In addition to teenage tantrums, our society is witnessing a sudden upsurge amongst teenagers in cases including juvenile obesity, acid reflux disorders, early onset of menstruation, increased aggression, hyperactivity, depression, mood swings and irritability, intake of alcohol, smoking, substance abuse and a high degree of metabolic aberrations. Physicians, psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists are having to deal with a huge rise in the number of teenagers afflicted with one or more of the above conditions. So, how are we to deal with it?
In her latest book, 150 ideas to keep young minds fit and fine, Mumbai-based writer Neera Maini Srivastav delineates simple, practical and effective ways to deal with the physical, mental and emotional challenges faced by teenagers. Here is an excerpt from the conversation:
What is this concept of ‘EXTREMISM’ amongst teenagers? Is it a growing fad or a rising concern?
While researching for my book, I discovered some astounding facts about teenagers, as a part of my detailed conversations with physicians, nutritionists and specialists. Teenagers were resorting to what doctors call a form of ‘extremism’ in every aspect of their life — binging extremely on food leading to obesity, extreme diet for a good Instagram picture, developing extreme hobbies to become a viral sensation on social media, extreme intake of alcohol and substances. The aberrations are manifesting in different ways across the socio-cultural milieu, but the core was the same, going the extreme way, the imbalance evident in the internal disharmony that children are facing.
What are some of the growing health hazards and challenges among teenagers?
There are several health hazards that are on the rise, nowadays. Some of them are new and unheard of and others are striking teenagers early as compared to previous generations. As a parent or guardian, you may want to watch out for any of these symptoms and it is imperative that you get on a damage-control spree!
You must do a reality check and watch out if your child is suddenly gaining too much weight. Juvenile obesity is a dangerous health condition which can cause harm in multiple ways to the physical and emotional well-being of the child. If your child is repeatedly complaining of acidity, indigestion, heart burn in the lower chest area, it might be a case of the classic Acid Reflux Disorder. This disorder is a direct response of the body if it is facing stress and pressure. Has your child developed skin disorders, especially the ones that are not settling easily? Chances are that your child is suffering from a form of psycho-somatic illness. There are some more dangerous ones hitting our children including depression, schizophrenia, suicidal tendencies, hypertension, juvenile diabetes, menstrual and hormonal imbalance.
Who is responsible for this imbalance and disharmony children, parents, the education system or the society at large?
It is very important to identify and acknowledge that there are multiple factors responsible for the condition faced by teenagers. Bad parenting, complicated genes, stress and tension, and a bad environment, all contribute to the issue.
High influx of consumerism: One of the biggest and dangerous factors is the consumer-centric market which is full of junk foods, fad-diets, chemical pollutants and unhealthy cosmetics, to which, our gullible teenagers are easy victims! These create peer pressure to an extent that teenagers are ready to go under the knife for hymen-fixing, nose job, tummy tucks and so on. These are not safe and definitely not necessary.
Emotional imbalance at home: Sociologists are observing a phenomenon, especially in the urban households, wherein human interaction and human exchange is replaced by digital or technology-driven communication methods. While technology is a transforming and uplifting agent, there are dangerous effects if the usage is not moderated or managed by the parent. In fact, parents themselves are huge victims of the mobile mania. With parents constantly on their devices, and not spending quality time with children, they end up resorting to junk food, alcohol, excessive use of mobiles, illicit substances and relationships to fill up the loneliness.
Some of the activities that parents can consciously take up include:
Develop a ‘sports culture’ at home: The child must play a sport to ensure physical fitness.
Digital content junkies: Watch out for extreme crime, aggressive TV shows and digital war games that can subconsciously impact children.
Consume home-cooked food: Parents and children must consume nutritious and holistic meals made at home, thereby reducing exposure to pollutants and supplements.
Reduce performance pressure: Stop pressurising your child to be only academically successful. Do not associate success with high marks only.