THERE is the so-called “loneliness epidemic” affecting three-quarters of Americans today.
However, if we look at our own society, such epidemic may apply to Filipinos as well. Indicators can be found in suicide rates and drug abuse rates. In the Philippines, the 2018 Mental Health Act expressly mentioned a special attention to young people, in developing preventive programs against suicide and mental health problems.
Portuguese scholars Olivia Ribeiro, Antonio Santos, Miguel Freitas, Antonio Rosado and Kenneth Rubin reported in the International Journal of Behavioral Development (2019) that adolescent loneliness comes from the lack of personal integration and social intimacy. It is a transition stage from childhood to adulthood. However, their emotional state still tends to be conditioned by childhood impetuousness, while their impulse to behave like adults continues to grow. This transition explains the ongoing lack of self-integration, the emptiness and loneliness of which are often sought through social intimacy.
Erick Erikson, in his theory of psychosocial development, opined that teens struggle to resolve a basic conflict of identity vs. role confusion, the resolution of which is often sought from their social relationships. In this period, they become highly vulnerable to deceptive social influences, such as a negatively influential group of friends. Thus, if their friends tend to be home runners, you will find your adolescent running away from home as well. If their friends disobey their parents, your teen will learn to disobey you as well.
They are also vulnerable to commit serious mistakes that can change their lives completely. These are mistakes they cannot turn back. However, despite these mistakes, adolescents will survive without serious problems if they have acquired the personal quality of obedience, particularly to parents who will become stable anchors in this period of role confusion.
Obedience, however, can only be acquired through the theological virtue of faith: faith in God for whatever the future brings amid the struggle in self-identity; and faith in parents and their love, despite their human imperfections. It is so because the key question in this period is, “Who am I and where am I going?” The answers to both questions are often vague, which only faith can calm the fears inside them.
Oftentimes, parents cannot answer these questions because an adolescent must find it for himself or herself. Nevertheless, obedience anchors them in the reality through objective adult counsel. Thus, seeking the counsel of a fellow adolescent can result to serious mistakes.
Instead, what to seek for is faith, so that obedience is possible.