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Young People’s Questions

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How Can I avoid unsafe touch in my relationship with my friends of the opposite sex? I am 15years old.

Being able to avoid sexual intercourse as you relate with your friends begins with self-awareness- you should be aware of your own vulnerability or weaknesses that could easily make you to get involved. For instance, a young person who abuses alcohol can easily indulge in sexual activities because while under the influence of alcohol, he or she may not be able to put up any resistance in the face of sexual advances. So, you need to study yourself, discover the things about you that can easily make you to indulge in sexual intercourse and find ways to deal with them.

Another important thing is being able to set personal boundary. It is important to let your friends know the limits to which you would allow physical or bodily contact and be plain and firm about it. For instance, if you have told your friends that you do not want hugs, you should ensure that you never initiate or accept a hug from them under any circumstance.
You also need to be assertive.You should know that you alone have right over your body and therefore should be bold enough to refuse anyone who attempts to have unacceptable contact with your body.

Another thing that can also help you to put yourself in check is your consciousness of the consequences of sexual involvement such as contraction of STD.s, unplanned pregnancy, anxiety and others. You should always ask yourself, if you are ready to face these consequences.

The type of friends you have is also very important in keeping to your values. One of the easiest ways to maintain your values is to have friends that share the same values. That way, you would not struggle to keep to your values. For instance, if all your friends have equally decided on ‘no sexual contact’, it would be easy for you to avoid sexual involvement.

Assertiveness- You need to understand that your body belongs to you and you therefore have
the right to to decide how you want others to relate to you as your body is
concerned and be bold enough to state your position irrespective of the person involved.

Please, what does it mean to know a man? I overheard my grandma scolding my big cousin sister, saying she believed my cousin sister has known a man.

‘To know a man’ is a phrase commonly used, especially by the older generation to mean that a young girl or a lady has had sexual intercourse. In the traditional Nigerian society and in many other African communities, a young person, especially a girl is expected to remain as a virgin irrespective of her age until she gets married, and any girl who does otherwise is seen as bringing shame to herself and her family. This is the reason your grandma was angry with your big cousin sister. Though some young people believe that this culture of keeping one’s virginity till marriage is primitive, it is still the best way to remain safe from the devastating consequences of sexual intercourse before marriage, which include unplanned pregnancy, STI.s, unplanned parenthood and the emotional problems that could surface if one is jilted by a partner after sexual involvement.

My parents are always arguing about my future career. My dad is a lawyer and wants me to study law while my mum is a chartered accountant and wants me to study accounting but I’m not interested in any of these. I want to be a dentist.

For you to excel and find fulfilment in your career, such a career must be one that you are very much interested in or passionate about, and also allows you to develop and utilize your potentials. Another important factor to consider is whether that career will be relevant in the future when you would have graduated from tertiary school and ready to practice that career.

Therefore, your career choice should not be based on what your parents or other people want for you but on what you want for yourself after you have considered the above factors.

However, it is common for parents to suggest careers to their children based on their observations about the abilities of the children and their projections about what they think will be more beneficial to the children in the future. This kind intention on the part of parents should be appreciated. Hence, you do not have to be angry with your parents, you only need to let them know in a very polite way that you appreciate their involvement but you would like to follow your passion. If you you do this and your parents still insist on their choices, you may ask your school counsellor or any other enlightened adult that they respect to help to talk to them about this.

I always forget when I read

Do you understand when you read? To be able to remember when you read, the first thing is to understand when you read because reading without comprehension causes confusion and makes recalling of important facts difficult.
Some of the steps you can take to enhance comprehension include minimizing distractions when studying. Some people say they play light music when studying to silence other distractions in the environment but this does not work for most people. For many people, they need absolute quietness to be able to concentrate. You need to understand yourself and how you learn and apply what works for you. Other activities that could amount to distraction and jeopardize comprehension include chatting on social media while studying, watching a movie or attending to telephone calls.
Your emotional state while studying is also a crucial factor. You need to be emotionally stable in order to comprehend while you study. If there is anything bothering you, it would be helpful to talk to your counsellor,your parents or other trusted adults.

Do you meditate when you read? Having ensured that you understand as you read, it is important to ponder on what you have read, over and over, and try to apply it to practical situations. Apart from enhancing your comprehension, this exercise gives your brain the opportunity to master and therefore retain the information that you have acquired through reading. The truth is that you cannot recall anything unless your brain retains it.

