Young People Ask . . .
Where Can I Turn When I Have a Problem?
“MOM finds boy, 11, hanged.” Are not such newspaper reports painful? Just imagine—someone so young carrying such unresolved problems. Yet it is reported that every year about 2,000 young people in the United States between the ages of 10 and 19 actually kill themselves—twice the number known even ten years ago. Perhaps as many as 50 times this number attempt to do so.
“I didn’t really want to die,” admitted one 16-year-old girl who was seriously considering suicide. “I just wanted to end the pain and start over.” Most young people are not thinking of suicide. But you must admit that many have intense emotional pain that can make life miserable. Fractured or strained relationships with other people (including parents), emphasis on sexual freedoms and school problems are but a few of their troubles. Whom do you turn to when faced with perplexing problems?
Should I Look to My Peers?
In one study conducted with 14-year-old students, it was disclosed that they prefer to confide in others in the following order: (1) friends of the same sex, (2) parents, (3) friends of the opposite sex, (4) school counselors and (5) teachers. As the book Adolescence: Transition From Childhood to Maturity comments: “It appears then that adolescents often seek help and guidance from their friends, who may be as painfully ignorant as they or even from newspaper columnists, whose answers may be inadequate for the individual’s particular problem.”
Anthony was one who turned to his peers because of a problem. Like most young people he wanted to be accepted, but he felt painfully inferior to others his age. This 13-year-old wanted to impress others by stylish clothing. But he needed money. He talked it over with his young friends. Their solution? They taught him to shoplift and mug people at knife point. By age 15 he had been arrested four times and had spent time in jail.
What has been your experience when you have sought advice from your peers? Was it like Anthony’s—a source of more problems? In Bible times a son of wise King Solomon made a similar mistake. When Rehoboam succeeded his father, Solomon, on the throne, the people pleaded with him to reduce their burdens. First Rehoboam consulted the older men, who counseled him to heed the cry of the people. But instead of following their advice he sought the counsel of “young men that had grown up with him.” They told the king to say, ‘I’ll be even harder!’ The result: a revolt that tore the nation of Israel in two.—1 Kings 12:8-17.
Rehoboam learned, the hard way, that advice not founded on experience and wisdom can lead to many sad consequences. But, then, whom can you go to that will really understand and give you the proper advice?
What About Your Parents?
When asked how she went about getting advice for problems during her teenage years, without hesitating Susan said: “By communicating with my parents! I can’t even think of a time when I have turned to a friend for advice. Whatever I asked my mother and father, even when I was little, I got an answer.” Communication with her parents was a way of life.
But you may think of this family relationship as unrealistic. Some feel that asking parents for advice can be risky. If you don’t follow it, parents may get angry. “If I ever talked to my mother about sex,” bemoaned 14-year-old Betsy, “she would think I was having it instead of just asking about it.” According to a 1981 survey, most teenagers in the United States expressed the wish that their parents would listen to their explanations before passing judgment.
For instance, 16-year-old Petrina was deeply disturbed by the fact that some of her friends were cruelly gossiping about her. “I would wake up at six o’clock in the morning and just cry over the hurt,” said Petrina. “But I felt that Mom wouldn’t understand. And I didn’t want to burden her with my problems.”
But soon Petrina realized she couldn’t handle her problem and confided in her mother. “It was as if someone had taken a huge load off me,” continued Petrina. “Mom listened and she knew exactly what to do to solve the problem. After it was all settled I realized that while it was such a big problem to me, she had been through this before. Her experience was just what I needed.”
If you want to master the skill of cooking, playing a musical instrument or operating intricate machinery, wouldn’t you consult an experienced teacher? How much more so with the complex affairs of life? Remember that the long experience of your parents can be drawn on to solve your problems.
Yes, your parents can be a big help. Who knows you better than they do? Who appreciates your strengths and yet knows your weaknesses better than they? Who can give you support when you need to follow through on good advice?
True, not all parents discuss problems tactfully. Often this is because communication has been lacking over a period of time, then suddenly a major problem has to be dealt with. So work on improving communication. ‘Give your heart’ to your mom or dad. Confide in them whenever possible. The outcome will be a rich relationship that will help you to take small problems in stride and deal with serious problems in an atmosphere of understanding and love.—Proverbs 23:26.
Reaching Out for Bible-Based Help
“Suddenly my whole world was turned upside down,” stated Kay. At age 18 she found herself in the middle of her parents’ divorce, and shortly thereafter her only brother, age 19, was killed in a tragic car accident. Two months later she learned that her father was dying of cancer. When Kay went to see him, her mother out of jealousy locked her out of the house—without clothing or belongings. Whom could she turn to?
For some time Kay had been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and had appreciated the sincere concern the congregational elders had shown during her troublesome earlier years. Without hesitation she phoned one of these elders and explained her situation. He and his family opened up their home, making a place for her in the basement—for more than a year.
“The emotional pain was so intense that at times I wondered: ‘What am I doing? What’s the use of even being alive?’” explained Kay. However, the elder and his wife used the Bible to help her see the need of maintaining her high moral standards rather than just plunging into partying and sexual immorality as a way to escape the emotional hurt. Their help worked, for now Kay is happily married and well adjusted.
But you may feel somewhat embarrassed to discuss certain delicate problems. That is how 18-year-old Arlene felt. “I used to fantasize about boys. Since hardly any showed me much attention, I just craved for a man’s affection,” admitted Arlene. “But I could see what such affection could lead to—five of my six sisters had illegitimate babies. Yet I was ashamed to talk to anyone about these strong feelings.” However, one of the congregational elders noticed that she seemed to have a weighty problem and he approached her. He expressed concern. Along with his wife he had weekly Bible discussions with her and through this help she was able to cope with her feelings.
As Arlene looks back today, she wonders why she didn’t take steps to get help for herself. “Is there anyone [spiritually] sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him,” urges the Bible. (James 5:14) However, Arlene felt unworthy and so was afraid to approach the elders. Now her advice to other young people with similar feelings is: “Don’t feel that way, because they really do care!” Where would Arlene be today without the Bible-based help she received? Her reply: “I would still be with my old girl friends and be pregnant by now.”
Yes, God is indeed concerned about young people—about you! He has lovingly made provision in the family arrangement as well as in the Christian congregation. If you have not become familiar with the helpful congregational arrangements available at your local Kingdom Hall, we invite you to do so. Yes, there are people to turn to for help with life’s problems. Learn by experience the great relief such help can bring.
“He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.”—Proverbs 13:20
[Picture on page 17]
To become a musician, would you seek training from someone your own age?