July 25, 2016

Teenage pregnancy

The subject of teenage pregnancy is a significant issue in Guyana and has been for a long time now, yet despite efforts being made to tackle the problem from both the government and non-government organisations, it remains among the highest rates in the Caribbean.
Coupled with the high numbers of those teenagers living in poverty, the situation presents serious concerns. Why does a young girl who can barely feed herself have a baby? More mind-baffling is why, after the first she often quickly goes on to have a second and even a third. This culture then becomes a cycle that can be seen repeating itself generation after generation.
The underlying issues leading to teenage pregnancy include gender equality, poverty, sexual violence, negative stereotyping and attitudes, poor education and limited opportunities; all of which many young girls in Guyana face daily.
Gender inequality, despite policy, remains a reality in many parts of the world and here in Guyana the culture of inequality is prevalent. The incidence of reported sexual violence is only the tip of the ice-burg and must make up a large percentage of the numbers of teenage pregnancy each year.
Of those young girls who choose to have children so early in life, poor education and the limited prospects they believe they have contributes to their choice. The issue therefore cannot be dealt with by tackling one area; a much broader approach is necessary.
Family planning should not just be highlighted as a key area for development but should be tackled in an innovative, nationwide drive. It is too large a problem for smaller organisations to tackle effectively.
The government and the family should be a major contributor to the education and guidance of young people in this area to provide a wide societal approach to sex education and make family planning available, accessible and understood.
Sex education in schools is possibly the most efficient medium to educate young girls (and boys) about the issues of teenage pregnancy and the dangers of unsafe sex. There is a need for sexual education to go beyond the practical information and provide the kind of social guidance that is necessary to positively impact on the questionable choices that are so evidently being made by young people in very challenging circumstances.
They should be encouraged to question the irresponsibility of bringing children into the world with no means of providing for them. Are young people being properly spoken to about the realities and responsibility of parenthood? If so why is there no apparent influence on the outcome?
While there are undoubtedly some teenage parents that are doing a wonderful job brining up their children; age does not reflect on their ability to love their child, teenage parents are less likely to have the tools and financial capabilities to offer a child all they need for a secure, safe and healthy start in life.
A child with teenage parents who are financially incapable of ensuring suitable health care standards are met, both nutritionally and hygienically, is more likely to suffer poor health. Development of social skills, language and cognitive ability can also be delayed due to inadequate parental interactions and guidance; something often associated with teenage parents.
Teenage mothers are less likely to ensure their children go regularly to school, learn to attain standardised national literacy and numeracy levels and follow appropriate routines. These children are also more likely to have limited access to life experiences.
The loss of a young parent’s own youth and education, narrowed opportunities and restricted lives are further fallouts of young pregnancies. Young girls find it more difficult to pursue dreams and contribute to society once they have a child.They are often reliant upon others for survival and therefore have little control over their lives and what they can offer their children. Risks during pregnancy for teens is a harsh reality and unfortunately a significant contributor to the age group’s mortality figures.
Young people if you have the choice, think carefully before you make a decision, or fail to make one, and bring a child into the world.
They do not only need love to survive. The need food, adequate shelter, security and guidance. There are far too many children already in need of, and lacking, so much.
We are in the 21st century and women have the opportunity to control those areas of their lives more than ever before. The cultural cycle that exists of children begetting children needs to be broken so we can focus all our family resources of time, knowledge and money on the thousands of young people already in need.


