Show teens some love, parents and teachers urged
By The Nation
A call has gone out to parents ahead of Valentine’s Day to teach their teenage children life skills and be alert for risky behaviour.
Dr Boonreung Traireungworarat, director general of the Public Health Ministry’s Mental Health Department, noted on Tuesday that many teens rely overly on their boyfriends and girlfriends for a sense of happiness.
He announced the findings of a just-completed Rajanagarindra Institute of Child and Adolescent Mental Health survey of 2,100 students ages 11-19 in Bangkok and vicinity.
Two-thirds of the respondents said they were happy with their lives and 70 per cent said they derived happiness from helping others.
Another 18.6 per cent said spending time with their families made them happy.
One-third said they were unhappy, though, citing lack of confidence in solving life issues, lack of self-esteem, and a sense of being a failure.
Asked about Valentine’s Day, 39 per cent said it was an occasion to profess love, while 33 per cent felt indifferent about it. Some noted it was an annual occasion for adults to warn young people about the dangers of romantic relationships.
More than 41 per cent indicated they’d had a boyfriend or girlfriend. Of these, 95.7 per cent said they’d had “at least 1-5 partners”.
One respondent claimed to have had 20 partners.
The youngest age given for having had a first boyfriend or girlfriend was eight years and the oldest 17. Half the respondents who had had a partner said they could depend on them for happiness, that they made them feel complete and no longer lonely.
Asked what they do when they feel uneasy or upset, 51.3 per cent said they enjoyed spending time alone quietly, trying to solve the problem by themselves. More than 43 per cent vented their feelings to sympathetic friends. Fewer turned to their parents.
Boonreung expressed concern over the tendency among teens to attach their happiness and self-esteem to other persons, saying that if a problem arose with that other person, it could result in stress, depression or even premature pregnancy.
The “silver lining” in the survey results, he said, was that many youngsters derive happiness from helping others and spending time with the family.
Parents, teachers and older relatives should cultivate those attitudes to help prevent risky behaviour, such as drug abuse, premature pregnancy, self-inflicted injury and suicide, he said.
“Spending more time with your teens and giving importance to promoting their life skills and constructive activities will boost their self-esteem,” he said.
Institute director Wimonrat Wanpen said the five issues most cited by teens calling its hotline (1323) and visiting the office were stress, romantic disputes, sexual matters, mental health problems and family disputes.
She urged everyone in society to promote life skills so the youngsters maintain self-esteem, can analyse and solve problems constructively, and are able to control emotions, manage stress and create good relations with others.
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