How soon after reading do you try to recall what you have read? Some people could study for 5 hours on a stretch without pausing to try to recall what they have read. Such students often feel frustrated when they get into the examination hall, and find they can’t remember anything even though they have read for the examination.
Studying is not only about reading. An important aspect of studying is consciously tasking your self to recall what you have read. If you are studying for 2 hours for example, you can take a break after every 30 mins to try and recall what you have read. However, this timing depends on you and what works best for you. Some students can study for 2 hours and by the time they are done, they can say everything that they have read but it is not so for everyone.
The most important thing about trying to recall after studying, is the time gap between the time you acquire information through reading, and the time you attempt to recall. If you leave a long gap after reading before you try to recall, the tendency to forget would be high. Hence, it is helpful to practice recalling after reading. It is dangerous to read and wait till you got into the examination hall before you start to recall.

If after applying these tips, you do not record any improvement, please, discuss your challenge with your counsellor. Your counsellor may have to design an intervention plan for you,
based on detailed assessment of your learning style, study skills, attitude, motivation and other factors.

Why Won’t my parents allow me to visit my friends?

Parents love their children and would want to do everything to keep them safe. As a result of this, they may sometimes prevent you from doing certain things that you ordinarily want to do, if they think you might get into trouble . If your parents prevent you from visiting your friends, it is most likely that they think you are too young to go out unaccompanied or they are not sure about your safety at your friend’s place. It could also be that they have observed some behaviours in your friend that they are not comfortable with.

What you can do is to discuss your worries about this with your dad or mom. I’m sure they will let you know their own concerns.

My parents’ frequent fighting is beginning to affect my concentration at school. They had a fight this morning and my mum hit my dad’s head with a stool. When I informed my best friend about it, he said his own parents never quarrel or fight. What can I do?

I can imagin how frustrating this could be for you. It can be depressing to see your parents quarrel and fight, especially when this happenns often.

Nevertheless, I would like you to know that it is normal for parents to have disagreements. Most couples do have disagreements. So, it may not be true that your friend’s parents never quarrel. Some parents are able to manage their conflicts without letting their children know about them. Your friend’s parents may fall into this category. However, some parents may sometimes find it difficult to contain their conflicts, and this could be due to stress or pressure. This may be the case with your parents.

You need to find a polite way to let your parents know how unhappy their frequent quarrels and fights make you to be. You do not need to judge between them and you should also avoid taking sides with either of them. You may consider writing if you are too shy or angry to talk to them. You may also start with the parent you are closer to.

Please, remember that your goal is not to criticise their actions or say who is rght or wrong. If possible, do not get involved in the details of their disagreement.Your goal is simply to let them know that you are not happy about their fights and that you would be happy if they can always live in peace. Also remember that your approach should be an appeal to your parents and not a command or an instruction. They are your parents and you must at all times relate with them in a respectful manner.

Most parents would be touched when they realise that their children are being negatively affected by their fights but if your efforts fail, you may need to talk to a close family member whom you know they both respect and would listen to.

My parents say I am a failure because I am not as good as my siblings in academics

I share your pains. I can easily relate to the feeling of inadequacy that could result when those that we look upto for positive feedback tell us that we are worth nothing. However, while others’ negative feedback could make us to feel bad, we are more affected by the way we judge ourselves. What do you think about yourself? Do you see yourself like a failure or as someone who can and will succeed?

Sometimes, we make the mistake of comparing ourselves with others in areas where they may be better than we are and begin to see ourselves like failures. We often forget that each of us is unique and that there may be other areas where we are better off. The fact that your siblings are doing better in school than yourself does not mean that they are better than you are. If you look inward, you may discover other aspects where you are very good.

We do not need to be good in all aspects of life to live a great life. All that we need is to identify one area where we are very good, develope ourslves in that area and strive to excel in that area. This brings me to the next question; is your course of study in consonance with your interests and potentials? Are you happy about your course of study or are you studying that course just because it is what your parents or others want for you? If you are not interested in your course of study, it is most unlikely that you will excel in that course. If the course is the problem, it is never too late to change to a course that you are passionate about.

Perhaps the course is not the problem and that you are merely having challenges at the moment. This means that you can do better once the challenges are adequately handled. Therefore, the next step is to identify the challenges that inhibit your performance.

