In a clime like ours, where many people are ignorant of the child’s right act and children’s opinions are not sought for, even while deciding issues concerning them, everybody thinks childhood is simply a care-free era.
Although many children may not initiate a conversation on what bothers them, they surely do go through one form of pressure or the other. Things like school demands, their social life and coping with house chores, in no mean measure, most times create pressures that can be quite overwhelming for them.
Unique Amadi, a basic 9 student of St Scholarstica Secondary School here in Port Harcourt explains that she wakes up every 4.00 am on week days to prepare for school, closes at 3pm and resumes preparatory classes for her junior WAEC immediately and closes at 4pm. She arrives home about 6.00pm and is faced with plates to wash in addition to her school’s assignment that she must submit the next day.
Unique is also an active member of the children department of her church, a chorister in that regard. Unique is just one among millions of children who go through similar experience on daily basis, some even play the role of bread winners in the home due to unfavourable economic experience.
In the face of these enumerated demands, the onus lies on the poor little child to deliver in every side; be it from the home front, the school or the church, the child is expected to prove him/her self a faithful steward.
Sometimes some parents seem not to know what to do to assist their children cope with these pressures but they surely do want you to reach out and help them cope with their troubles. Even though it may be practically impossible to avert pressures on children, you can, as a parent help them develop healthy ways to cope with pressures.
Resorting to the choice of the child as a money-making venture for the family has exposed most of its victims to the other harsh and ugly side of life many live daily hunted by the dangers incurred in the process of trying to cushion the effect of the harsh economy on families.
Ofcourse, the current economic downturn in Nigeria, and around the world, has refocused attention on the process through which families assist themselves. The harsh economic realities have pushed many parents, the original family bread winners out of their jobs, leaving many family tables to go for days without food.
Many of the parents, guardians and other household authorities, lack entrepreneurial skills to fall back on in such scotching situation. This situation has not only created great pressure on the children and teens in the homes, but has put upon them, the burden of lending support towards the family’s upkeep to avoid eventual collapse.
Most tender-hearted students on their own volition decide to help provide for their parents, siblings and themselves if they have the grace to do so.
Visits to grassroot communities in Rivers State in particular, and Nigeria at large, revealed that many tweens and teens who would have actually preferred to be in classroom studying or be in school uniforms and be found in school environments having fun with teachers and fellow pupils or students, colleagues, are rather hawking goods on the streets and high ways while some baby-sit in various homes.
The reason is simply to aid their respective families earn income with which to make ends meet. These school drop outs, are most times used as sacrificial lamb for others to be schooled or to provide food on the family table. Many no doubt, are economically viable hence responsible for their family’s financial stability.
It is a pitiable situation, as it is obvious that many of these teens are neither frustrated, unstable, uninterested in school nor are they guilty of any academic or behavioural misconduct. “They surely do want to be in school, but their families may need their financial help to make ends meet” says molly scott, co-author of Dropping out and clocking in: A portrait of Teens who leave school early and work.
Scott was quick to point out that in some cases, children hand over their pay cheques to parents, while others notice a need in their families and decide to pay for utilities, groceries, school supplies and clothes for themselves and siblings. There also abound cases where youth essentially support themselves within their families or move out on their own.
For the ones who cannot work and school, it is indeed a matter of trading their future to address their family’s financial problems. On yearly basis, the oldest children are found stopping their education to help out with family financial situation. These students never get a chance to go back to school.
However, must children trade their future for their family’s good? Ofcourse, this cycle can be stopped similar economic hardship was witnessed sometimes in the 70’s and 80’s, there was provision for evening schools where children who worked in the day had the privilege to school in the evening and vice versa.
Again, one pressure starring the child on the face as he/she grows up, is that brought on him/her by the peers; friends and course mates. A child once stopped attending maths class simply because his friend advised him against doing so. They rather chose to be going out for lunch during maths period.
As children grow up, they are faced with some challenging decisions of which some don’t actually have a clear right or wrong answer and others involve serious moral questions. Even adults sometimes are faced with this kind of challenge-where a friends tries to influence each other’s action.
It is important to learn to say ‘No’ to offers from peers when they are not useful, this the parents must let them know.
Use an excuse for not wanting to accept such offer and proffer an alternative instead, most importantly, avoid the people who pressure you. This is so because, by mere spending time with you. You learn from them and they also learn from you. It is quite human to listen to and learn.
“It may be quite tough to be the only one who says “No” to peer pressure, but you can do it. Paying attention to your own feelings and beliefs about what is right and wrong can help you know the right thing to do.
Inner strength and confidence can help you stand firm, walk away and resist doing something when you know better” so said Dr D’Arcy Lyness yet their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, place them at risk as they navigate and experiment with various social media sites. Akpa (2014) explains that the numerous benefits of the social media can also constitute threats to their health and safety if unmonitored and uncensored with all the risks of insecurity arising from: social networking to the detriment of other productive educational endeavours
-Exposure to pornography and moral depravity
-Access to online gambling sites, detrimental to mental health and youth development and
–Internet risky behavior such as socialising online with unknown persons; as well as
-Depression, occasioned by addiction which results in time wasting as over indulgence leaves less time for more serious activities.
However in as much as the computer is an incredibly useful tool that can help one get a lot done, we can hardly rule out the possibility of children spending so much time on it and an addiction to gaming and chatting is not in any way lesser to drug addiction and can be quite injurious to the child’s mental health.