Natural high or brain destroyer?
Drug misuse and abuse has existed from the beginning of time, especially those drugs which are found growing naturally. The use of marijuana has increased significantly and is often underestimated in its risk capacity. Scientific studies increasingly suggest it may not be the risk-free high that many users and non-users believe it to be. However, it is still widely perceived by young smokers as relatively harmless.
Marijuana contains more than 400 chemicals, including THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Since THC is the main active chemical in marijuana, the amount of THC determines its strength or potency and therefore its effects. The THC content of marijuana has been increasing since the 1980s. All forms of marijuana are mind-altering; they change how the brain works.
The risk to both physical and mental health is becoming frighteningly evident, unfortunately predominantly among young people. It is presenting itself in significantly higher incidences of hallucinations, paranoia and the triggering of psychotic illness in adolescent users. Although the risks are dangerous to all ages, the developing brain can be the most severely damaged through cannabis use.
Brain development in childhood continues through teenage years and into the early 20s. Cannabis affects how the brain’s regulator controls things like mood and memory. The fragile circuitry that is developing in the teenage brain that allows for risk-taking is being tampered with and cannabis can alter the system that’s there to regulate things. These effects cannot be corrected. If damage is done to the brain during growth, it will forever be affected.
Studies of frequent adolescent users suggest those who start smoking early have a higher tendency to develop psychotic illnesses. While cannabis use is not to be condoned, if you are going to indulge, it would be wise to avoid doing so until later in life when the brain has stopped developing. It can worsen psychotic symptoms in people who already have the mental illness schizophrenia, and it can increase the risk of long-lasting psychosis in some people.
For many, repeated use leads to addiction; controlling the drug use becomes difficult and a person often cannot stop even if they wanted to. Like most abused substances, it alters judgment leading to risky behaviours that can expose the user to danger in all sorts of dimensions. Regular use of marijuana has also been linked to depression, anxiety, and a loss of drive or motivation, which means a loss of interest even in previously enjoyable activities.
Of course, not everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted. Each person is affected in different ways and that can depend on many factors including genetics, the age you start using, whether you also use other drugs, family and peer relationships.
People are often heard saying that they have used marijuana for decades with no psychotic effect and there may be rare cases where this appears to be so, but if you were to ask people closest to the users they would no doubt tell a different story.
Users may function well enough, hold down a job, continue in school and lead an apparently normal life, but the likelihood is that they experience and exhibit some negative personality traits that are enhanced by smoking. High doses of marijuana can cause disturbed perceptions and thoughts or paranoia. Users are not necessarily aware of this but family members, partners or friends will be and it can have a negative effect on relationships.
Even those users who manage to stay in school will be more likely to experience school failure due to adverse effects on memory, attention and learning. If you use regularly; alertness, concentration, and coordination will diminish. Combined, this makes it difficult to learn something new or do complex tasks that require focus and concentration. Daily use can cause the brain to become ‘dimmed down’ and result in lower grades and high dropout rates. Research even shows that IQ can be lower if you smoke marijuana regularly in your teen years.
The irreversible consequences of using this drug at an early age can be devastating. It can significantly impede development of key brain functions that are vital for the perusal of successful adulthood. The financial burden and high instances of addiction are detrimental aspects that can affect those closest to you significantly. Believing there are no effects or consequences is a dangerous oversight to make about your physical and mental health. As with many drugs, the highs will eventually be over and you will be left with the long-term effects of the lows.

