Dubai: When we think about the future, it is imperative that we talk about how today’s teens are shaping up. After all, their sound foundation will be the cornerstone of a successful future.
We at Gulf News asked some pertinent questions to UAE teens. We wanted to know if they feel empowered enough, what does love, relationship, job, money career and stability mean to them. Parents participated in the our endeavour as well, since they are a cornerstone of their child’s upbringing. Experts also gave us some interesting feedback.
Avni Agarwal, 15, an Indian student in Dubai, lives with her elder sister and parents. She says she personally feels empowered enough to make her own choices and decisions. “In my opinion, today, teenagers are given sufficient freedom in their lives while respecting their parents’ intentions. We feel empowered enough to decide our own paths where our future stands. I personally feel confident enough to make my own choices and decisions which may have an impact in my life and in the future.”
Avni wants her future to be stable and this will be guiding her decisions regarding her career choices and job options. “During the past year, I have learnt that nothing is permanent and in the blink of an eye, my life could change entirely. From the very beginning, I have seen the importance of saving money and will carry that lesson through my entire life. My relationships with my family are extremely important to me and I plan to keep them strong because I believe that to be loved is to protected,” she said.
Avni believes that it is critical that teens have an open communication with their parents. “I openly talk to my parents about my plans in the future, and my relationships with my friends. I know that they support me with my decisions regarding both topics. My goal for 2021 is to work on solidifying my relationships with my family and friends, while maintaining focus on my academics and striving to excel, and pursue my passion of playing the violin,” said the young girl.
Her father Udit Agarwal, 52, could not agree more that his daughter is brimming with courage and confidence and how having an open communication is key. “It is a bit of a DeJa’Vu. It reminds me of my growing up years and it was always easy to assume that ‘they’ as in parents won’t understand’. Now being a father of two teenage girls (Janhavi 19 and Avni 15), I find myself on the other side. I have realised that open communication is an ongoing process. Critical to that is being able to win their trust and not be too judgemental or preachy, listening more than talking. Also important is to remain relevant. Last one year of forced lockdown due to pandemic has surely led to a more open and a receptive communication,” Udit said.
He said as a parent, listening to children’s concerns and conversations is critical. Udit said he is not very comfortable talking about love and relationships with his children, but as a responsible parents, he does get into it in measured terms. “Often whilst watching a TV show, a conversation gets triggered, which starts from the show’s content, and soon evolves into their personal views. I guess they are at an age where they feel more comfortable talking to each other about this or with their friends. In our case this is an area they are more likely to be open to their mother than to me.
As a parent, he has also been teaching his children the importance of being responsible with money. “Due to the pandemic my elder daughter Janhavi had to come back from her college in Toronto. I introduced her to paper trading. After six months of active paper trading in US stocks, last week, she started actual trading with $1,000 (Dh3,678)). To me, this is a great way of not only understanding financial implications of your action, it further gives her exposure to various industries, companies, and a better understanding of different economies. Even if she makes losses, it will only be a loss if she does not learn from the mistakes!”
Malaysian expat student Ethan Lim, 13 said: “My parents have taught me many skills to feel empowered. I learn new things every time in our holidays. Family is important to us and I have been taught to be responsible for my two younger siblings.”
His mother, Kelly Wong said: “Today’s kids are different than what we were at this age. I sense he likes his privacy and independence at such a young age. I am also guiding him to be financially independent. For example, financial planning is something I have started with him from a very young age. I have been giving him some pocket money every month and am teaching him the value of money management. It is important as a parent that we do it as the world is going through tough times.”
Another Indian student Moksh Parwani, 13 said: “I feel as a student I am more empowered here in UAE as we live in a dynamic culture. There is so much to learn from different people.”
The boy takes his own decisions with respect to certain things, albeit keeping his mother in mind. “She has given me that freedom but I respect her for who she is. And I will not let her down. My mother is a smart businesswoman — but she has achieved everything on her own. I want to help her grow more. I have a special relationship with my mother and we talk about almost everything, I even talk to her on her business, staff, her clients, investment, insurance and she takes interest in my friends my sports and my hobbies.”
