Olusesan Adeniyi argues the need to engage children in talking   

Over the last weekend in the United States where I reside, there were five mass shootings across the country, killing 14 people and injuring 39. Out of these 14 people that lost their lives, 10 were killed when an 18-year-old gunman opened fire with an AR-15 at a Buffalo supermarket. We were told that the shooter, Payton Gendron, drove to Buffalo from Conklin, New York, around 200 miles away. New York Governor Kathy Hochul told reporters that Gendron intentionally carried out his attack in a ZIP code with a high concentration of African Americans.   

I am not about to interrogate the issue of gun violence although it is one of the topics I covered in my book, ‘100 Trending Topics for Teenagers’. Those who came to America before us would testify that gun violence has become an epidemic of sort. The question I would like to ask is where are these shooters from? Do they have homes, families, friends, loved ones? Do they live in a community? The reason I asked is simple: It is easy to spot irregular behavior when you are in a community or relationship that cares about you. You are not likely to grow into a dangerous gun totting human if you live in a community that abhors hatred and promotes love for mankind irrespective of the color of their skin.    

America today has a myriad of problems plaguing her with gun violence unfortunately just one of them. While the government is doing its best through social institutions and interventions, the solution to these problems (I believe) lies with families. To make America great, (like they say) family institutions must be revisited. Values need to be reassessed and reset button engaged to realize a better society that is free of violence and decadence that we all witness.                               

My appeal today is to everyone with good will to think about the society we live in and how we can rescue one teenager at a time. These teens represent the future or tomorrow of the society we live in. If we do not do something about the teenagers we see today, they will turn into a problem tomorrow. We can only pray that our negligence will not have a dangerous effect on us and our loved ones.           

It is no longer news that electronic devices and gadgets have come to worsen an already frosty relationship between parents and their teenagers. But we must keep them talking. I wrote about teenagers and suicide. The rate at which teenagers intentionally end it all is alarming. Do not think this is peculiar to a race, no! Young people are throwing themselves into the lagoon jumping over bridges to their death in Africa. The illustration I gave in the book happened in Kenya.  

To stem the tide of suicide and all sort of tragedies in young people, we should begin to talk. Mental health issues are real, and it has no regard for age groups or status whether social or spiritual. I once talked about Prophet Jonah and Elijah struggling with depression. I may be wrong, but I believe that we can mitigate disaster if we engage in conversations. We should enunciate the culture of talking right from our homes. A telecom advert says ‘talking, we’ve got people talking’. We need to get our children to talk, and we need to sustain the conversation to the extent that they can tell us anything troubling them.   

The need to engage with teenagers cannot be overemphasized. This I believe will promote better understanding and mitigate disaster in high-risk kids. Current teenagers belong to Gen Z and Alpha.  This generation is raised on the internet and social media. Their thinking is different. Regardless, abnormal behavior can be addressed by communication. By this I do not suggest every behavioral problem can be solved by engaging in conversations, but I am certain, talking helps in preventing problems, it helps in identifying the root cause of problems which will ultimately lead to finding solutions that will make everybody happy.  

My book, ‘100 Trending Topics for Teenagers’ adequately bridge the gap that may be existing in relationships between parents and their children. Well-illustrated, a teenager can sit down in a school bus and read few chapters before reaching his bus stop. It is easy to read and attractive in outlook. It sends a strong message that life is good when lived righteously. Life is good when you wait patiently. Life is good when you keep away from wasteful and dangerous living. Responsible living is at the core of that strong message.   

 Adeniyi is an author and youth worker who can be reached on 

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