Healthy relationships

When we think about things being unhealthy we usually think about our physical self and well-being, but the state of our emotional being is of utmost importance to the quality of life we lead. Who we surround ourselves with can have a huge impact on our emotional health and in the areas we may not have control over, for instance at work, the way we choose to interact with people can be significant in keeping a positive state of mind.
One of the most important relationships we become involved with which impacts us on a daily basis is the partner we choose. For whatever reasons we are attracted to, or fall in love with our partners, the reality of that relationship as it plays out over the weeks, months and years often teaches us a thing or two about our initial reasons for being with them!
Whether people change as they grow or have always had certain tendencies but managed to keep them hidden in the initial stages, or we were just too blind with new feelings to notice things that cause difficulties later down the line, people often find themselves in relationships that are counterproductive to their mental and physical health.
It can be difficult to disengage yourself from a long-term partner, especially if there are children involved. If you are unhappy in your relationship and it is not due to abuse but maybe selfish or thoughtless behaviour or a simple clash of personalities, there is a good chance you can work out ways to improve it. There is always the possibility that a new approach or awareness can shift things to a healthier plane.
A healthy relationship is not necessarily one where you spend every possible moment together, in fact the most successful and fulfilling relationships are those in which each person has personal interests of their own and they enjoy time with friends and family both with and without their partner. The healthier each person’s own life is outside of the relationship, the more likely they will be happier within the relationship.
Relationships take work. They come with lots of ups and downs and they can give us the most intense feelings both wonderful and despairing. Sometimes we have to consider if it is ourselves who are failing to contribute to a healthy status.
Also to consider is if we allow a partner to treat us less than respectfully we have to take responsibility for allowing it to continue. Not speaking up in a calm manner, or failing to communicate needs and listen to those of our partner may similarly contribute to a failing relationship.
What does a healthy relationship look like? It is a relationship in which you feel safe and comfortable expressing yourself even if your opinions are different from your partner’s. It’s about having those opinions valued and listened to without judgement but with understanding.
There is great importance in supporting each other’s goals in life and respecting each other’s feelings and friends. Also in accepting responsibility for yourself and accepting any past wrong doing, admitting when you are wrong and communicating openly and truthfully.
It is making a concerted effort to ensure there is a fair distribution of work and responsibility for the relationship, household and children. Making money decisions together so that both benefit from financial arrangements regardless of who earns the money; as often a woman has priorities that do not allow her to pursue great financial return. Partners need to seek mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict, be able to accept change and be willing to compromise.
If someone has never witnessed or experienced such a relationship it is not surprising that they expect less from a partner. Adults should be trying to model such relationships for their children or at least be teaching them about the importance of a fair distribution of power, respect for one another and encouraging each other’s goals.
Knowing what you are looking for in a relationship gives you a better chance of finding it or finding someone who is willing to work with you in order to achieve a state where both of you feel valued and important.
You have to offer your partner all the things that you require and not just expect it from them. If you are willing to, and you try to give your partner all they need for a healthy relationship then you deserve to receive the same.

How well do you deal with conflict?

Conflict is a part of our everyday lives. Each individual is so unique and we have so many differences of opinions, even among friends, that conflict is bound to arise. For good ideas and true innovation to immerge, we need conflict, productive argument and debate.
There are those of us who shy away from any kind of conflict, finding it difficult to confront opposing opinions and avoiding it at all costs, while voicing our concerns in a safer space; but mostly being left frustrated at the other persons lack of empathy, failing to realise that if we don’t convey our feelings they will never understand our way of thinking and we will never create the opportunity for discussion.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who thrive on conflict, those who love to be in the midst of controversy and are fuelled and excited by the prospect of disagreement; poised to deliver a superior viewpoint. Unfortunately, they can be closed to others’ opinions and too set on being right to consider the other persons perspective, feelings or experiences. This can be a suffocating position because it breeds a false sense of grandeur and stifles development, growth and empathy. Going in to a conflicting situation with a closed mind denies the other person respect and ourselves acceptance of the possibility of our imprecisions.
Balanced between the two are those that understand the inevitability and value of conflict and want to use it to learn, to inform and to consider new ways of thinking. Usually this approach allows the conflicting party the room and freedom to express themselves fully and also encourages them to offer the courtesy of listening and considering their opposition’s viewpoint. With this approach even in the eventually of residual disagreement, both parties are likely to be comfortable agreeing to disagree.
The conflict many of us avoid and fear is much worse than the reality of voicing a conflicting opinion. The discomfort of the disagreement and the ensuing outcome could be minimised by a firm but fair approach. Often the result of avoiding conflict is that we end up doing things we do not want to do or feeling that we have compromised ourselves by standing by and failing to challenge an ill-informed point of view. Do not leave a conflict rich encounter thinking your silence has won because it is unlikely that it has achieved anything other than leaving the person you are dealing with feeling superior; believing your silence is an admission that if you argue you will lose.
You may reason you are above taking time to challenge some people and it doesn’t matter what they think but that shows a lack of care to your fellow human and a lack of responsibility for yourself in the interactions where you arepotentially a facilitator for change. Opportunities during interactions in which you could have a positive or evoking influence should be utilised. Within personal relations avoidance it is not asign of a good relationship; on the contrary avoidance is a symptom of a serious communication problem.
Conflict can be foreboding to the pacifist and the aggressor for the same reason. They may be afraid to have to accept another’s valid point. While one moves away silently the other bombards their opponent and refuses to listen, both are afraid of the same thing. Those that debate and consider are strong enough to accept they are not always right; they want to grow, they want to develop, they want to teach and to learn.
Anyone who is already, or hoping to, successfully manage the full potential of relations between their workforce, employer, peer group or family would have had to face and embrace conflict. We are all unique and are a product of knowledge personality passions; there is bound to be conflict. Accept there are likely three sides, yours theirs and the truth.
Some ways of working towards dealing with conflict either as an involved party or someone trying to facilitate positive outcomes should approach conflict with an eye for resolution. Ask questions to better understand the viewpoint of others – what was expected,, why was it not achieved, can needs be met, were they unrealistic, can they be achieved eventually? Recognise differing perspectives and allow them fair consideration. Look at honest and unintended mistakes and accept them. Someone has to genuinely want to avoid further escalation to find effective ways to resolve issues.
The nature of conflict is the nature of human interactions. We can use it for development or hindrance. Decide your approach.

