Guiding adolescents to adulthood, one book at a time

Guiding adolescents to adulthood, one book at a time

Many adults look back on their adolescence with various lenses of regret, sorrow, joy and amusement. Some believe that their teenage years were fulfilled, regardless of their privilege or class. Others wish someone could have helped them understand themselves better.

Regardless, most people whether young or old have at least wanted help figuring out the messy business of growing up. Whether a Baby Boomer or a Millennial or a Gen Z/X, the years between 12-19 are important for myriad reasons.

In tandem with this, a guidebook for adolescents titled 'Self Knowledge and Career: A Practical Guide to Young People’ written by Susana Sakamoto Machado was launched by the Hon'ble Chairperson, Sikkim Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Mrs Rama Tamang on 6th October 2020. The book is a collaborative initiative by Ms Susana Sakamoto from Brazil and Ms Roshnila Gurung, District Child Protection Officer at ICPS Social Justice & Welfare Department, South Sikkim.

Susana is not only the writer but the Founder and President of Acesso, a Brazilian based organization which is the continuation of ‘Write your Future’, a project which was awarded the Resolution Fellowship by the United Nations in 2017.

The book has been conceptualized as a guidebook to support and facilitate the development of the necessary skills and values required in today's world for adolescent children to excel at a personal and professional level. It is beneficial for children in the age group 12 to 18. Initially written in Portuguese for the children of Brazil, it was translated into English especially for Sikkim.

Young people everywhere have an important role to play – whether in protesting to make government officials create or fix laws to prevent climate change or simply talking about their lives. Yet within their external affairs, all of them are processing a biological and psychological change. Even without an outside force, they are learning to process new emotions and realizing every day comes with another unresolved question.

Self-help books for children and teenagers have always been in publication, at least in last few hundred years or so. Chicken Soup, The Secret or even The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People have been recommended to this age group by adults in their vicinity. If not a book, there was always a nudge towards a show or a community that could help them answer questions relating to sex, mental health, orientation and relationships.

Why the launch of 'Self Knowledge and Career: A Practical Guide to Young People’ is significant for Sikkim’s youth, is that it doesn’t stick to more orthodox ideas that older people might ‘advise’ younger people on. It talks about knowing oneself and understanding the potential within.

“I’m 23 now but I still feel like I need a self-help book,” says Alina Tamang, a working professional from Sikkim residing in Bangalore. “The closest I got to answers about my changing body and eventually my sexual orientation was from a booklet I found in the school library, hidden away behind several Agatha Christie titles. It only focused on a heteronormative viewpoint and didn’t touch upon the subject of who I was or could be as an individual. In retrospective, I think it was more of a quick physiological guide rather than a more well-rounded perspective on adolescence”.

There are more adults (and teenagers) like Alina, who wish that self-help guides for adolescents did not fall into only a certain category that vaguely touches the issues they face – for a changing world, authors need to be more aware of what the youth is looking answers to. From climate change to economic uncertainty, young people believe that fixing the world requires them to first meditate on themselves. For tomorrow’s adults are currently on the streets (or signing petitions) and at high-level meetings (or Zoom classes) and calling them children in an attempt to dismiss their concerns is a thing of the past.

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