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Dealing with adolescents

By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

Translated by: Manal Samhat

The term "adolescence" is a modern term brought up by the western culture that indicates a period that starts from puberty until the age of eighteen or more, knowing that its duration would differ from a person to another according to the hereditary and environmental factors. Based on this concept, adolescence includes all the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social changes that would occur in the human character.

Therefore, adolescence is a vital transformation phase in the child's character that imposes a change in the way we used to treat him. When dealing with adolescents, Islam takes into consideration all the surrounding objective circumstances and provides him with teachings that alleviate his crises and straighten his path.

Due to the rapid physical changes, a sense of anxiety inflicts the adolescent; which could turn into reality if the caregivers neglect how to raise him up and adequately prepare him for this stage. We believe that adolescence is a natural stage in the child's life that is connected, in the first place, to the sexual changes and desires that affect the child's body. This could be so hard due to the lack of the means that enables the teenager to satisfy his sexual desires; which could lead to a state of anxiety which is not easily handled by the teenager himself or those around him.

Therefore, we ought to deal with the adolescent in a special way that takes into consideration his special condition, since insanity is not restricted to the mental illness, but rather it includes the state of instinctual and emotional excitement that man could be subjected to without being mentally ill. The instinctual excitement is the same as the natural turbulence that takes place upon the occurrence of floods, volcano eruptions, and earthquakes, noting that all these events are natural. Adolescence represents the phase of instinctual excitement that was inert at a previous time during which man practices his life normally. Moreover, this kind of excitement causes a problem in a society where restrictions are set extensively; thus, Islam recognizes these sexual aspect in people's lives as something ordinary.

Islam considered sex to be a natural innate need and deemed it to be very normal. A male expresses his sexual needs to a female and vice versa, yet within the legally religious limits. However, the problem lies in the fact that society has overburdened the marital relationships by a number of traditions and customs that hindered establishing healthy marital relationships. Moreover, Islam wanted to facilitate marriage, in the sense that it permitted for two students who are still in the process of learning and are still living at their parents' house to get married; thus Islam's interest in early marriage.

A society that is willing to face the problem ought to change its laws and its view about sex in man's life. Therefore, by facilitating his marriage, the teenager would not face the aforementioned problems; in the sense that we would wed the boy and the girl as soon as they reach puberty and we would circumvent the problems caused by marriage itself  and by giving birth via legitimate means to control birth…etc.

 I believe that our society solves the sexual problem simply by evading it, forcing the boys and girls to deviate, especially after they are left alone in an open and mixed society that facilitates the continuous direct contact between the male and the female in schools, which could be luring.

Adolescence is not to be regarded as a complex or a dilemma; however, suppression turns it into a crisis. When the physical transformation takes place in a closed society, it is natural that the teenager would feel incapable of controlling his instinctual needs, causing him to be confused and depressed and think in an irrationally.

As a matter of fact, adolescence is a natural state whose negative effects should be alleviated by the parents as much as possible, keeping in mind that it does not hinder the process of coming off age or Al-Taklif (reaching a point where a person becomes religiously obligated). Therefore, parents ought to facilitate to the teenagers the issue of responding to the religious responsibilities, for example: by early marriage, or by distracting them away from sex and keep them preoccupied with religious, sport, and scout activities, in addition to other things that respond to the inclinations of the youth in this stage of life.

Source: An excerpt from the book "Dunia At-Tofol" (The World of Children).