If only my parents told me…
Josephine Nambi (not her real name) is 16 years old, born and brought up in a town not far from Kampala. As the first born daughter, she was much loved by her father and she too grew very fond of him. But as a soldier on military duties, he was always on the move and could not spend much time with his daughter. So, he left the entire child upbringing to his wife. Though his wife was semi-literate and unsophisticated, she looked after the family with utmost care. As her teenage daughter grew up, the daughter’s new life style, classy thinking, talking and dressing always puzzled her. She and her husband considered themselves inadequate in giving any “education” to her. Talking about sexuality to this “sophisticated” child is next to impossible to them.
Josephine was brainy, hyper-sensitive and shrewd in situations of day to day life. She was quick to understand “the life in the world”. Her intuitive sense and quick grasp of matters attracted the attention of relatives and friends. Though only 16 years of age and in Form Three class, her circle of friends and acquaintances was big. Everyone including bigger boys and young men loved hanging around her. One such a friend was Mathias Ssenoga, a Form Six vaccist waiting to go to university in the near future.
At this point, Joesphine’s father became apprehensive of his daughter’s social life and her numerous friends. But, he did not know how to guide or instruct his growing daughter. Though he noticed many changes in her adolescent life, he brushed them aside as modern and normal in today’s context. Now, having heard the advice of several friends and relatives, he decided to take her to a city school near Kampala. He believed that this would improve her academic standing and give good lessons to a growing girl. He also hoped that a far way school would keep her away from the “distracting” friends.
But, Josephine had mixed reactions going to a boarding school far away from home and miss her many friends, especially the blossoming friendship with Mathias. She looked forward to visiting home and meeting with Mathias to renew their love. Mathias too waited for his girl to come for holidays and to have an intimate moment with her before going to the university.
The moment he saw Josephine, he began to put forward his sexual advances that he nurtured for long. Though initially shocked and hesitant, she gave into temptations. Having been a close friend to him for a year and not wanting to disappoint him before leaving for school, she lost her virginity to Mathias. Having gone through this life-changing incident, it was difficult for Josephine to settle in school. There was a lot of emotional turmoil in her mind. Still, being new in the school, she did not find any person to whom she could share her turbulent experience. She started undergoing those “famous” symptoms of pregnancy that she always heard of. Josephine’s attempts to communicate with Mathias failed. Feeling guilty of what he did, Mathias had changed all his contacts and went to the university and decided to live a quiet life. Josephine was forced to leave the school and come home to the mercy of her parents. “If only my parents told me…” were the only words ringing in her mind. The parents too regretfully spoke to each other “If only we told her these things…”
She got into problems because she was not counselled. There was a gap between her and her parents. Father Mpagi Augustine, a teacher at Nandere Seminary in Luwero gives us the following reasons for this plight. From 1962, we have enjoyed free constitutional right and our children have become totally free. Often times, they are unteachable. The gap between the parents and children are widening as the time goes. In the name of human rights, children’s rights and new educational methods, we have failed to give them family and value education. Children and adolescents learn family life education only through media and often times they do more harm than good. Our tradition is eroded and we have failed to pass on our traditional values to our children. Parents are unable to teach the children of these days.
Adolescence is a time of growing up into young men and women and getting to know oneself, each other and the world around. It is a time of getting into relationships with others and the beginning of attraction, experimentation and falling in for opposite sex. Unlike the childhood where the child does not understand matters of sexuality, the adolescents are more aware of their sexuality and even become receptive of knowledge on this matter. This knowledge requires guidance rather than theories and instruction. The idea behind this is that the adolescent craves for “space” in their own life. As in other matters like schooling and behavioural matters, they do not take in rules with comfort. So rather than dictating rules, all they need is guidance.
This task of guidance demands special effort from the parents, this will remove the much talked about “generation gap”. The amount of effort put in by the children when they need to connect with tradition, for example like at the Introduction Ceremony should be the same amount the parents show in reaching the generational demand of their children.
In the present society, a good percentage of school going children are in boarding schools. But unfortunately, parents find it difficult or have pushed aside this task to the teachers. But, it should be that they work together. Teachers with their closeness to the students or even having a lesser gap with the students than parents often have better ways of communicating this matter to young people. A good way forward is that parents can seek the guidance of the teachers asking how to go about in imparting this value education. Parents should give light to the teachers regarding what goes on at home, during holidays and in times beyond school hours. This cooperation and sharing of responsibility will complement the education young people receive in school and elsewhere.
Adolescents crave for attention and compliments. More than anyone else, parents are the right people to give the due attention that a youngster looks for. Remember, actions speak louder than words. A parent doesn’t need to say everything, but providing the due attention, the young people usually get what they need. Openness is needed on the part of parents. The adolescents may feel shy, but the parents need not feel so. Openness does not mean giving out do’s and don’ts. But being ready to listen, understand and give uncompromising “straight” answers. Though youngsters may feel hurt or taken aback, surely, they appreciate the act done by their parents. A good area for openness is relationship.
Although infatuation may bloom into a deeper relationship, adolescents should understand that all may not go smoothly when they enter into a sexual relationship. It is a time when the inherent sex drive pulls them to go physical. But their tender age, playful characters and being dependent does not make them responsible for this relationship. Most of such relationship brings about regretful end. This is one way parents could go about in this topic.
Another way is to use the National demographic reports that give us alarming statistics regarding the rate of teenage pregnancy, adolescents’ early sexual contact, abortions and other related social problems. Parents could take advantage of happening in the media to break the ice and find a way to introduce the topic to their children. Sometimes, instilling fear of the unknown may work especially when they fail to understand the right way. But, threatening does not work or may bring anti-results.
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