Hanna Haile (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Ethiopian writer, researcher and social worker who uses her writing to promote social and gender equality, identity and women’s rights. She is one of the organisers of Poetic Saturday at Fendika Cultural Centre where she performs spoken word poetry every first Saturday of the month.
Lately, as I have been spending time with some youth, it has become clear that many are looking for more than being given a life by their parents but having a life and building familial relationships with them.
The relationship they lack, and an order they seem to crave, is often overlooked by overworked parents who are merely trying to make ends meet. The children might not understand that adulthood is a person’s most over-rated part of life where the responsibilities outweigh the fun.
Yet, also as adults, it is essential to enjoy this stage of life. Even though I am not aware of how stressful it must be to have a child and raise it, there must be a reason many have opted to walk that path. All these children cannot be accidents, where two people have taken the decision to partner to raise a child.
I have often wondered what that process looks like, and I have even written about it.
I am under the impression that people believe having children is an integral part of life, then why not be better committed to it?
Raising children is not just about providing them with clothing and three or four meals a day but shaping a human being. But many take on the responsibility of having children, with not enough of them being able to explain why.
We need to recognise the many youth growing up alone with parents by their sides. We must think about the many that are going through difficult decisions without the guidance of their parents. A parent is not a friend; young people have friends. Parents have a special relationship with their children; they are a guiding force that helps us become the adults we desire to be.
Parents and families are our northern star. The journey of a young person is their own but it is essential to know that when they look up there is a force that guides them. Yet, in Ethiopia, most families are not very open with one another.
There is a lot of importance placed on respecting one’s elders, which many confuse with never having to look up. Most parents are too preoccupied with surviving and providing; they hardly make the time to sit and have intimate conversations with their children.
Nonetheless, if one can find the time to share the details of the many soap operas on television, then that person has the time to spend quality time with their child.
I have heard many young people say in dismay that their family does not know them at all. This statement comes from the many who are itching to have relationships with their parents beyond the pleasantries.
We would save so many of the youth by just talking to them, as they seem very eager to share what is going on with them. And we could spare them much of the heartache they experience. Much of what the youth go through today could be avoidable if they had some real guidance.
Some claim that if the child is fed and their basic needs are satisfied, then they should not complain. But life is more than the material needs – one craves emotional nourishment. Life goals should not just be to survive but to flourish.
Life is much easier today than it was in that of our parents’ time. Much has evolved, creating an apparent generation gap. But I find that if parents could look beyond the surface of change, then, the issues we all face are similar. Humans need to be loved, accepted and have self-worth, including to one’s self. If we listen with an open mind, there is much we could find to support the youth of today to become the adults they can be proud of.
The possessive attachment we have with young people can be very unhealthy for their development. We must want to raise happy, independent citizens that can contribute to society. I find some parents concentrate too much on trying to infringe on their children a persona that is a reflection of the parent and not the child. I know many who would rather disown their child than have them be the type of person society cannot accept.
We must learn to let go of backward perceptions. Children should be raised free of ego. They are not possessions, and it would not be fair to raise them as such. They must be free to explore and direct their lives as they see fit with the moral support from a loving and accepting family.
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