Raising and educating a child, 21st century onwards.
Disclaimer, to understand is to read between the lines. As you engage in this reading, I hope you will find meaning in what I would like you to learn and transfer. In today’s world, are the current generation ready to raise a child? As an individual I am still seeking meaning on the how to, but there has to be someone raising the adult of the future. This is how I perceive Education, at least in the homemade side for the upcoming years. With today’s Progress, shaping different generational cohorts of tomorrow starts at home.
When I was a teenager, I struggled to talk about my insecurities, the change that operates in my body, some questions I had in mind but I could not voice out, stand for something I disagree with, some other things that a teenager might have in mind but no one is investigating the discussion where it is supposed to starts: home. Other than that, I did not have exposure to a platform that enhanced career guidance and passion project exploration apart from the friends I was spending time with and my classroom. This being said, my teenagerhood was influenced by the choices and habits of my environment and was biased by the inspiration others made according to the limited reality they had. Even though I have a supportive mother, I would still think I was influenced by some bias of different generational cohorts and realities.
Looking at it from an African context was also a challenge- I mean with culture and traditions as part of one’s Education. Growing up, I was only able to assess my thoughts and feelings clearly at 19, and I was able to confess and share everything -freely- to my mom from 21 then I realized it today that so many things would have been done in better ways if I had the chance to talk about the things I know today 5 years earlier. This would have helped me but also my friends. Guess what, a growth mindset would have helped back then.
From the Malagasy reality I was exposed to for over 20 years V.S. the pan-African environment I lived and embodied the past 3 years, I came to the conclusion that Millennials are somehow misunderstood (Njeri Wangari, March 2018). I lived within the environment built on the belief that we need only to have a serious/important conversation when something is taking place. Otherwise, life goes on! But that “something” we keep on postponing to discuss that affects the education of the child and will -surely- impact their future decision.
Today I want to talk about a different aspect of Education from the academics we have to undergo because it is a standard the society has set in the 15th Century. I could speak from my mom’s testimony that things were more accessible and the competition in the career market was not as high as today, it was easier to be happy and be content with the small things but today’s generation is more challenged by the social expectations but also the attachment we have to traditions and culture, a phenomenon called “network society” by Manuel Castells, 2018.
Source: Back in my time, 2017; this picture shows how every millenials can relate when we hear stories from our parents.
Though we have culture and indigenous knowledge, most contemporary studies of education focus on formal education that came to the continent with European colonialism. Today, I want to talk about a homemade Education that will have a ripple effect on one’s mindset and future once they are exposed to the jungle: society. My approach this time is based on trust and communication.
Source: The Executive’s Guide to Engaging Millennials, 2020; this is a quote we can refer to in every situation and not only in the workspacr.
How many times the Millenials are being judged by their elders to be outspoken, critical, curious, too sensitive, oppiniated, sometimes called “arrogant” when they want to express themselves? Personally, more than once. Probably, me, writing this article won’t make a lot of sense to my uncles if they read it, a-Ha. There is a reality, technology, platforms, events that are making the current generation more curious, proactive, critical, creative, outgoing, lazier – if I may say- that our elders are not necessarily understanding. How often do you hear this during family gatherings “In my time we used to be/do this…”? As one Malagasy child, other than my parents, I was raised by aunties and uncles and it was always tough to have “serious” conversations in the family atmosphere. It was always easy to go speak to a friend or a younger siblings than seeking guidance from the elders.
If you hear me, and happen to become a parent one day – or you are a parent yourself- you need to learn how to establish an active listening environment as you grow and raise your child.
Our generation today is challenged by the norms that have been established in the last 50 years and we are moving in an era where our kids can go out of the standard we are used to. Can you relate? They want to be listened to. They are more expressive and it demands a growth mindset to answer a kid properly when they ask how to make a baby at 7 rather than at 15 because of the current environment that contributes to our Education more than the one we have in school.
One trauma I have faced growing up is period, I am probably part of the 5% of the population who were not prepared for it personally and socially. I was 14 and I was in panic while others were looking at me as if what was happening to me was not normal, why? I was not prepared and I had to discover things on my own. The menstrual period is just an example, but going straight to the point, children of today need to be informed early and purposefully before they discover things by themselves “online”. A recent conversation with a parent I had to interview showed me how -most of them- they assume that maturity comes with age and their child will discover things as they grow up. He testified that his grown 25 years old son is now facing communication challenges because they never made it intentional to have him express himself without getting angry, understood or scolded- they were radical. With a 50+-year-old father and a 25 years old man who is close to the door of independence, the father wants to get closer and establish better communication as a son-father. This is where the basics I have mentioned above are very important.
How do we raise the next generation of African leaders when most of the important conversations are considered taboo. Here are few points we need to pay close attention at:
Winning the millenials’ heart and trust is surely learning how to create a rapport as a friend more than their parents. Having an elder showing interest and being understanding is what most of them appreciate and push them to open up. But this has also to be mutually beneficial because our parents/elders aka generations X are also learning to adapt with generation Y’s behavior. This will come to a mutual understanding that will benefit both parties and will create a platform for exchange. Check on their social media status, but also check on them when they reach home. And do not forget to be friends with their friends, you might learn a lot. Maybe this article can help you understand the style of parenting I am trying to share as one type of successful one.
Acknowledging the change
I remember when I was asking my mom about sex education, she was chocked and wanted to shot me down immediately as if it was something that we were not suppose to talk about. It needs self-awareness either from the parents or the child. Learning new technology, African millenial’s behavior patterns, new trends, and so on are techniques to win a children-parents relationship with children-parents today. Getting close to our child’s surroundings but also giving them space to express themselves -even if it might be out of the ordinary- but also allowing yourself to learn from their reality and not comparing themselves. Many questions will arise from your children such as what is feminism, why climate change is trending with #ClimateStrike, why are there different sexual orientations? Why are other children not going to school and famous on Instagram? Learning to acknowledge those changes will be an asset for our parents today to educate their children.
Going to the point
An 8 year old child of 2020 will ask you existential questions more than 15 years back in 1994. They are passionate and curious, and they will try many things until they find what they want. An 11 years old today will understand very quickly that babies are not made by a mysterious order from the parents or after eating a cake or a bowl of ric, so it is necessary to learn how to get to the point. Strategic communication is the key, adopting millenial’s language can be an asset.
I have not figured out how I will raise my child yet, if one day I become a mom, but I know for sure that I have to build up from what I have learned during my experience growing up. The disappointment, the hurt, the surprises, the experience, the human contact, the personal failures and wins. And even if we are not called to be parents, we can still shape someone’s path by being that favorite aunt/uncle, a mentor or even an influencer. All the best!
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