The upset of puberty
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.