LAST WEEK we talked about the joys of parenting. This time let’s see if we can sober down and face the challenges that sometimes go with parenthood.Like everything else in life, parenting could be challenging. These challenges may be personal, social, economic, or a combination several other factors that we face as we try to preside over this small community called family.

When children pass through adolescence and approach adulthood, they start to explore the world and want to find their place in it. There is a time, though, when children obey their parents with very little objection. But as they grow older they start to look outwards and seek the attention of friends. A time comes when they question everything you say as their circle of friends increase. They start to seek independence and want to push the family away. They may appear to be moodyand unreasonable at times.

While we may see these nuances as a challenge, we need to realize that this is normal for them as it is part of their growth process. Children start to learn that the world does not offer anything for free and so as adolescents and teenagers they start to develop negotiating skills right in their homes. For example, when children are small, parents decide everything for them. But as they grow older they want to do things for themselves. Adolescents and teenagers start to go after trendy fashions and develop interests in the opposite sex. This is the time they start to take risks that may be harmful to themselves and may disrupt their studies and future prospects. This may be a challenge to parents because young ones lack life experience and sometimes they can mis-time or mis-judge situations. Let’s be clear here, grownups and other older persons do make mistakes also, but that’s more out of carelessness and lack of self-control. However, children err because of peer pressure, over zealousness and energy directed at wrong pursuits.They tend to be adventurous and want totry to find out who and what they are.

It’s worth noting here that we are living in a fast changing world and we cannot relate to our children the way our parents did 30 or 40 years ago. Today science and technology has made our children communicate and have relationships with people we may never meet. They know more than we think; and trying to raise them as our parents did, could be another challenge. This means that you and I need to find strategies that work; incentives that bring children close to us, but at the same time give them the freedom and respect they need. For example, some teenagers may not want you to peruse through their phone. In this instance, and the fact that you may not always be there to monitor how they use these electronic gadgets, the best you can do is to make them be aware of the dangers that come with unlimited privileges that the internet gives.

Another example is television. Some children may watch adult material on TV when we are not around. Again we need to train children to sieve what to watch and what not – on their own. This may not always be the case because young ones are very curios. Nevertheless, the best we can do for them is to provide the parental guidance and use every opportunity to teach children to make good choices on their own. Cultivating a close relationship with members of our household is the first step in overcoming challenges of parenthood.

Talking about sex and sexuality is another subject many parents find a challenge. And generally speaking we find this a tabooin our cultures to sit down with a girl or boy and start talking about subjects like mensuration, wet dreams and such sensitive topics. Those who bother to, would rather the grandmother, auntie or another relative do the needful. This is good, but if you can’t trust yourself to talk about sexuality with your children, how much hope do you have that someone else will tell your child real life facts? Needless to say, if we don’t talk about sexuality with our children, they’ll still find out – and most likely from wrong sources!

Though not necessarily a challenge per se, disciplining children is one element we cannot gloss over. How, when and what type of discipline to mete out to erring children could be debatable. But if we read the Bible we see that scripture tips parents to chastise their children. ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child,’ the old book says. Thus children at home equally need to know that wrongdoing has penalties. Note, however that the purpose of discipline is not to harm children, but to train them to do what is right.

But parents may also find challenges with economic hardships. If parents do not have enough income to sustain the family, that would affect the upbringing of children. Children who come from economically sound homes with loving parents have higher chances of attaining college or university education than those from struggling parents. That said, anyone aspiring to be a parent need to have a regular income or a sustainable business.

From whatever perspective you look at it, parenting has challenges, but all these can be overcome by resolved determination and commitment from parents and the community at large.

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