Effects of domestic violence on children

UNICEF reports that every year hundreds of millions of children are exposed to domestic violence at home, and this has a powerful and profound impact on their lives and expectations for the future. It is one of the most prevalent human rights challenges that exist and it seems to be ever increasing. Violence in the home is not limited by geography, ethnicity, or status; it is a global phenomenon and unfortunately in this part of the world it is rampant.
We are all aware of the magnitude of the numbers of families living in this situation and we are also aware of the realities of the effects on the women or men suffering because of the abuse. We are even forthcoming in acknowledging that it affects the children but have we really considered how deeply and how much lasting damage is caused?
Living day to day with the uncertainty of a violent reaction to a normal occurrence can be exhausting and frightening for a child. Children are susceptible to taking the blame for negative domestic occurrences and it is a victim label that can follow them in their own future relationships.
When you are in the presence of the two people in the world who are supposed to protect you, look after you, provide for you and love you, you expect them to afford each other the similar sentiment – hence a family unit.
Watching the abuse of your mother, sometimes by a man other than your father, can not only break a child’s heart, but also their spirit. It can teach young children acceptance of unhealthy behaviours in a relationship with far-reaching connotations.
Studies around the world have shown that children who are exposed to violence in the home may suffer a range of severe and lasting effects. There is significant risk of harm to the child’s physical, emotional and social development.
Infants and small children experience so much added emotional stress when they are exposed, that it can harm the development of their brains and impair cognitive and sensory growth.
Social development can be damaged in various ways. There can be a loss in ability to feel empathy for others. Children may end up feeling socially isolated and unable to make friends easily due to social discomfort or confusion over what is acceptable. Poor concentration and focus means they are more likely to have difficulty learning so may have trouble with school work and not be able to perform well.
At an early age, a child’s brain is becoming ‘hard-wired’ for later physical and emotional functioning and that development is threatened by the negative experiences they are having in an abusive home. This can lead to personality and behavioural problems that can take the forms of psychosomatic illnesses, depression and suicidal tendencies at any stage of life.
Children from violent homes have been found to exhibit signs of more aggressive behaviour, such as bullying, and are more likely to be involved in fighting and exhibit violent, risky or delinquent behaviour.
Later in life, these children are at greater risk for substance abuse, juvenile pregnancy and criminal behaviour than those raised in homes without violence. They are more likely to be affected by violence as adults – either as victims or perpetrators and so there is a strong likelihood that this will become a continuing cycle of violence for the next generation.
Studies from various countries support findings that rates of abuse are higher among women whose husbands were abused as children or who saw their mothers being abused. They learn early and powerful lessons about the use of violence in interpersonal relationships to dominate others and all too often go on to practice it.
If there is violence within your home, no matter how well you might think you are hiding it from your children, it will be causing them harm; significant harm. Whether you are being violent or allowing someone to be violent towards you, what you are doing is subjecting your children to a sequence of events that they do not have the capacity to understand. They cannot comprehend what has diminished someone’s senses enough to negate their responsibilities as a parent, whether it is alcohol, substance misuse of misguided judgement.
The damage may not be apparent right now but be sure there will be damage and it can affect your children in so many different areas and for the rest of their lives.

