Issue 23 – April 2020
Federación Espirita Española
When we see so many scientific and technological advances that surprise us every day, we think: It is the law of progress that materializes before our eyes. But these intense changes, in the most different areas of human knowledge and in social relations, are also enormous challenges for those who live them.
It has always been the adults’ job to guide the new generations providing them with the references that they once learned growing up. In modern times, parents no longer find safe references to wisely guide their children, either in terms of access to information or life experiences, which are notoriously different from those they had, leading to the increase of uncertainty in the guidance that adults should give them.
Spiritism teaches that it is up to parents to have the mission of contributing to their child’s intellectual and moral development, making them progress and get closer to God. But the complex circumstances in which we live today, make this task difficult. This is a problematic situation because adolescence is a phase of life that has many challenging characteristics of its own.
A Look at the Teenager
The period of adolescence is marked by profound changes in the brain, in social relationships, and, as Allan Kardec points out, in the spirit. Question 385 of The Spirits’ Book says that between the ages of 15 and 20 the spirit changes because it recalls its own nature, and it shows itself how it used to be. “Their real characters begin to emerge. The person who is good remains good even though his or her character reveals many traits and nuances that were hidden earlier.”
It is interesting to note that neuroscience has also been pointing out that between late childhood and adulthood, the brain undergoes profound transformations that result in behavioral changes. The presence of boredom and lack of interest in daily routines, as well as the search for pleasure, are examples of these changes. This happens because during this period, to a greater or lesser extent, the adolescent’s brain loses from 1/3 to half of its receptors to dopamine (the pleasure neurotransmitter). This loss can trigger behaviors aimed at the search for new things or stronger emotions.
The Internet, with its social media and instant messages, has become commonplace for young people to meet these needs. As such, it is important to highlight that recent studies have shown positive and negative effects of its use by Spanish adolescents.
Young people value social media because it allows everyone to see, be seen, and, above all, to be approved in their posts, photos, and comments. In addition, it offers attractive ways to engage people in their leisure time (music, videos, chats, etc.). They are also a place that allows young people to leave their home environment and build their own identity with their peers.
However, social media can also cause serious damage to the self-esteem of many, especially to the youth, as others ignore their posts or send mean messages of rejection, contempt, insults, and offenses. The fragility of self-esteem, as adolescents seek approval and a sense of belonging, can damage their psychological wellbeing, which can lead to depression.
It is also in this area that we will encounter other challenges among adolescents, such as the pressure to define an identity when they are not yet formed, which often leads to lying about themselves to appear successful. The ostentation and the worshipping of self-image that appear in the media are sometimes far from the reality in which they live. It is clear, in this case, that they value “having” over “being”.
Keep in mind that the Internet, despite the countless benefits it brought to modern life, also favored the tyranny of quick and immediate answers as well as the difficulty in concentration and reflection. You get a lot of information, but usually in a very superficial way. In adolescents, these difficulties have a direct impact on their education. In other words, they cannot focus.
Regarding video games, movies, or favorite TV shows, and other entertainment offered on the screen, parents should pay attention to the type of content and messages they present because depending on their themes, they can attract negative spirits to the people they live with.
As far as other types of consequences from the changes that occur in the brain, such as the search for strong emotions that offer immediate pleasure, it is important to be aware that it may contain some abuse with serious effects, as we see in alcohol or stronger drugs. For many young people, the use of alcohol and drugs has become a common practice on the weekends to facilitate contact with other young people.
Another challenge for parents is the uninhibited way teenagers view sex. Many do not see it as a relationship, but as a pure game without taking into consideration sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy, and other related problems.
Adolescent, Spirit in Formation
We must not forget that adolescents are spirits in formation and that they need help to overcome the external stimuli that hinder their growth. It is essential to make them understand the meaning of life and realize that, before returning to Earth, they have committed to fulfill a plan outlined for their spiritual evolution.
In Spiritist homes, the task of helping adolescents in the safe transition from childhood to adulthood may be a little easier. The certainty that children are spirits who are moving towards their moral improvement and that brings with them the tendencies, feelings, and good and bad experiences gathered in previous lives, allow parents not only to understand their challenges but also to open their doors to dialogue, providing an environment of trust and love so their children can share their problems.
The role of parents is to transfer values, morals, and social norms to their children. For those who have already embraced Spiritism and wish to see their children walking on the same path, this task is of particular importance since, in the lives of young Spiritists, there are many paradoxes that they need to face. For example, the need to neutralize everything that is perishable with the imperishable truths of the Gospel and the Spiritist philosophy.
Faced with superficial knowledge, try to deepen your spiritist studies in a reflective way, aiming to better understand yourself and the means that will help you become a better person. Often, you will need to neutralize hedonism by putting others first and through charitable actions. In addition, prioritize “being” over “having”, investing more in your progress as a person than on the acquisition of material goods.
The young person must also give in to the urgency and rigid formulas to understand that the conquest of oneself is only done gradually with dedication and willpower. It turns out that many parents do not realize their role in supporting their children to mature emotionally and intellectually in a balanced way. Sometimes, they will need help because they do not know how to act when facing new circumstances in the modern world, failing to exercise their task to nurture values. In this case, the Fraternal Assistance offered by the Spiritist centers could fulfill this task.
We know that the mission is not always easy but remembering the words of Saint Augustine in The Gospel According to Spiritism, we will tell all parents who are concerned with the spiritual improvement of their children that God will reward them abundantly.
BALLESTEROS GUERRA, JUAN CARLOS; PICAZO SÁNCHEZ, LAURA. Las TIC y su influencia en la socialización de adolescentes. Madrid: Centro Reina Sofía sobre Adolescencia y Juventud, 2018.
HERCULANO-HOUZEL, SUZANA. O Cérebro em Transformação. Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva, 2007.
KARDEC, ALLAN. The Spirits’ Book
KARDEC, ALLAN. The Gospel According to Spiritist