What do you think are the challenges? Are there biological inhibitions? If yes, then you may have to see your doctor. Do you have emotional challenges? If so, you need to talk to a counsellor or a psychologist. Do you attend lecturs regularly? Do you take down notes or do you have adequate access to study materials? Do you pay attention in class? Do you turn in assignments as at when due? Do you understand when you study? If you understand, do you try to meditate after studying and make effort to recall severally before tests and examinations? Lets assume recalling is not the problem, do you express your answers as adequately as possible during tests and examinations? It is one thing to know the appropriate response to a question but it is another to know how to adequately express your response. Remember that it is only what you put down that the examiner would assess and not what is in your head. Do you get involved in examination malpractice? Who are your friends? It is easier to succeed when your friends are serious minded students whose attitudes will encourage you to work hard than when your friends are those without positive influence. The above questions are meant to help you to clarify the problem and thus make it easier to arrive at solutions.

While working to improve your performance, please, always remember that your goal is not to compete with your siblings or others but to become the best that you have the potentials to become. Do not bother about those who think you are a failure. If you focus on personal growth and work hard towards it, it will only take a little time for people around you to change their impressions about you.

If you need further help, do not hesitate to get in touch.

I am 14 years old and I have been having this crush on one of my classmates. What should I do?

Thank you for getting in touch and for sharing your feelings with us. It is normal to experience crushes at this stage of your life. However, crushes do not usually last for long and they also do not necessarily mean that we love the person we are crushing on.

Sometimes,people while hurriedly acting on their crushes could initiate a relationship with the person they are crushing on, only to later realise that they do not love that person. This means that they will be unhappy in that relationship. In order to avoid this kind of a situation- where one would be in a relationship with someone that they do not love, many people have found that it is beneficial to wait until they are sure that what they have for the other person is love before expressing their feelings to the person. Also, you need to ask yourself, “Am I ready at this time of my life to have one person that I will be committed to from now till the end of my life?” Please, before answering this question, it would be helpful if you can read up our post about teens and relationship. This will help you to answer this question correctly, so that you would be able to make an informed and beneficial choice.

I am 20 years old. I was sexually abused by my uncle when I was 15 but I still feel terrible each time I remember the abuse. Will I ever get over it?

I’m so sorry that you went through that. I can imagine how tough it mist have been for you, living with this pain all these years. It is normal to feel the way you do even though the abuse occurred several years ago. Many people who experience trauma as a result of child sexual abuse usually do not heal from the trauma without professional help. You have however, taken the right step by asking for help. Please, be assured that you can heal from this trauma and be happy again. We will contact you to discuss a treatment plan.

I feel so sad because it seems my parents love my sister more than they love me. What can I do?

Thank you for sending in your question. It sure doesn’t feel good when you feel that you are loved less by your parents because parents are supposed to love their children equally. That said, let us look at the issue critically. Most parents love all their children equally but they may grow more fond of a particular child because of their behaviour, and and they may be unhappy with a particular child because of their behaviour as well. Though many parents love their children equally, some patents may be tempted to show more love to a child that behaves well and makes them happy than the one who disrespects them and causes them pain.

I feel sad because it seems my parents love my sister more than they love me

Thanks for sending in your question. I can imagine how that makes you to feel. Let us look at the issue critically. Most parents love all their children equally but a parent may grow more fond of a particular child because of their good behaviour or become unhappy with a child because of their behaviour as well. This means that it is possible for your parents to be unhappy with you even though they love you.

Some of the behaviours that could make a parent to be unhappy with a child include:
* Negative attitude to work- Most parents want their children to succeed and enjoy a great future. Hence, if they observe that a child is not serious with their work, especially their studies, they become worried and afraid that the child would have a bad future. This makes them to be sad and unhappy with the child especially if they have made efforts to help the child with this behaviour and the child does not show willingness to change.

* Disregard for parents- We all want to stay around people who make us to feel important and avoid those who disrespect us. When someone treats us with disrespect, it makes us to feel that we are not worth anything before that person and that makes us to feel bad. This feeling is worse when it is someone we love, such as a friend or a family member. You can then imagine the pain when it is your own child. Some of the behaviours that show disregard for parents include passing by your parents without greeting them in the morning or when they return from somewhere, refusing to run errands for your parents or delaying on errands, talking back at your parents, watching them perform tasks that you are capable of performing without offering to help them and avoiding your chores or waiting to be reminded before doing them.

* Not yielding to corrections – Parents understand that young people will make mistakes as they grow and learn. However, it could be frustrating for parents when they try to correct a child and s/he refuses to listen or change. Besides the fact that this makes parents to feel disrespected, it makes them bother that such negative behaviours could make the child to end up badly.