Is it OK to be angry?


At actually is okay to be angry. If things are unfair, if we are treated badly, if we see others treated badly, anger is a natural emotion that we all feel and it is often necessary to incite us to action. If we witness injustice or we are hurt, either physically or emotionally, anger is the human response. The problem with anger is how we manage and express it.

Anger has fuelled change over the years; it has been the catalyst for revolution, the power behind human rights changes and the force that fought the battles of inequality. Those who took their anger and channelled it productively saw some positive outcomes. However, if anger is having a negative impact on your life and those around you, it is destructive anger and it is time to look at how you are managing it.

Increasingly, anger is the root of unhappiness because it is not being accepted, understood and controlled. We use it to override painful feelings and can emit unacceptable behaviours, then use it as an excuse for failure to take responsibility and as a defence for culpability. It can be used in an attempt to take control of a situation we may not have any power over. This does not provide us with a solution to a problem; in fact, it only serves to add to the problem becoming a social or health issue.

Your anger can be like a firework with your triggers lighting the match, the anger building like the fuse burning and finally the explosion happens.

If you change the way you think about something, you can change the way you feel about it and so in turn change the way you react to it. There are almost always other emotions that come before the anger and it is usually a perception about what has transpired, often a misinterpreted one; one that can be side stepped by a new interpretation to lead to an outcome you can control.

Recognising what can be changed by understanding causes and triggers and avoiding them when possible can reduce the instances of becoming angry. Moderating the intensity of emotional reaction to anger and using self talk or reframing perspectives to lessen over-reacting to situations also helps anger management.

Anger has physical symptoms alongside the emotional rollercoaster it may set in motion. Reducing or controlling physical reactions to situations that evoke anger by relaxation techniques can calm and slow the reactions down, averting focus from the cause of the response. Practising being calm by imagining places and situations where you feel most tranquil and using these images to slow down a fuse burning can eventually put out the flame.

Being able to express feelings; putting words to those feelings and understanding them, gives an alternative outlet for your emotions. It also allows us to be reflective and honest about the reasons behind the feelings and whether they are warranted. Often, it is our perceived view of an action that causes a negative response and it is not always an intended action with negative connotations.

You have a choice of three responses when you are angry or upset. You can be aggressive, passive or assertive. Being passive usually involves you being quiet and allowing the situation to ‘just be’ when you are angry. This may be advantageous for the person you are angry with, but it is not healthy if you leave the situation with your anger unresolved; you will carry that with you.

Acting aggressively, or unfavourably overpowering, can be just as unhealthy as it damages relationships. It is unfair, unproductive in most cases and can be a form of bullying.

The healthiest and usually most successful way to deal with anger is by being assertive. This is when you are clear about your feelings and express them in a way that respects the feelings of others. In this way, you are able to get across your point, achieve the outcome you desire and minimise upsetting others.

So don’t be afraid to get angry, that’s not what you need to control. Be sure you have justification to be angry and if you do, then channel it into a positive, fair outcome. Accept that no matter how badly you are being treated or how unfair a situation is, your response can make it better or worse for both you and the people around you. If you display uncontrollable anger, it will continue to damage relationships, isolate you, affect your social standing, harm your physical and mental health, and hamper any hopes of us becoming a better society with stronger relationships and productivity.


Beware of grooming; get out before it’s too late


It’s frightening the number of woman around the world suffering at the hands of an abusive partner. It’s frightening the number of woman around the world who feel they have no choice but to stay in an abusive relationship. Most frightening of all are the number of children who witness the abuse and how badly it affects their lives.

Most women do not choose their partners knowing the cycle they are about to fall into. It rarely begins that way and young girls need to be aware of the dangers and the signs that may present themselves along the way of a partner ensnaring them into a false sense of security before creating an environment where the girl/woman is so vulnerable it is difficult to free herself from the situation.

