NRI Gangs - young people and violence
Helping Children and Youth
Surrey, Vancouver, July 20,2012
Due to the recent on-going conflict between different groups engaged in inappropriate activities .a number of people have lost their lives. This streak doesn’t seem to end. As a matter of fact, during the past fifteen years the South Asian community alone has lost more than 160 young men to gangs, violence and drugs One of the most recent South Asian victims had an interview with Vancouver’s Odd Squad, a non-profit educational group, a few months before he was gunned down. In this interview he warned young people to stay away from the kind of lifestyle he was involved in. His message to the youth was to shun the life of drugs, gangs and violence. This was a powerful message for the youth not only in the South Asian community but also in the mainstream community.
Our youth needs to recognize that the life of drugs, gangs and violence usually has a very tragic ending. In order to help our young people avoid it, a number of community organizations have been working hard for the past number of years. These include South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV), its partners Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, Mosaic and others Also; the Indo-Canadian media has been doing a commendable job in this regard.
Certainly, such efforts are making a big difference in keeping our youth on the right track. However, a lot more still needs to be done. Parents can and should play a key role in this process. These efforts need to begin at a very early age. Thus, it is important for every parent to take keen interest in his/her child’s schooling. This includes not only their learning but also offering on-going encouragement, guidance and support in their growth and development.
As parents and caregivers, we need to help our children set realistic goals. Gradually, increase challenges for them. However, at the same time, we need to ensure that these challenges don’t exceed their frustration level. Make sure that our expectations are specific and clear.
Children need to learn cause and affect relationships from a very early age. We need to give them opportunities to assume responsibility. Also, they must be encouraged to accept responsibility for their behaviour and actions. Any positive behaviour must be recognized, appreciated and reinforced. At the same time, a child must know when he / she is behaving inappropriately and going too far. In such cases, they should be provided with opportunities for correction and improvement.
It is very important to give our children a consistent message at all times. They get easily confused by mixed messages. Adolescence, in particular, is a very challenging time in a youth’s life. He/she is constantly under a lot of pressure from home and outside. Thus, rather than being critical or confrontational, we, as parents, need to be understanding, supportive and compassionate.
Furthermore, it is very helpful to children if we don’t make a promise that we can’t keep. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Also, don’t be afraid to be firm when necessary. From time to time, children do need firmness. In this context, structure is also extremely important. No matter what the child’s age is, all of them expect and benefit greatly from a very well structured learning as well as social environment.
Most of the children, especially adolescents, don’t want to be lectured to. Thus, rather than lecturing or preaching to them, discuss issues / problems with them in a calm and collected manner. Work the problem not the blame. Avoid arguments and conflict, if at all possible, as no body wins in such a situation.
Often, as parents, we also get frustrated at times. Parenting is one of the most challenging yet enjoyable jobs in the world. However, once in a while, we may feel inadequate and overwhelmed. Under such circumstances, take a deep breath and never give up on your child. Let the child know that you are also a human being with limitations. Hopefully, he / she will recognize your predicament and become part of the solution rather than the problem. Children need to recognize that parenting is a 24 hour, seven days a week 365 days a year job.
As an educator and community activist I get to interact with children and youth a lot. Often they complain that their parents don’t listen to them. This is a very common mistake we all make. Listening is a very commendable and valuable skill. We owe it to our children to listen to them when they are trying to convey something to us. Try not to interrupt when listening. Be non-judgmental.
Give the child a chance to say what he / she is trying to say. Be a patient listener. Move from control to connection. Be a friend. Above all, try to be a good role model for your child. Children learn a lot more from a role model than a critic.
Spending quality time with our children is one of the most precious gifts we can give to them. Too often we get extremely busy and preoccupied with our jobs or other chores. In this process, we tend to forget that our children also deserve our time and attention. As a matter of fact, spending quality time with our children is the best investment we can make. They are our greatest resource. Help them grow and flourish in a supportive environment.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)