In order to solve this problem, you may want to reflect on the above to see if there is anything you may have been doing that made your parents to be unhappy with you, and then talk with them about it or ask them what they are not happy about,apologise to them and let them know that you are ready to change. If it is about a habit that you have found difficult to stop or you have challenges with your school work, you can discuss with them, let them know the efforts you have made so that they can get a professional to help you.

I don’t feel good about myself. How Can I enhance my self-esteem?

Feeling good about yourself or having a proper self-esteem is important because it influences your self – confidence, productivity, social life and happiness. Here are a few simple tips that can help you to enhance your self-esteem.

* You need to know and accept that you have a right to be here on earth as a human being just like everyone else, irrespective of your background, experiences and perceived inadequacies. No one has a superior right than you to be here. This is your world. You belong here. You need no one’s permission to live or to be happy. It is your right to be here, and your right to be happy.

* Accept yourself. Self – acceptance is accepting your uniqueness. Self rejection is the most harmful form of rejection. Individuals are different in many ways(physical characteristics, intelligence, personality traits,). Talking about intelligence, whether you have a high, average or low IQ, what is important is being able to maximise your IQ through your commitment to continuous study and other forms of self empowerment. While it is an advantage to have been endowed with a high IQ, what will set you apart in practical terms, is how much useful information you have, and how you are able to utilise or apply it in the best way possible. The most successful people on the earth today are not necessarily the most intelligent people. You cannot change your level of intelligence because it is hereditary but it is possible to achieve more than people with higher levels of IQ if you acquire the right amount of relevant information and utilise it well. As regards physical appearance, please, note that the worth or value of a man or woman is not all about beauty or handsomeness, muscles or six packs. While it is okay to make efforts to enhance your looks, being preoccupied with this at the expense of other important areas of your life, such as academics, career or business success and character could be meaningless. You do not have to be like anyone else to be okay. You are okay the way you are. It is cool to be different.

*Challenge negative thoughts and labels with self affirmation. What are those self defeating statements you have been making to yourself? What are those derogatory labels others (including your significant others) have attached to you over the years that you have internalised? It is time to begin to replace them with self enhancing statements. For instance, You can replace “I am worthless ” with “I am a man or woman of inestimable worth”. May be you should do a list of five of such negative thoughts or statements and write self affirmation statements to replace them. Keep saying them to yourself until you believe them and internalise them.

* Improve your criticism management. Positive feedbacks (properly presented criticisms) help us to appreciate our efforts while pointing us to areas where we need to improve. However, not everyone knows how to give positive feedbacks. Some people offer criticism in ways that could come across as malicious and derogatory. Having regular contact with such people could be emotionally draining and make one to feel empty or inadequate. Whenever you encounter harsh criticism, instead of becoming irritated or letting it affect your self -esteem, the beneficial approach is to acknowledge that the person offering the criticism may lack the skills to present their criticism appropriately and not intentionally out to demean you. This way, you will be able to maintain your calm, express appreciation for the criticism and pick out the useful ingredients in the criticism while your self – esteem is untouched. If this happens within a close relationship, you may later approach the person and suggest more helpful ways to present subsequent criticism after thanking them.

* You need to understand that you do not need to have a perfect life to live an amazing life. No one’s life is perfect. No one’s life is exactly the way they would like it to be. The important thing is being able to harness all the good sides of your life to make the best out of your life.

* Celebrate your strengths, your positive qualities and all the things that are going on well for you. May be you should start by making a list of five things that you admire or appreciate in your life. They could include the people that love you, your dreams, your qualities.

*Focus on your strengths, how to improve them and utilise them. There’s no need to envy others. Your friends may excel more in certain areas than you do but this does not make them better than you. Struggling with other people in their areas of strength could make one to feel inadequate. You also have your areas of strength where you could excel more. You need to identify and develop yourself in such areas. You will only discover the genius in you, when you begin to invest most of your time as well as physical and mental energy in your areas of strength.

* Accept areas of your life where you need a positive change, and start making effort to change them. These may include your attitude to people or your work , personal grooming and how you treat your environment. Do not pretend about or ignore the positive changes you need in your life, and do not “flog” yourself because of them. Others have such areas that require a positive change in their lives too. What is important is being committed to efforts that will lead to a positive change.

*Learn to live with things in your life that cannot be changed. Everyone else has such things in their own life.

* Spend more time with people who accept and believe in you than with those who continuously put you down.

* If possible, avoid people who have an “I am okay, you are not okay” life script. They make others to feel that everything about them ( health, relationships, finances,) is rosy and perfect while everything about others is pathetic. They find it hard to see anything good in others’ lives, and consequently tend to make others around them to feel miserable. You may be having a better life experience than those who make you to feel that your life is pathetic.