Women of all ages find themselves living with the terror of domestic violence. There are so many different circumstances and reasons why they end up in the position, but one scenario that has played itself out hundreds of times, and may be avoided if young girls recognise the signs early enough to stop a situation escalating, follows these stages:

A very young girl meets an older man who impresses her with maturity, money and lifestyle and makes her feel important by lavishing her with gifts and attention. She feels like the centre of his world and he works hard to make her feel special. She quickly falls head over heels for the man. This stage is a grooming or ensnaring stage.

He begins to create a dependency and becomes possessive. The girl now spends more time with him and less with her friends and family. His jealousy is interpreted as a sign of love and she feels flattered by the intensity of his emotions and protected by his concerns; despite the tinges of fear. She cuts herself off from things outside of the relationship and becomes dependent upon him while he constantly demands she proves her love to him.

Here he takes control, control over: where she goes, who she sees, what even what she wears. Now the violence begins. She is in a constant state of fear because she has no idea whether she will be beaten or what for; the violence is inconsistent. In the early stages this is often followed by deep regret and remorse from the abuser, coupled with accusations of her being to blame because he is unable to regulate his emotions due to the magnitude of his feelings for her.

Soft drugs and alcohol may be encouraged to undermine her resistance and become another form of control. Substance abuse by the perpetrator is very likely to increase the abuse. The girl makes excuses for his behaviour and indeed blames herself. She is too embarrassed to confide in the friends she has all but abandoned and keeps believing things will change and he will go back to being the type of person he was before.

Finally the man has isolated her, humiliated her, damaged her self-esteem and he now has total dominance over her. The danger of serious harm and even death is a reality that hangs over her head on a daily basis.

When this happens to young girls during early adolescence if she is fortunate enough to escape the relationship it can still cause serious difficulties in any ensuing relationships she has and make caring loving relationships difficult for her to sustain. It can lead to the girl seeking out one abusive relationship after another and make healthy relationships impossible to contemplate.

The culture and economic circumstance here in Guyana make it difficult for women in this situation to get out due to the limited resources and support networks available to them. The patriarchal dominance in the home can undermine the legitimacy of the women’s suffering and lack of opportunities for women to be financially viable traps them in these situations.

There is help and support out there. Other women have worked hard to offer a hand to help as many women as they can escape these conditions and have supported women through some horrendous experiences, onto leading fulfilled lives. Leaving an abusive relationship is a hard decision to make and an extremely frightening move to instigate and carry out, but be empowered by the thousands of women who have found the strength to stand up and take back control of their lives. The thousands that have struggled, but are now free to live their lives the way they want to.

If you are affected by any of the details of this article and need help and advice contact:

HELP AND SHELTER 24 HOUR HELP LINE on 227 3454/225 4731

Or visit the CRISIS CENTER to get FREE ADVICE from experienced and dedicated Domestic Violence Counsellors: Help & Shelter, Homestretch Avenue, D’Urban Backlands, Georgetown, Guyana.


Beating in school


in Guyanese society it is clear that despite the information that has been presented about the detrimental effects of beating our children, many people are of the opinion because they grew up being beaten, it is acceptable to repeat the same; a culture of ‘we know best’ in the face of policies and laws contrary to that practice. Despite the controversy that surrounds the questions of whether parents should beat their children, it must be acknowledged there is a huge difference between controlled physical reprimand and the use of physical violence as an abuse of power.

When we wonder where all the violence we are seeing in society is coming from, we don’t have to look further afield than in many of our homes and schools. Think about the message that is being sent to our children. We advocate expressing anger, disappointment and dislike by use of violence. Despite the laws criminalising beating in schools, and the prosecution of some identified cases, the practice still continues on what is believed to be a huge scale. Teachers do not have the right to beat any child.

No disrespect is intended to the teachers out there that put their heart and soul into a very difficult and trying profession, but not only the legal side of beating in schools but the actual effect on the child has to be considered before they continue to practice an age old tradition just because they can.

