Empowering teen survival


POSTED: Sunday, August 02, 2009

Child social workers adhere to the mantra “;there are no bad kids.”; But peer pressure, uncertainty and an unclear view of consequences can lead teens down undesirable paths. For example, teens might choose not to use drugs, but if they are hanging out with friends who are users, they could find themselves guilty by association.

Celeste Gonsalves learned her lesson the hard way. As a teenager, she was tricked by her so-called friends into thinking a marijuana joint was a cigarette.

“;I had vowed to be drug-free, and they took that choice away from me. I couldn't forgive them for that,”; she said. She decided to tell her friends that she was disappointed that her choice was taken away, and dissolved unhealthy friendships characterized by a lack of mutual respect. She also had to consider why she would light up their cigarettes for them, even though she didn't smoke herself.


These past experiences and perspective from her adult vantage led Gonsalves to write “;Teen Wise,”; a guide to help teenagers to develop self-definition and determination.

“;The book is intended to offer a communicative venue for teens, parents, teachers and counselors,”; she said. Example scenarios throughout the book include realistic situations, probable results, consequences and benefits based on teen choices.

“;I'm not telling them what to do. I'm trying to instill wisdom in teenagers ... teaching them how to best serve their own interests without intentionally hurting anyone in the process.”;

The first chapter briefly deals with topics of addiction, friendship, dating, romance and parenting. Thereafter, chapters are divided by grade levels. It starts with the sixth-grade chapter covering topics like honesty, peer pressure, doing the right thing, cheating and dares, to issues that affect youths through 12th grade.

One of the examples is that of a student pulling a fire alarm as a prank, which registered strongly with sixth-graders she used to test her concepts. “;The kids hadn't thought about innocent people getting hurt because of their actions. It really bothered them.

Gonsalves hopes that facing such consequences at such a young age will help youths to develop reasoning skills.

At that age, “;that part of the brain is not fully developed yet,”; she said. “;It was very reassuring that they understood the concepts.”;

GONSALVES IS currently finishing her degree in family resources at the University of Hawaii and hopes the book allows her to branch out to other endeavors.

“;I'd like to hold interactive assemblies in middle and high schools, engaging with teens who want to talk about real-life experiences. In two to three years, I'd like to open up a 'Teen Wise' center, a safe place where teens can come and hang out with their peers in the evenings.”;

She's also planning to distribute a copy of her book to each public middle and high school statewide next month. “;Teen Wise”; has already gone international, finding its way to Australia, Italy, Africa, Japan, Korea and India via the Internet, she said.

“;The book is not about being perfect—it's about reaping the benefits or suffering the consequences of your actions.”;





        » By Celeste M. Gonsalves

» CMG Publishing


» $19.95, available at www.t-wise-book.com or at Barnes & Noble





        » Place: Barnes & Noble, Kahala

» Time: 2 p.m. Saturday


» Note: A portion of the book's proceeds benefits Women In Need, a local agency that helps women in transition.





        Teens in grades 6 to 12 can submit essays that may be included in “;I've Been Teen Wise: The Testimonial Essay,”; scheduled for release next summer. Essays should demonstrate how they used concepts in the book to their benefit. Visit www.t-wise-book.com and click on the essay contest tab for more details.