth. This is probably because overtly, youngsters are not obedient, and do not like to follow orders. They are not too conservative in their thinking, dressing, talk, and general behavior.
They cannot do sustained work for long. Often, they prefer to work in short but frequent bursts of activity. They appear to be forever multi-tasking. For example, it is very easy to spot a teenager who appears to write a journal while talking on the phone and listening to music simultaneously.
The position and importance of friends often seem to be the greatest in their lives. In fact, in many cases, youngsters themselves internalize negative messages about themselves.
Their self-confidence and faith in their abilities are very low. This leads to low aspirations and goals- both personal and career. There is also a lack of sufficient self-awareness among the youngsters which results in many of them functioning far below their potential.
The general misconception is that teenagers are good for nothing. But if we look beneath the surface we find that this is not necessarily true. It is not as if the youth have to be given up. Social scientists repeatedly emphasize that we actually have to spend greater time to acquaint ourselves with the circumstances that an average youngster goes through.
As we know, a teenager undergoes a lot of changes and transformations- physiological, psychosocial, etc. There may be strangeness, and newness in the sensations, emotions experienced, and behavior expressed.
They have to make a lot of adjustments, adapt to different circumstances, adopt newer roles, and meet greater expectations. There may be apprehensions about the future, about the unknown. They require a lot of support and understanding to help them glide smoothly through these changes.
As they move through adolescence, they are required to be able to make bigger decisions and significant choices. These decisions- especially related to educational and occupational areas – are often unalterable and have a profound impact on their future.
Often their later happiness and well–being are dependent on early decisions taken. Therefore, appropriate time and contemplation are essential. Educational and vocational decisions impact their personal lives as well. This is in terms of the lifestyle they are likely to follow, their future relationships, the status (financial, social) they will enjoy, the leisure activities they are likely to have, etc., etc.
There are abundant influences and pressures exerted on the youngster. This includes the messages in the media – the stereotypes it promotes, the overemphasis on glamour, the promotion of certain careers over others, etc. The influence of friends and peers is also considerable at this stage.
There is a great deal of risk in choosing options based on the options of close friends; on what is considered fashionable or acceptable among contemporaries rather than what they are really inclined towards or are good at. Parental influence is another big factor that leads to study and career choices.
Frequently, parents live their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Sometimes, youngsters have to face parental criticism and objection or peer ridicule for expressing a desire to pursue unconventional avenues.
Thus, career decision-making is often not the youngster’s own but the result of all the extraneous influences. Such erroneously motivated decisions are disastrous for youngsters. Therefore, it goes without saying that youngsters need proper guidance and direction when planning their educational and career paths.
The youngsters require exposure to all relevant career options and information. Secondly, they need to have complete self–knowledge regarding their abilities, aptitudes, interests, etc. The final decisions require an adequate matching between the two.
To put it in a nutshell:
- Youth have tremendous potential.
- Youth are high in enthusiasm, and energy levels.
- Youth are at crucial stages in their lives.
- Youths have to make many life-impacting decisions and choices
- Youth may not have the necessary experience to guide them
- Youth require our guidance in showing them the right direction to go towards.
To summarize, we need to develop more understanding and sensitivity and a great deal of patience to deal with youngsters. We have to realize that what the youth need is not our disapproval, taunts, and unending advice.
What they need is just our love, acceptance, and guidance. Significantly, the youth simply needs direction – a clear goal to work for, to channel their energy, to express their potential so as to evolve as a person and contribute to society.