Do you know how many learning difficulties children are fighting with? Have you any idea what a child faced this morning before getting to school? Do you know how many students did not eat breakfast this morning or supper last night causing concentration and attention span to be limited? Do you have an inclination of the difficulties some young people face on a daily basis and still find a way to make it to school? How can it be acceptable to beat a child for spelling a word incorrectly, not writing fast enough or not finishing their work?

Can you imagine what it must be like for a dyslexic child who struggles to read and write, a child dealing with abuse or a child with learning difficulties? Not all children learn and produce work at the same pace; it irrefutably is not a punishable crime. I am certainly not ready to allow someone who has little understanding of my circumstances to raise their hand to my child, especially if it is because they failed to get over 90 per cent in a test.

A psychological link between school work and punishment creates a negative environment in which many will fail to thrive and can lead to persistent truanting, which transcends to a whole set of other problems. Who wants to ask a teacher for help with work after being beaten for not knowing something?

Many of you grew up with such discipline and I have heard a thousand times how it never did you any harm. In fact many believe it is what instilled the respect for elders that is so apparently lacking in the youth today. I challenge that many of the older people who bring up the youth today are a contributing factor to the lack of respect and some elders’ attitudes certainly do not always warrant it. We do not have the right to respect, we need to earn it and to earn it we need to contribute to bringing up the young people in a way that makes them want to respect us.

Unfortunately, several of the rights given to children have had an adverse effect on their behaviour, but the capacity for people in authority to abuse their power has to be restricted and the badly behaved children may be given a free ride to ensure that those who are unable to regulate fair reprimand do not have the freedom to execute dictatorial practices.

The laws cannot always be enforced due to lack of resources so each individual must take responsibility and ensure that they refrain from the practice and ensure their colleagues do the same. Head teachers must insist that this abuse of power is not tolerated in their school. New ways of disciplining and punishing pupils who are disrespectful, aggressive and non-compliant must be employed. Parents need to speak up. If your child misbehaves in school, you deal with it in an appropriate manner, liaise with the teacher and work hard to ensure it isn’t repeated.

It’s long overdue that children’s rights were afforded them.


Your future, your choice


With opportunities for young people in Guyana extremely limited it can be understood when they say there are not many choices for them. The bottom line is, however limited they are, young people still have to make the most important choice about their future and that is whether they are going to work towards making it the best it can be or taking a less focused route to accepting less than they deserve.

Yes it is the responsibility of the wider society to create more opportunities but young people have to learn to work with what they have right now and find ways to make it in the circumstances they are in. It can be difficult to think and act positively in a tough climate but it is imperative to have the right attitude for success.

You need to have a goal and you need to have a plan to reach it. I’ve heard of some amazing dreams, some extravagant, some modest, some heart-warming, some over ambitious, but all to be encouraged. The fact children have a dream is promising. The problem is that as they grow and develop, too few devise realistic plans to achieve their goals and along the way many of these dreams get lost.

The focus seems to be very much on instant gratification, wanting to be satisfied now, rather than deferred gratification where someone makes sacrifices now to achieve a longer-term objective. In order to change this way of thinking and behaving, parents and teachers need to foster a climate of goal achievement from early in a child’s life. Let them experience the feeling of working towards and achieving goals. The earlier the better.

Lessons in setting and attaining goals can be orchestrated for the purpose of developing a child’s ability and motivation to succeed. To begin with a goal needs to be identified and a clear understanding of why it is being set established followed by the creation of a well-structured ,step by step plan.

Parents and caregivers can help with identification, outlining the benefits of the outcome and supporting a child through the most challenging stages. However, allowing them to develop self-efficacy; the belief in themselves and their ability to achieve, is a vital part of the process if a child is to develop their capacity to set and achieve goals.

Making young people aware that short-term goals lead to the attainment of longer-term goals allows them to see and appreciate the progress that is being made and understand that the pathways to their futures are being mapped out during their childhood, adolescence and beyond. Almost like a ladder with each rung a step closer to gratification but each with its own set of challenges and rewards necessary to reach the next one up.

