By Maryanne Kooda –
When do teenage relationships start?
According to raisingchildren.net.au there isn’t a ‘right age’ to start having relationships – every child is different, and every family/culture will feel differently about this issue. But here are some averages:
From 9-11 years, your child might start to show more independence from the family and more interest in friends. From 10-14 years, your child might want to spend more time in mixed gender groups, which might eventually end up in a romantic relationship. From 15-19 years, romantic relationships can become central to social life. Friendships might become deeper and more stable.
There is a lot of controversy about Ese’s age, but the excellent investigative journalism by AIT with the interview of her parents confirm that Ese is in fact 13 years old so there is no need to waste time debating about this.
As a mother of a teenage son myself, I know that many teenagers spend a lot of time thinking and talking about being in a relationship. In these years, teenage relationships might last only a few weeks or months. It’s also normal for children to have no interest in romantic relationships until their late teens. Some choose to focus on schoolwork, sport or other interests.
Each parent is different, and no one has a right to tell another parent how to raise their child. But the problem is when the general public decides to have an opinion over a young girl’s sexuality. Going over comments on some social sites when it was announced that Ese had in fact chose to stay in Kano, the comments people left on the article made me nauseous. They had no respect for her privacy, and no one even viewed her as a child.
It is very disturbing that our society does not view child sexuality any different from adult sexuality. They take it lightly and find it funny that a 13 year old confused and vulnerable, who has obviously made some poor choices should be made an object of ridicule.
Puberty is the period when an adolescent reaches physical growth and sexual maturity. It is marked with bodily changes and change in feeling towards opposite sex due to increase in sex hormones. This period starts from late childhood and ends with early adulthood. (12 to 18 years).
In this crucial stage, adolescence is influenced by peer pressure especially the opposite sex peers. Puberty is a period marked with rapid physical growth leading to sexual maturity and psychological changes. The average onset of puberty is at 10 or 11 for girls and age 12 or 13 for boys.
Girls become sexually and physically mature two years earlier than boys. Puberty begins with a surge in hormone production, which in turn causes a number of physical changes as an adolescent is going through drastic physical changes she also goes through psychological, mental and emotional changes. Stanley Hall, well known psychologist, describes this stage as the period full of “storm and stress”. This phase is marked with psychologically growing-up. Ericson, another psychologist refers this stage as “Identity Crisis” referring to confusion in identifying oneself neither as a child nor as an adult.
The early and late childhood period boys like to play with boys and girls prefer to be comfortable in the company of girls. Developing relationship with same sex friends and getting their approval and acceptance is one of the important characteristic of interpersonal relationship. The maximum socialization takes place during this stage. But as childhood period end and child enters into an adolescent stage suddenly due to hormonal changes and development of secondary sex characteristics the interest in opposite sex becomes more significant.
Suddenly an adolescent becomes self-conscious and her outlook changes. She becomes conscious towards herself as well as towards opposite sex. An adolescent spends lot of time looking at himself or herself in the mirror, new look in hair style, preference in clothing and dressing up manners changes, use of cosmetics and interest in looking good increases. Sudden changes occur in improving self-image and having better self-impression on opposite sex. Girls become shy in the presence of the opposite sex.
Is all this my attempt at using psychology to justify Ese’s behavior? NO! What I am in fact saying is that is normal for her to be interested in the opposite sex, but that is not a reason to make her an object of ridicule. She is still a child, and it is the responsibility of society to protect her till she reaches the age of consent. Just because she is an adolescent with raging hormones doesn’t mean she is a responsible adult ready to make decisions on her own. All responsible adults in her life have to protect her till she is mature enough to understand what she is getting herself into.
Back in 2013, a Time magazine article on abduction began like this…
“Abduction is a singularly grotesque transaction. In a single instant, a relationship between two people changes to one of captor and prisoner, owner and chattel. One holds absolute power and the other holds none.
The Nigerian, media had a fanfare with word abduction, but when Ese was being returned, there were a crowd of men around her, the video circulating the web showed a terrified little girl trying to hold on to some sort of control. There was no comforting voice. Once again, there was absolutely no recognition that this was just a child. For Heaven sakes, Ese is just a child.
She may or may have not chosen to have gone to Kano. It doesn’t take a genius to know that it will be traumatizing to be the center so much controversy.
She may or may not be in love. It does not take a PhD to know that no one would want their private life broadcasted on air. An adult would be nerve wracked to go through what Ese has been through.
The American Psychological Association say, According to research, hostage survivors often develop an unconscious bond to their captors and experience grief if their captors are harmed. They may also feel guilty for developing a bond. This is typically referred to as the Stockholm syndrome. Hostage survivors may also have feelings of guilt for surviving while others did not. It is important for survivors to recognize that these are usual human reactions to being held captive.
When hostages are released, it is essential for them to:
Receive medical attention.
Be in a safe and secure environment.
Connect with loved ones.
Have an opportunity to talk or journal their experience if and when they choose.
Receive resources and information about how to seek counseling, particularly if their distress from the incident is interfering with their daily lives.
Protect their privacy (e.g. avoid media overexposure including watching and listening to news and participating in media interviews).
Take time to adjust back into family and work.
I am writing this as a teacher and a mother, Please for the love of God, leave this child alone to go back to school no more media coverage on this story, it’s doing the Ese more harm than good. As long as she is below the age of consent, all responsible adults should act like it!
Maryanne Kooda, a CELTA qualified Special Needs Teacher, conducts weekly creative writing workshops and reading programs for 6 to 16 year olds in Colombo Sri Lanka. Ms Kooda is a feature writer with a passion for children; she has extensive teaching experience in the tertiary and primary levels of the Sri Lankan International school system.