Counseling with Teenagers
When a teenager is confused, upset or anxious about a problem, he can hardly think, certainly not positively. He struggles to dwelve into the matter but mostly his attempts are fruitless and sometimes even harmful to his future. Annoyed, he sees the outlook as gloomy. Having, perhaps, never faced such a problem, he considers himself helpless and, at times, useless. He may think he is right when he is not. That is when there is a chance of his going in the wrong direction.
At this point, he may wish to talk to someone whom he can trust, someone who understands his situation and can help to guide him on the right path. Often he craves for someone to come to his rescue and lessen or remove the weight from his mind, which may be overloaded with several problems at a time.
It can be hard for him to talk with his parents or other family members and so he looks for someone not closely connected to him, a warm, understanding and reliable adult – a counselor. This may be a sensible friend, a friendly teacher or, perhaps a good neighbour.
A student at the threshold of his adolescence may be confronted with various problems. Before he enters college, he believes that this is the right platform for a successful future. He thinks college life is free and happy and a good centre for friendship, as well as a source of the training which will secure a lucrative job and status in society. He thinks that he will learn all he needs in the lecture room and more from the library. He also expects good experiences with college friends. He has thought of the professors as potential builders of his future.
Later on, he may come to have a less than happy experience. His dreams and ambitions may be shattered when he realises that college so easy nor necessarily is the means of securing a bright future, as he had imagined.
Perhaps some of his dreams will come true, but less than he had expected. Dreams can not be realised without the right motivation, guidance, companionship and atmosphere. Here a counselor can act as a catalyst. A professor, a senior student or a tutor may fill this role.
Counseling is not merely the giving of advice. It seeks to teach ways of coping with problems, of dealing successfully with personal relationships, all with the goal of guidance towards maturity and wholeness.
Not all teenagers have problems, of course, but even those who lead a mainly stable and successful life and who wish to be good citizens can have difficulties which they are unable to sort out for themselves. The type of problems varies as much as the individual teenagers.
Counseling can help towards a well-adjusted life. It promotes self-confidence, morality, self respect and discipline. It helps teenagers to take responsibility for them and to act positively. It paves the way to better human relationships.
Counseling teenagers seems to be an easier task than dealing with older students. Teenagers, for all they may be immature or inexperienced, are better to work with as a counselor than many so-called adults. They tend to be more flexible.
When working in Africa, I had a case of a student who confessed he was a long-term homosexual. He had been tempted into the habit by a friend, who had ruined his married life because of his predilection. My student didn’t wish this to happen to him as he was going to marry soon.
He had tried to get rid of this impulse, but he could not do so completely. It seemed as if he had become addicted. This worried him greatly, so much that he did not pay proper attention to lectures, never mind his homework at night.
After a few sessions of counseling on self-control and some lessons of meditation and yoga, the trouble seemed to be eased. I also advised him to keep away from particular friends and circumstances, including Adults Only films, sex magazines or novels which might provoke such thoughts. He should look for better friends, clean reading and seeing good films. He should also try to avoid certain foods, as sometimes the type of food a person eats can influence his behaviour.
When I happened to meet the same young man two years later, he seemed to be very happy, having given up his habit. He had come to invite me to his wedding.
More tragically, a nineteen-year old girl student committed suicide in her hostel room. The pathetic note left in the room shocked the Hostel Warden. It read,
‘I am so much confused and upset to be insulted so openly by a boy to whom I surrendered all I had, including my virginity. I am now pregnant and he will not accept either the child or me. My parents would not tolerate me. It would be very difficult for me to live the life of a pregnant unmarried girl and I have no guts to go for abortion. Under the circumstances I have no alternative but to commit suicide.
‘I would not have taken this final step if only I had someone trust-worthy to speak with and who could have shown me a solution. Things could have worsened if I had talked it over with the warden or my room-partner as neither has shown any interest in helping me at any other time. In fact, they seemed to be against me, for reasons beyond my understanding. The boy who impregnated me does not want to marry me. His excuse is that the child I bear does not belong to him.”
This tragic incident sent a shock throughout the College. It moved the hearts of the warden, who had failed a girl under her care, and the room-partner who could have helped the situation if she had been more positive. Timely counseling could have saved a blooming flower before it was nipped in the bud.
Mary was deeply in love with her classmate George, at the very young age of fifteen. She would sneak away with him now and then to a restaurant or a cinema-house. Once she was asked by her boyfriend to spend the night with him in the nearby hotel. Afraid, she turned down the proposal and tried to avoid his further pressure. George was not happy. He tried hard to persuade her and even threatened to leave her if she did not surrender to him. “After all, what was the friendship for?” he asked.
Mary was bold enough to talk about this matter with her elder sister who advised her to avoid sex until marriage. If George was truly in love with her, he should wait for the proper time; if he still insisted, he should be ready to make a formal engagement.
To Mary’s surprise, George didn’t agree with her at all; neither did he promise to marry her after a certain time. He had not yet decided to look for a wife. Mary was grateful to her sister for good advice at the right time. She had sought a sound counselor in her sister who had saved her from ruining her life and her career prospects.
In to-day’s society teenage relationships can cause severe headaches to the parents, teachers and to the teenagers themselves. There is a need for more professional counselors. Teachers, parents, wardens, doctors and others with suitable experience can also help to guide young people and therefore build a civilized society.
Colleges, high schools, universities and educational institutes should employ special counselors. That would save lot of youthful energy wasted on needless worries, tensions, grudges and jealousy and prevent youngsters from taking the wrong path or committing suicide.
Fights and arguments would be replaced by more constructive activities. Colleges and universities would be peaceful and students at peace with themselves would achieve excellent results.
Unwanted pregnancies would be less likely to occur and true friendship would exist between boys and girls. With sex far from their minds, students would give more time and attention to their studies.
Colleges would be true centers for producing good citizens and sincere future leaders. Parents would be keen to send their children to places of learning where there was little risk of them going astray.