In the context of our daily lives, we have been faced with situations where we realize that our children either do not claim what they are entitled to, or do not assume their obligations within the small or large communities where they belong. Before we can once again “save the day” by taking over all responsibilities, let us seize the opportunity for a dialogue about rights and obligations and how they are both linked.
But how do we talk to teenagers about all this? How can we empower them enough to claim what they are entitled to, not to allow them to be violated and at the same time to assume their responsibilities? The family space and the roles that each one undertakes within it can act as a basis for a constructive intervention. Let’s look at some practical ways:
- Our role as role models: Whether we want to or not, we are under the watchful eye of our children. Our behaviors and thoughts have the power to guide their behavior, attitudes and beliefs. So before judging any of the child’s behavior, let’s think a little about whether it reflects on our own reactions. If we, for example, do not defend our rights, how do we expect our child to do it?
- Integrate them into the life of the family: Show confidence and assign them tasks that you will have chosen together. Taking responsibility, the feeling that someone trusts you, the satisfaction that you manage to carry out a task, helps young people gain self-confidence and self-esteem and to drive towards independence.
- Set rules and consequences: As our children move from childhood to adulthood, the family respectively is in transition. The same thing happens with the rules and consequences. In the period of adolescence, it is important that the new rules are formed together with adolescents as well as to agree on their consequences. Take time and envision how you’d like your family to work for everyone to be safe and happy. What rules should there be? What needs are emerging? What are everyone’s rights? Making teenagers accomplices in the process helps engage them. Decide together and stay consistent.
The importance of educating adolescents on the relationship between rights and obligations is extremely important since through this the foundations of the way in which they relate to the rest of the world on an interpersonal and social level are laid. By laying the foundations in the small core of the family, the culture that adolescents will embrace in their adult life is created in order to build meaningful relationships based on respect and – eventually – to function as active citizens.