Keeping an Adolescent on the ‘Straight & Narrow’ through Counseling

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Kenneille Munn and her son Kaishan embrace each other.
USAID LPD Jamaica FHI 360

Wanting to secure a better future for herself and her ‘ongle bwoy’ (Jamaican term meaning only child), single mother Kenneille Munn began pursuing her nursing degree at a university in her hometown of Manchester, Jamaica. However, she had to make the hard decision of leaving her 16-year-old son Kaishan in the neighbouring parish of Clarendon to live with her mother. And though Kenneille came home fortnightly and spoke with him daily, Kaishan resented his mother’s absence.  

Kenneille noticed a change in Kaishan’s attitude; he refused to listen to her or his grandmother. He was a ticking time bomb, wavering between being withdrawn and rebellious. Kenneille felt like she could no longer reach him, and her method of discipline was to hit him, which made him even more resentful. One evening, she arrived home and could not find him. When he eventually returned later that evening, he was dismissive and refused to tell her where he had been. In her anger, she beat him so badly that he had to seek treatment at the hospital. The trauma was intense for both mother and son, and although they apologized to each other, their actions did not change.  

Like his mother, Kaishan had an anger management problem, and almost everything was a trigger. Though he knew it was the right decision, he was angry that his mother had left him to pursue her degree. At school, he was being bullied for his lunch money, and on one occasion he stabbed one of the boys. He was suspended from school and sent by the guidance counselor to the NISSI Youth Empowerment Center. From there, he was placed in a Youth Mentorship Program funded by USAID through its Local Partner Development activity. This intervention was designed to address anti-social and deviant behaviors in high school youth as a method of crime prevention. The program includes individual and joint counseling and provides an avenue for youth to freely express themselves in a safe space, guided by trained counselors.

During the counseling sessions, Kaishan expressed his disappointment and hurt at having been left behind by his mother: “It is as if she made plans for herself and not for me.” 

For him, the first few sessions were uncomfortable, as he was not accustomed to opening up to people and talking about his emotions, but with time it became easier. He was assigned a mentor, who helped stabilize him, and along with his counselor, worked with him to develop more effective coping skills.

While her son participated in the mentorship and counseling program, Kenneille benefited from the Parent Support and Training Program, implemented by the Clarendon Parish Development Committee with support from USAID. The counseling helped her control her anger and learn how to talk to her son without losing her temper. 

Today, Kenneille and Kaishan talk, play games, watch movies, and hang out together. If there is a disagreement, they now have the skills to respectfully and calmly broker a solution. Kenneille is delighted with the outcome, highlighting that her son’s attitude at home and in school has improved: “We are spending quality time together and our bond is strong.”  

With less than a year to go before the completion of her nursing program, Kenneille transferred her son to a school in Manchester so that they could spend more time together, and she would be better able to monitor him. This is what he wanted and needed, and it made them both happy. 

One thing is clear;  Keneille Munn and her son love each other. Kaishan describes his mother as caring, committed, and kind, and he is proud that she will soon be a nurse: “She works hard, and I am going to do everything to make her proud of me.” 

His ambition is to join the military, and he vows to always take care of his mother. 

There is a Jamaican saying, “teeth and tongue must meet,” which means that in every situation there will be disagreements. The intervention received through the USAID-sponsored programs has given Kenneille and Kaishan an arsenal of valuable tools to defuse tension or misunderstanding, which threaten their relationship. The road ahead will have bumps, twists, and turns, but the love, respect, and commitment to their relationship will help them to weather the tough times.  

Authors: Joan Andrea Hutchinson and Natalie Wheatle

Last updated: June 21, 2022

Share This Page