* Be ambitious. Be desirous of the best things in life and work towards achieving them. You have a right to be successful irrespective of your background, experiences or perceived inadequacies. No one has a greater right than you to be successful. You can achieve your dreams if you believe in them and in yourself, and if you work hard and smart towards them. Knowing that you have a great future or that you will turn out well,can make you to feel good about yourself.

*Set realistic goals based on your dreams, plan how to achieve them, and work hard and smart to achieve them. It is essential to set realistic goals because unrealistic or unsupported goals can lead to feelings of inadequacy if one falls short of them. Always assess your performance and growth based on your own goals, and not others’ achievements or expectations. Looking at your own achievements instead of assessing your worth by others’ achievements can help you to realise your value.

* Be optimistic. Look at the positive side in all situations. Be positive about yourself, your life and your future. Wish yourself well. There is no adversity that lasts for ever. Be positive about your abilities. The fact that you attempted an examination or a project and didn’t attain your set target does not mean that you won’t succeed if you make another attempt. You only need to work harder.

* Empower yourself with education, skills as well as positive and supportive relationships.

* Do not internalise rejections. No matter what you have or how good you are, you will not be accepted by everyone. The fact that someone refuses to give you the acceptance you desire does not mean you are not good enough to be accepted and celebrated by others. You may not be “the bomb” to some people but you could be “a rare gem” to others. It is a mistake to think you are worthless because someone thinks you are not what they need. It is not a problem if you are not liked by someone.

*Increase your relevance. Everyone has something to offer to society. There is someone around you who needs your help. You may want to volunteer with an organisation to render free service to your community. The realisation that your life is useful to others, especially those in need, brings a special kind of fulfilment. There is so much in you to offer, even though you may not have realised it. Look inwards and reach out.

* Take every step you take in your life, not because it will impress people but because it is the right step to take. Trust me, the people you work so hard to impress may not be thinking about how to impress you. As long as you keep trying to impress others, you will always feel empty, inadequate and inferior because it is impossible to impress everyone or even anyone at all times. We do the right thing, not because we want people to applaud us or approve of us but because it is good to do the right thing. If you order everyday of your life based on this principle, you will always be happy with yourself.

* Get past your past. Excessive guilt and regrets are some of the most distressing feelings one can experience. They can make you feel empty or worthless and angry with yourself. It is okay to feel remorseful over your mistakes or choices that did not turn out well. However, dwelling on past mistakes can deprive you of the fulfillment that comes with all the right choices you have ever made. The fact that you made one or two mistakes or bad choices, no matter how bad you think they are, does not mean that you have never done anything correctly. May be you should pause, and ponder on some of the right things you have done, the steps you took that paid off, and the right choices you have ever made. Making mistakes is a normal part of living. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes though our mistakes may differ. Forgive yourself. If you think your mistake may have harmed someone, apologise to them, and make restitution where possible. Figure out how to prevent a repeat of similar mistakes or choices. Be determined to make the right choices going forward and move on. The past is past, take advantage of current opportunities to do things right.

* Get help to heal from abuse. The experience of abuse, whether it is physical, sexual, emotional or other forms of abuse, can make one to feel powerless and worthless. Chronic abuse can have a severe negative impact on one’s self – concept and self – esteem if one does not get the needed help. One important thing to remember is that, if you have suffered any form of abuse, it is not because you deserve to be abused or you do not deserve to be treated with respect but because the abuser has a problem with their own behaviour. It is not your fault if you were abused. People who abuse others have a problem with how to treat people correctly. No one deserves to be abused. If you are finding it hard to reclaim your self – esteem after an abuse, please, do not be shy to seek professional help. Likewise, if you are in an abusive relationship or you work in an abusive environment, please, seek professional help.

*Treat yourself nicely. Improve your personal grooming. Spend some of your time, energy and money on yourself. Take yourself out. Buy yourself a gift on your birthday or when you think you have achieved something worthwhile. This is your life and your only chance to live it. Love yourself. Take care of “you”. No one will take care of you more than you. Show others the way you wish to be treated by the way you treat yourself. Please, stop treating yourself casually as if you are not important. You deserve the best things of life.

* Seek professional help if necessary. Sometimes, we may feel we don’t even have enough strength to help ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with this feeling. We all sometimes get to this point. If you think you need professional help to improve the way you feel about yourself, please, do not hesitate to ask for help. You deserve to be happy with yourself.

Dr. Rosemary Oshiomah Ogedengbe.

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