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Today's Teens and the Need for Reflective Conversations.

Byline: Azka Javeria

Fellow teenagers always felt I was too 'mature'. But then aren't teenagers meant to be mature? I remember coming across a sentence in my biology course book: "The trouble with teens is that they have feelings and thoughts as accurate as an adult's but are still perceived and treated as children." Throughout my teenage years, I have been given examples of way more responsible teens in history: Muhammad Bin Qasim, who conquered Sindh when he was seventeen; Osama Bin Zaid (rtam), who led Jihad at the same age; and Aisha (rtaf), who got married early. The question is: are the teenagers of today as trained, responsible, and independent as Bin Qasim, Bin Zaid (rtam), and Aisha (rtam)? Do we have the tools, sense, and general knowledge that Aisha (rtam) had?

Both science and Islam tell us that teens are adults; Islam says that by the time a child reaches teenage years, fasting and prayer both become Fard (mandatory). Conclusively, a teenager should ideally know about life and interaction with people and should be mature. But since society has long grown into the idea that teenagers have just 'begun' to grow, today they need way more counselling than before. How? This is where reflective conversations come in as a way through which you can discuss with them serious topics and gradually build in them a sense of responsibility, individuality, and independence - raise them in the way of Islam.

Direct talks are difficult to initiate for both parents and teens. Long lectures on behaviour, character and manners often turn into direct criticism, which is not easy to deal with for either side, not to mention that most of the time these ways do not even work. So, it is better to initiate conversations randomly and on topics of mutual understanding.

Today, the social media, dramas, movies, and talk shows very openly discuss many issues, ranging from health and nutrition to social issues, domestic violence, street crimes, in-law issues and drug abuse. In this globalized world, the question of over-awareness is not of 'if' but rather of 'when'. This awareness sometimes is not in the best interests of teen, so parents should play the key role as the regulatory authority of when this exposure comes and how.

The issues discussed on media provide the basis for conversation among parents and teens. While we watch television as a family, we comment on what we see - sometimes even looks are enough to communicate. Parents should not be ashamed to watch or listen to something serious (not the wrong stuff, of course) with their teen, because it is better that they watch it with you and take from it the message you want them to, than they watch it alone and take the message the media delivers to them. Similarly, it is better to discuss important issues with them, before they discuss them with others and get the wrong, unsorted information fed into their brains.

For a successful reflection, both parents and teens should use the following tools:

* Listen to each other - it is possible that the idea you are trying to share already lies with the other person. It may be that the other person has good reason for whatever they are saying. It is specifically necessary for parents to listen to teens, as it will reveal to them the extent of information that they have.

* It is okay to have different opinions on the same topic. Understanding does not mean agreeing on everything - every person is an independent individual and has the right to have a different opinion. Most often, no two people think alike. Values take time to build and come from examples. Again, your teenager is an adult, so treat him like one.

* 93% of communication is non-verbal. Your expressions, eyes and actions all communicate whatever you are trying to say. Families always protect one another; their ways may sometimes be hurtful but their motives are not. However, remember to be aware and careful of your ways, because you do not want the other person to get the wrong impression.

* Use events and people around you to discuss and reflect upon both good and bad behaviours - discuss how people may have their own reasons to act one way or another. While it is not okay to backbite, it is okay to learn from examples of others.

* Befriend each other. Just as mentioned earlier, nobody wishes better for you than your own family, so your family members should be your best friends. Parents, do not hide your difficulties from your teens, if you want to know about theirs. Discuss the reasons behind the difficulties and what you learned through them. Teach by example that it is always better to share with your family, rather than with an outsider.

On a final note, do keep in mind to treat each other with empathy and go watch something together. Do not be afraid to voice your fears and feelings to each other, even if they are about each other, but be respectful. Wishing you a very happy parenting and very peaceful teenage years!
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Author:Azka Javeria
Date:Dec 25, 2019
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