Kenneth B. Hilliard
Today’s adolescents are faced with many choices. Beginning at an early age (many times before puberty), children are placed into the role of head of the household. The decisions that they make at such an early age not only influence their lives but are also crucial for the safety and well-being of others. Many afternoons and evenings children come home to an empty home, where nothing is prepared for dinner and they must care for a younger sibling. As these children approach adolescence this leadership role is expected of them by parents, many of whom are single. If the parent is a working parent, then the pressures can be even greater for the oldest child.
The role of head of the household may require adolescents to leave school at an early age and give up many of their personal goals such as college, or sports so that they may pursue a job instead of a career just to survive and have pocket change. This need for survival money along with idle time could be two of the factors that contribute to some of the major problems that adolescents face today.
If an adolescent has been in a strong secure family atmosphere, where two parents are present, along with enough food, shelter, and clothing for everyone, and some one available to care for younger siblings, then the chances of surviving adolescence without a crisis (alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pregnancy) is somewhat better than it is for someone from a less secure background. The family background must include good adult role models and open lines of communication. But, what happens when there is a breakdown in communication? What if there are no adults present in the home to serve as role models? Then where does an adolescent obtain all the vital and pertinent knowledge needed to be successful in life?
The majority of the time it is from the peer group. Adolescents seem to be most comfortable around their peers and often turn to them for guidance. Without proper guidance this group now turns to the streets. Once on the streets they can get caught up in a vicious cycle usually beginning with casual cigarette smoking, drugs, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, teenage pregnancy, health issues and if they are not lucky even death.
These adolescents need our help. One way to help them is by providing them with accurate and up to date information. This information should include the facts on cigarette smoking, drugs, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, teenage pregnancy, and other health issues.
In addition there should be a listing of the different types of intervention that are available, along with the various social service agencies located within that community. Importantly, there should also be information available for adults that would help them understand the adolescent thinking process. Adults need information as much as students so that together they can combat these problems. When these types of programs are in place for a while, maybe some progress will be made in this continuing battle.
Choices! We all make countless numbers daily, beginning with wake up time (and what should I do today?), though bedtime (and what should I do tomorrow?). For adolescents as for adults these choices are extremely complex. The problem is that adolescents have not had enough practice, skill, or facility to make accurate, safe choices.
What kind of choices do adolescents make? Why do they make these choices ? What outside influences affect the directions in which they travel?