The up­set of pu­berty

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION -

Iguess it’s tougher for our gen­er­a­tion to­day, Fa­ther,” the young fel­low con­cluded. “In what sense?” I shifted on the mono-block chair. “The on­set of pu­berty is ear­lier for us,” he ex­plained. “On what grounds?” “Maybe our gen­er­a­tion is dif­fer­ent from yours?” he said. “I think, as re­gards en­ter­ing pu­berty, gen­er­a­tions aren’t very dif­fer­ent. Bi­o­log­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and so­cial changes oc­cur in all of us in pretty much the same way!” “But . . . ,” he scratched his head. “What?” “Some­thing still seems dif­fer­ent, right?” “Yes! It is the trig­ger to the on­set of pu­berty.” “Trig­ger?!” “Yes, like a switch. For our gen­er­a­tion, en­gag­ing is­sues like iden­tity cri­sis, sex­ual aware­ness, fam­ily is­sues, etc., turned on around 11 to 12 years of age and lin­gered for the rest our teen years.” “Then why are we get­ting pu­berty sooner, Fa­ther?” I was amused by the way he said it. “The switches are sim­ply turned on ear­lier. One main switch would be the In­ter­net. We didn’t have Face­book, YouTube, In­sta­gram, and more back then. These eas­ily ex­pose you to pornog­ra­phy, vi­o­lence, so­cial fo­rums that rel­a­tivize con­tro­ver­sial moral is­sues, etc. Your minds and emo­tions are bom­barded by all these trig­gers even be­fore you can set up de­fenses rooted on clear con­vic­tions and val­ues.” “Then what can our gen­er­a­tion do about it, Fa­ther?”

*** I was re­minded about a story of a fa­ther who ap­proached a pri­est for help re­gard­ing his son. The fa­ther asked, “How do I form my son to be a good Chris­tian?” The pri­est replied, “How old is the boy?” The fa­ther replied, “He’s eleven.” The pri­est said, “You bet­ter hurry, you are eleven years late!”

This story un­veils two prob­lems for par­ents to­day: first, how to cope with what they ne­glected to form in their chil­dren ear­lier; and sec­ond, when par­ents and guardians (with a gen­uine but alarmed con­cern) tend to re­duce their chil­dren’s prob­lem man­i­fested in their sex­ual, emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal symp­toms.

Un­doubt­edly, the re­al­ity of their re­bel­lion, dis­or­dered de­sire for in­de­pen­dence, pornog­ra­phy, video games over stud­ies, at­ten­tion and de­pres­sive syn­dromes are enough for par­ents to be more than con­cerned.

But as the adage states: pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure. A sud­den de­sire but with un­pro­por­tioned means to make a mis­guided youth make a U-turn to virtue may not have very pleas­ant re­sults.

So what can par­ents, like the fa­ther who was eleven years late, do? Here are some pos­si­ble, not ex­haus­tive, points:

The whole is greater than the parts. Par­ents must fo­cus on the per­son’s to­tal growth. They bal­ance what must be cor­rected or im­proved on what the chil­dren al­ready pos­sess pos­i­tively in them­selves. If we are not pa­tient and pru­dent, we could end up con­vert­ing par­ent­ing into an ar­du­ous road for our­selves and our chil­dren.

Bet­ter late than later. Par­ents whose chil­dren are still young must never take things for granted by say­ing, “I’ll tell them later” or “that some­one else will when the time comes”. Ev­ery day has a les­son to seize upon! Par­ents, how­ever, who may have missed the bus, must not give up. There is al­ways time to re­trace their steps (even though what they say or do may seem to fall on stone-deaf ears) by giv­ing good ex­am­ple.

Virtue over vice. Our nat­u­ral eye for what the neg­a­tive can of­ten dampen the spirit of the young. Fo­cus and foster virtue! More­over, the great­est teacher of virtue for them is not our words but our ex­am­ple. Though im­per­fect, we are ready to take ac­count­abil­ity for our er­rors and mis­takes.

Spir­i­tual over sen­sual. The change we want our chil­dren to ex­pe­ri­ence will not be through ma­te­rial sub­sti­tutes (e.g. money, fame, re­wards, en­ti­tle­ment, etc.). The iden­tity forg­ing in­gre­di­ents of our chil­dren’s char­ac­ter will al­ways be sup­plied spir­i­tu­ally. If we overindulge them in worldly com­forts and se­cu­rity, it will not be easy for them to ap­pre­ci­ate the trea­sures the world can­not give (e.g. loy­alty, sac­ri­fice, prayer, friend­ship, etc.)

Hope­fully, with pa­tience, op­ti­mism and a cheer­ful faith in our chil­dren and God’s grace, their jour­ney along pu­berty’s road will not be harsh; above all, never lone­some and dark.

Vignettes fr.an­cis@myre­al­box.com

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