I DON'T consider myself young anymore. My uncle, who is also single, often teases me that I would end up a spinster and join him in the club for the unmarried. If he had said that five years ago, I would have fallen into depression and isolated myself.
So, reading through an article "When the young can't cope with life" in the recent Sunday Times' Sunday Spotlight, it shed some light of what adolescents these days go through and how their parents play a role in developing their coping skills.
I have sisters and brothers who are in their early to late 20s and honestly, I do feel a bit worried at times.
The article mentioned that parents' involvement is crucial in developing and imparting coping skills to their children, which is true.
While I feel sad about the death of the 24-year-old Steven Ko and other young adults who committed suicide due to relationship problems, I agree that these skills need to be passed down to the children while they are still young, when they are more than willing to learn new things.
Apart from parents' involvement and the support of others in the family, peers, teachers, and even neighbours do have some sort of influence on how the children deal with problems and issues. The article mentioned that studies had found that growing up in affluent families could have negative effects on children while those who are not as privileged as their wealthier counterparts tend to be more resilient. I am grateful that my parents gave us the opportunity to be independent and responsible.
Most of our school holidays were spent in my grandparents' house in Muar with my uncles and aunts taking on the role of "young parents" or even as "big brothers and sisters" to guide us all.
We were so used to being teased and scolded by them especially when we read the Muqaddam (introductory lessons of reading Quran verses) wrongly that by the time we went to school, we had grown such thick skins and weren't affected when we were bullied.
We also learned through observations how the adults handled difficult situations.
I didn't see my grandmother crying after being told that my mother (her eldest daughter) was hospitalised after a car accident. There were seven of us in the car including me, but she suffered the worst injuries with broken hips and stitches on the face.
We sat and talked about the accident and what we were planning to do next as I was supposed to enrol in a matriculation programme that week.
My siblings and I were included in serious conversations on this matter as if we were already adults and our opinions were taken into account.
We were not sidelined with thoughts such as "you're still young" or "you don't understand anything". They made sure that I went to college and my siblings were taken care of as my mother recovered at the hospital.
Taking charge and being responsible is also part of growing up. We were given "big" responsibilities even at a young age.
For example, during Hari Raya celebrations, the young ones were assigned to help prepare ketupat and other food, serve drinks to guests and were made the ushers before receiving our rewards in the form of fire crackers and duit raya. This was how we polished our communication skills and teamwork in a larger group as our cousins would also be around those times.
We were also given space and time to explore our childhood on our own but never without the guidance of adults. Our uncles and aunts treated us as their own and trained us in living skills which came in handy when confronted with trouble.
There's a nasyid that my grandmother used to sing for us, that I still remember for its words of wisdom.
It goes like this: "Belajar di waktu kecil bagai mengukir di atas batu, belajar sesudah dewasa bagaikan mengukir di atas air" which loosely translates as "Learning at an early age is like carving a stone, but learning at a later stage is like carving on water."