As a parent educator, I have always been curious to know where teenagers and young adults get their confidence to take on the world. I happened to meet a bunch of youngsters in this age group.
I asked them, some of whom were teenagers just joining college, and some recent graduates, ‘What did your parents do to make you feel empowered? Especially, while you transitioned from the sheltered home and school environment to the more worldly and exposed college surroundings?’ Dinesh* shared, “As soon as I got admission into college, I started feeling anxious with thoughts like ‘Would I make good friends? Would I fit in a group? Could I cope with studies?’.
I often shared my worries with my parents. They listened to me patiently and that would calm me.” Sanjini* told me, “I’ve grown up in a home where each one of us holds and expresses our opinions with ease. While growing up, we used to have conversations on various topics including alcohol, drugs, and sex. It helped me get perspective on issues.
The family WhatsApp group helped me keep in touch even when I moved away to college. We also decided on a mutually suited day for a video call or chat on Skype.” Surya*, who went to college in the same city as his family, said, “Throughout school life, it was during dinner time, around the table together, that we shared how the day went for each of us.
The same continues even today. My friends are welcome to come over. And my parents have their contact numbers.” When parents listen with empathy without passing judgments, it allows a space for an exchange of thoughts, feelings and ideas. Children learn to express their emotions in a healthy manner which nurtures a connected and trusting relationship.
Sharad* confided, “I moved to a college of my choice and my parents supported me. When I had doubts about the course I chose, they advised me, ‘Give it your best shot and after that, if you are still unhappy, we could work out something together’. Their advice gave me the courage to be responsible for my decision and take on the challenge I was facing with renewed energy.”
When children are given opportunities to make decisions on their own, they become responsible for their actions. They develop a positive attitude towards mistakes and try and figure out alternative solutions.
Shweta* responded, “For me it was always having the option to go home, especially in the beginning. There was no pressure of ‘having to fit in, and hanging in there to figure it out’.
I knew I had my home to go back to.” When children have the assurance that their parents will always be there for them, no matter what, they learn to have faith in themselves. *Deepa reflected, “My parents supported me to be independent while growing up.
I cycled to school, shopped for groceries, learnt to travel safely alone to places close by. I also learnt to budget my pocket money.
I guess that helped me to be confident and handle different situations.” Abhit* spoke of the practical things he learnt and said, “My parents showed me how to do the laundry and some basic cooking.
At home we all pitched in with the chores. I see now how it has helped me to do things easily on my own.”
When children are exposed to life’s experiences they become self-reliant, resilient and possess a high self-esteem. When we, as parents, ensure a nurturing environment for our children, they grow to become caring and confident adults.
(Names have been changed to protect identity) The author is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.