Let us seal the disconnect between parents and youth By Koigi Mugo

When the word parent is uttered in any setting, what clicks in our minds is ‘provider’ who strives to pay school fees, rent and offer pocket money on request. In our context, precisely the African, parents consider themselves having ‘done’ their role by paying school fees and providing necessary non-financial support to go to school and get ‘education.’ However, as a young person, I now understand that the main role of parents is to offer encouragement, support and access to activities that enable the child to master critical developmental tasks. A parent should understand, support and mentor youth so that they become valuable to self and the society.

After interacting with 30 young people aged 19-26 in various forums, 12 explained how they were forced into the courses they did, and however much they tried to convince their parents, it ended into the threat of risking termination of fees payment. For identification of gifts and talents in young people to happen, there is need to expose and realize them from a tender age. Most are not aware of self, strengths and vulnerabilities. Others don’t know how to balance and integrate work and life. They were brought up to expect so much after completion of college, but end up jobless for years. Balancing life and knowing self ought to be integrated in parenting from a tender age. Once parents know when to let loose, teach children how to make decisions and manage themselves as they monitor, they will have the resilience to stand on their own when time comes to join college or seek a job.

Many form four leavers end up helpless on the career choices to make and what to do before joining the next level, while only a minority are sure of what they want to pursue. Early career guidance is necessary. A need to understand that every child is gifted differently and what is crucial is realizing those gifts from an early age, support and empower them till they prevail in what they can do best. Formation of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) came as a big move to help youth get necessary technical, soft skills and capabilities to create and retain jobs. However, parents and society continue to view those who do not qualify to join colleges and universities as failures in life. This is leading to many suicide cases and increased drug abuse.

Parents need to realize that a child’s character is built 80 percent from what they see and 20 percent from what they hear. Vices such as corruption continue to hit headlines every day, and the culprits are mostly parents. The current situation needs parents to refocus their energy on bringing ethical youth who will contribute to the common good of society by setting a good example. Supporting children to attain academic excellence is never enough. There is more to life than that and the resilience to handle life in the modern world needs certain skills and values that are often not nurtured. This situation is saddening and many graduates end up jobless, others depressed to an extent of committing suicide. There is need to create an interactive environment between parents and children where key issues affecting children will be noted and addressed.

Conversations where opinions of both parents and youths are respected will close the gap. Becoming solution finders to issues affecting the youth instead of being critics will help find solutions to problems affecting them. Teaching them to be independent, make wise decisions over time, engage and interact with the outside world. Young people need not seek quick gratification, but be patient and trust the process. They must be able to seek work experience first, and patiently build their own brand. Supporting them to start small businesses will help them learn self-management skills. We can’t all excel in academics. Pushing every child to attain high academic excellence won’t help address issues affecting the young people. There is a need to change focus from what worked when parents were growing up to what will work in today’s setting. Or even, parents wanting to achieve what they failed in, through their children. I see this as the way to seal the disconnect.

The writer is interning at Zizi Afrique Foundation

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