Photo credit (above): le vent le cri | Flickr
Youths in an ever-changing world
By ALVIN DAN
I always remember this advice that the older generation, mostly uttered by the Chinese-speaking community (not that I personally use the language much), has passed on:
“I’ve eaten more salt than you have rice.”
This is used when a younger person is attempting to advise an older person. Often times, the older one will disregard it because he/she has more experience, and has probably seen more in life.
However, from another point of view, it can also be perceived as the older generation having better reasons to feel stressed because of the responsibilities and expectations on their shoulders.
In this regard, being a young person with “fewer” responsibilities gives the impression that his/her feelings of stress are not valid.
Stress – a reality among youth
As a youth leader and a psychology graduate, I believe that everyone has a different degree of tolerance to stress.
While it is true the older generation have a different experience in their lives and justifiably so, we also have to admit that the younger generation now face a reality that is more challenging than what it was 10 years ago.
Youths these days face a plethora of stress inducers, be it from family, friends, studies and social media.
Why else would this year’s International Youth Day (celebrated annually on Aug 12) be aptly themed Mental Health Matters? Statistically, 20% of the world’s youth experience a mental health condition.
I believe youths today need to be guided to understand and be aware of their emotions.
The pressing issue is that most of them do not understand their own emotions towards certain situations. Even from young, they have been biologically wired to react to situations.
These instances include children laughing when they hear a joke and shouting when something does not go their way.
While all these are important as part of the growing process, the way to achieve emotional awareness and maturity is by responding to situations appropriately.
Nonetheless, every family has their own circumstances and challenges. Some were born to parents who enjoy close bonds with each other, while others to parents with responsibilities which require them to travel and be away from home often.
For some youths, they may have never had the privilege of parents being around throughout their growing years.
I will not deny that these are probably major contributing factors to emotional awareness and distress.
As such, it is vital to have support from the people closest to you, as well as a safe place to share your stories of achievements and struggles.
More than that, however, growing up in maturity is a personal decision and a journey of self-discovery. After all, the ball is in our own courts, and it will rely on our directed actions.
The highs and lows
The adventures of life can bring a person through “mountaintop” and “valley” experiences. And it is the fullness of these life adventures that will help a person grow in awareness and maturity.
There are some basic concepts for emotions. Firstly, emotions come and go. The feelings that linger on are considered moods, not emotions.
Another important concept for emotions is that there are no good or bad emotions. The key lies in the way we respond to or express the emotion.
For example, many may believe that being angry is wrong, but that is not true at all. Anger is a very important emotional component in life.
If you see injustice, for example, having anger towards the situation is justified. In spite of that, there are a number of different expressions that can come out from it.
One person may step up and defend the person in need by taking proper action such as informing the right authorities.
Meanwhile, another person may approach the wrongdoer in rage and act violently in order to stop the injustice.
Both utilise the emotion of anger, and both may be able to diffuse the situation of injustice. However, one protects while the other induces fear towards the other person.
Journey towards emotional awareness
Since having a safe space and communication channel is important for a young person’s emotional awareness, we, as Leaderonomics, make sure that we incorporate important values in our various programmes.
In our DIODE (Discovering Ingenuity, Opening Doors for Excellence) Camp initiatives, for example, relationship and growth are among the two key values that we uphold.
As a team, together with our facilitators who join us for our camps, the greatest joy is for us to build strong and good relationships with the campers.
It is also especially gratifying to see them bonding within their own groups. Some may click immediately, some may take a few days, and some may not even be able to engage with others throughout camp.
No matter what the outcome, I know that there is no question about the results of being faithful in building relationships with youths and giving them a safe avenue to speak up.
This is because I have been at the end of that journey, with youths calling me to share the experience they had with us in camps.
I also have parents calling up to share how DIODE camps have led to a better change in their children.
In short, the experience for teenagers is summed up as just this,
“The one thing I enjoyed most in camp is being able to speak freely and have people help me through processes in my life.”
Simple conversations, focusing on how they feel about something or gaining experiences from the journey of a peer have helped them grow in their emotional awareness.
To every young person out there, be strong and of good courage. Seize the day and find the right people who would help you through your journey. Trust me when I say, your adventure has just begun.
Allow me to share some online quizzes that I took recently; one being the empathy quiz and the other being the emotional intelligence quiz.
To really find out your level of emotional awareness, these two quizzes can be a really good start.
If you would like to read up more about emotions, I personally read a lot of the writings of Dr. Paul Ekman. He is the pioneer for the term “microexpression”.