For most of us, adolescence brings about thoughts of extremes. Those extremes might be of conflicting feelings or ideas that have changed the way they respond to others and/or confusion about what is really important to them. Anyway we look at those years between eleven and eighteen (more or less) there is a sense of some frustration. The world today has compounded those thoughts with other problems such as drugs, alcohol, teen sex and suicide. Times have changed and so have teens; it has become a time of needing more support and counsel from others that they trust.
Parents and other adults have a large task today of putting some sense and balance into the lives of their teens. With all that is happening, we need to be more interactive, listen more and be more receptive to teens that ever before. Problems have become complex, so have teens and so have adults. It is a time when learning about what is important to each is crucial.
Adolescence is a unique phase of life. It's a process, meaning that so many changes are occurring all at the same time. These changes turn cute little children into irritating and outspoken adolescents. Sometimes considered a culture all its own; teens have their own way of dressing, thinking and talking. This is all normal. We actually want this to happen, for this is the time of becoming an individual. It is a time to learn who they are and to separate from families and venture into a whole new world.
There are two primary tasks that adolescents need to accomplish in order to become well adjusted adults. Those are to develop a sense of identity and a sense of intimacy. Whether they like it or not, adolescents are maturing physically and sexually through biological processes beyond their control. In addition to the feelings that these changes cause, there may also be anxiety about the rapid or slow rate of growth in relation to peers. Hormones are also part of these changes and along with those come mood swings. Physical growth and change takes on a whole new meaning.
Of all the changes occurring at once, the most challenging is the psychological change. This is the time for a child to turn away from childhood and childish feelings. Childhood is a time of parents and child, adolescence is a time of separation from parents. As children, they were free to act and feel as children, love their parents openly and depend on them. With the beginning of adolescence, a new force tells them to experience independence and to exist on their own. No more can they depend only on parents.
For some, this reduces security and may cause fear. It is also a time of increasing responsibility. Life is no longer a game. This turn toward independence is the heart of adolescence. It is through this learning process that they find out who they are as people. It is confusing at times, exciting at others.
Parents, too, need to adapt at this time. As a parent, you no longer have to cling and protect, you need to support, listen and allow more independence. This can be difficult. It's important for parents to know that adolescence is a phase, it does have an end. Parents need to remain calm. Much of being the parent of a teenager is to have patience, understanding and faith. The end product will be much better. All the parents' advice, intervention and discipline that seems to be ignored and disregarded right now does get through. Efforts do have an impact and are often very important. Caring, understanding, listening, communicating are all necessary during this time. They appreciate it and some day will let you know.