It is essential that the goals set are realistic and achievable to build self-confidence upon accomplishment, but also important that they are challenging enough to develop resilience and perseverance. Directing a child to develop reflective practice so they learn how to assess what works and what doesn’t and adjust themselves accordingly will also have a positive effect on outcome and provide them with strategies and skills to approach many other aspects of their lives.

Acknowledging, reinforcing and rewarding a child’s progress and effort just as much as their successes and achievements is a vital element of support as behaviourism studies suggest that the more you validate and reinforce the smallest of improvements in a child’s behaviour, the faster they will create and sustain that change.

If we are to effect change in the lives, attitudes and motivations of our young people we can start by creating a positive mind set and helping them to develop key skills for goal setting and achieving from an early age. We can help foster a more positive, empowered youth culture by continually creating opportunities for children to succeed, encouraging them to challenge themselves and teaching them the necessity to work hard to overcome and accomplish.

It most certainly is tough out there for young and old, and undoubtedly there will be some failures along the way for even the hardest workers or the most motivated people. Taking responsibility for your future, planning, facing the hardships, dealing with all the ups and downs and continuing to push forward is the only way young people are going to fulfil their potential to brighten their prospects. It’s your future, it’s your choice.


The family that eats together…

How often do you sit down to a meal with your family? When was the last time? Yes we lead busy lives and have commitments that may make it difficult for the whole family to come together each day, but real efforts should be made to ensure a family makes time to eat together as often as possible. This doesn’t mean rushing through a meal before one sibling goes out to meet friends, another is texting on their phone, mom is multi-tasking between bites and Dad is preoccupied with the day’s stresses. It means sitting down, interacting, enjoying a meal and healthy conversation.
Never underestimate the power of an hour out of the day to connect with the whole family. It is the perfect time to find out how each other’s day went. The perfect time to observe how each other is feeling. The perfect time to discuss current affairs, worries, celebrations or a family issue. It is invaluable in the maintenance of the family unit and continually develops relations and keeps lines of communications open. It provides a feeling of togetherness that bonds the family together.
One of the most significant factors of the problems facing young people today is the breakdown of the family. The lack of guidance and interactions that the family used to provide has become so lost over the past few decades and the effects are far reaching within our society. Research shows that frequent family dinners are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers compared to those young people who do not have the regular experience of family meals. The opportunity for parents and siblings to model good behaviour and shape attitudes, teach morals and reinforce expectations can be provided when a family spends regular mealtime together.
Everybody has to eat, even the moody teenager who may usually take their food into their room, the busy mom who grabs a bite to eat during her hectic day or the busy dad rushing from place to place. Do not let it become a practice. Make it part of your family’s routine to spend that precious time together around the dining table. Be sure not to make it a time for reprimand or arguments, make it a positive space where there is an opportunity to speak, ask for advice, share news, discuss concerns. These are the times good memories are made and they are practices young people can take on and use in their own family settings and teach their own children.
The whole experience should be made into a ‘family affair’. Preparing the table for the family can give young and older children some responsibility and teach them the correct way to set a table. Getting them involved with planning the menu and even better still, allowing them to be involved in the preparation and cooking where possible, teaches them not only practical life skills but also provides opportunities to work as a team and gives the younger members of the family a sense of ownership of the meal. It is also a time to model table manners and encourage appropriate eating habits.
The benefits for each individual and the family as a unit are inestimable. The isolated feelings and self esteem issues that are so prevalent in today’s youths can be diminished by this simple practice. Giving young people that real sense of belonging they can look forward to each day even for a short time can affect them in such a positive way and impact on their relations with others. Parents have more opportunities to observe how their children are feeling and what is happening in their lives on a regular basis and will know if any changes are evident quickly. Spouses can enjoy the together time too amidst the busy schedules most of our lives have become.
So many of the good aspects of family life have been lost and so many more are disappearing. If you already practice this please continue to do so and be aware how important it is. If you do not, make an effort to start, even if it is once a week to begin with- maybe you will discover its benefits and try harder to increase the opportunity to bring such an important practice into your home. The more often you sit down together the more likely you are to bond and love the way a family a should.