British expat student Anna Everest, 17, said that right now her focus is on academic achievement so she can get into a great Art school. “Relationships are important to me but I have not thought about future relationships at this stage of my life. I like money so my parents have been telling me to start earning it soon!”
As for her mother Laura, she said, as a parent she respects her child’s boundaries. “We have a great relationship together because we respect each other’s space and boundaries.”
Educational expert talk
Alka Malik, managing director — Ascentria-PACE training institute in Dubai for JEE, NEET and Grade 9-12 STEM courses, said as one who interacts with several students across Grades 9 to12 every year, she believes that the future of the world is in good hands. “Education today is probably far more stressful than it was a generation ago, with students working towards multiple goals. They want to excel in sports, public speaking, fine arts while simultaneously achieving academic excellence. Students are amazingly well aware of current affairs, global happenings, etc and can converse confidently and eloquently. By large, they do manage their various goals well.
“Most parents are well aware of the goings on in their children’s lives, indicating thereby a healthy and open relationship between parents and children. Children seem to respect the budgets for their higher education and work within that when applying for colleges.”
She added of course that there are concerns about children raised in the UAE and how they are a bit spoilt by the luxuries. “But we constantly reassure them to have more faith in their upbringing. And every year, we find this reinforced when our students come back to visit from top colleges in the world.”
Meghna Khan, head coach, MK Counselling Services, said: “In the UAE, our children are growing up with the best possible global exposure a young mind can get. Both home and school environments in the UAE provide holistic views to kids, which empowers them in making choices that can be very different from their family’s traditional choices. We can see that teens today are not only looking at careers which can give them the basic necessities of life but are more inclined towards pursuing their passion as their careers. That is why, it has become so important for today’s kids to discover their true passions much earlier than earlier generations. However, UAE culturally also provides a familial grounding to these young minds which means family continues to play a pivotal role in their choices. Today’s generation is more evolved when it comes to the real world problem — be it relationships, love or work. They make conscientious choices and take measured decisions.”
She said children of today’s generation are very vocal about their wants and needs from life. “Most of them are comfortable discussing their needs, issues, doubts with their parents but this aspect is significantly affected by the approach parents take and requires continuous confidence building between themselves.”
Meghna said the job of being a parent has never been more complicated in than before. “What we learnt from our parents cannot be applied to our children blindly as the kind of exposure they are growing up with is totally different. With increasing nuclear families, parents have to wear more than one hat at all times. Managing stress for their kids, while keeping their own in check, is a task sometimes.”
As for instilling financial independence in teens, Meghna said parents are doing as much as they can on that front. “Many parents are also involving their teens into active financial decisions that they take, exposing them to the concept of risk management early in life. These are all good practices to follow.”
Medical expert talk
Cintia Fuentes Ramos, Clinical Psychologist at Lifeworks Holistic Counselling Centre said: “There is not a standard communication system among parents. It will depend on parents’ background, culture, studies and their own personality. Also, their parenting style will better describe the way that parents communicate and interact with their children. Each person manages the stress levels in quite different ways. Some parents are great dealing with stress levels and they are able to teach their own children these strategies and their children became able to cope with stress levels in an adaptive way. Other times, even when parents are good managing their own stress when comes to show the strategies to their children they struggle more and need some professional support. The most common strategies that parents try to use with their children are finding a hobby (sports, drama, art…), breathing exercises, listening to music or doing meditation.”
She added that most of the parents will talk about the mentioned topics but in a different level of depth. It will depend on how parents deals themselves with those topics. “It is common in all parents to tell their children the importance of getting a good job when they grow up, and for that they will need to have a good career which they will get by having good marks and accessing to a good university. But at the same time, they are parents who also tell to their children to find a career that makes them happy, and to follow their dreams even if it is not university’s related.”
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“There is no global answer for this question. Some teens feel more empowered than other depending on their own experiences, parent’s parenting style and environment. This is an individual question and cannot be answered because teens are not a homogeneous group. Teens only describe a range of age. Each thing will mean different to each teen, as it will depend on the family’s values. Some teens feel comfortable about those matters and some not. Family’s environment, parents’ approach, parents’ personality, teens’ personality are some factors that will impact in the way that parent and teens communicate to each other.”