As Thomas Carlyle aptly puts it “A man who to work and unable to find work is perhaps the gloomiest sight that fortunes inequality exhibits under the sun”. This seems to be the fate of most Kenyan youths. But who’s to blame for it; the government, Parents, their generation or the lack of mentorship environment that would enable them to learn from others?
Today’s adolescent have been characterized as the most materialistic generation in history. Many Kenyan youths are very status conscious, and to improve their status among their peers, they feel pressured to obtain the latest technology or the ‘cool’ brand names. Some youths in the country only care about what kind of shoes, clothing, and jewelry to wear, what type of cars to drive and which technologies to have.
This has seen a trend in Kenya of money making while still in college rather than having to wait for graduation. Employment has been fuelled by the desire to afford a flashy lifestyle mirrored on social and main stream media imagery. Their self-worth is driven by their possessions. This type of mentality may lead to poor financial decisions, debt and an underlying dissatisfaction with their life.
Inspiring teenagers to pursue lives of greater value- a life not defined by their possessions but actions and dreams may very well spare them the financial burden and empty promises of happiness. It’s difficult to keep youths out of the materialistic trap because of our society’s increasing culture of ‘bullying more’ adverts that target teens and young adults giving them the desire to fit in with their peers.
However, spending habits are not fully-formed –parents and adults have the ability to shape their child’s thought and decisions on materialism before they get into debts or in other troubles. Parents should practice model simplicity, encourage idealism, volunteer as a family in helping other people, identify advertisement messages, discourage entitlement, expose them to the less fortunate, establish goals and challenges, avoid the status game and be supportive.
There are varied causes of materialism in Kenya; low self-esteem, parents set up high expectations, youths want to portray an image, compensated dating, what their parents can do, and the brain is not fully developed.
Ultimately, it’s important for the parents to teach their teenagers and young adults that what matters most is who they are, and what they own. Value your children’s character, dreams and talents so that they can see that their happiness is not determined by their possessions. Teach them to pursue the greater things in life.
Written by Amina Martha.