Dear Parents! Today, through this article we will try to give some basic information about adolescence, and how are the usual relationships and behaviors created between the teen and his/her parents. Firstly, adolescence is the period that usually begins at the end of our childhood, around the age of 11-13 (pre- adolescence) and ends where adulthood begins, approximately when we are 17 to 18 years old. The most common characteristics of adolescents are the completion their personality which starts from childhood, mainly based on experiences, social learning and modelling (from their close people), endogenous factors. From all the above their future ideals are being formed. Moreover, teenagers tend to spend a lot of time  focused on their body  (at the same time we have the first major changes in the body and these changes  simulate those of their adult body, such as hair growth, maturation of the genitals, etc.) and social image. Also they have their first sexual thoughts and contacts with the opposite sex. Young people begin to take into account what others think about them; usually their peers and they will also begin to make their first steps towards their independence. They often experience internal conflicts regarding various issues. These conflicts may be revealed with mild manner to parents   but some other times they may be very intense and violent. Eventually, all the above will define the personality of the teenager which will accompany him/her throughout the rest of his/her adult life.

Now that having given the general outline of puberty let us now explore the main sources of adolescents’ behaviors and how they usually deal with their parents. In a first level, adolescents realize that in certain subjects that -mostly- concern their future, they often have different opinions comparing to their parents’. They feel that their parents are “of an older generation” so they cannot understand their needs and their beliefs. On the contrary, their friends have similar ideological approaches with them and the same aspect about the world and its structure. In addition to this, the fact that they interact so well, leads to the creation of common representations about themselves and their world. On the contrary, the gap is growing between them and their parents in a way that they now recognize even more differences! Soon enough, they are aware that they can do activities “likeable or not” to the parents, because they begin to experience the eminent feeling of ‘omnipotence', which is the herald of their future emancipation. They still have the need to prove the right of their opinions against the “anachronistic” perceptions of their parents, something that is likely to lead to conflicts between the members of the family. In these situations it is usual that parents constitute the major recipients of their children’s complaints! Parents should aim to establish a qualitative communication with their child. Such forms of deep communication are established from the early childhood. A stable and safe environment can ‘absorb’ typical conflicts. Every intervention has to be discreet.

Now let’s pass on the other side! How parents act when their children enter in puberty? In this critical period of their lives, adolescents will change mentally, sentimentally and cognitively in different ways and in different intensity. This essential change is something that parents do not detect fast enough (one reason is due to the fact that adolescents tend to become more slinky) and this is why they do not cope satisfactorily with what adolescent consider as “satisfactorily”! Furthermore, parents may begin to allow certain things more often, for example that their child return later at home, however they still prohibit other activities, and such as being alone at home for a whole day because he/she is still ‘too young’! These behaviors send contradictory messages in these children and some of these children may as well get angry by their parents’ inconsistency. One other common attitude is the parental refusal to realize that their children will not remain forever children! This is really important, as we discuss about puberty, where adolescents make their first steps to emancipation. Many parents seeing this try hard to regain the feeling of need of their child for them, which usually has precisely the opposite results. Finally, the stereotype of the “ideal parent” is… harmful! Ideal parents do not exist! We can just be proud about parents who try hard for their child’s best and stand by their side.

Summarizing, there is a strong interaction between that bipolar, sometimes smooth and some others not so smooth! It is a common phenomenon that these two sides persist vigorously in their opinions, intensifying the existing intensity that results from the different sentimental needs and opinions of these two sides. In conclusion, we thought that it would be better if we could mention certain advices for the parents… under pressure! 

  • The most important is a safe supportive and stable family environment.
  • Any sentimental needs should not be ignored by parents.
  • A frame of relevant freedom and flexibility should be provided for the      adolescent to develop his/her personal beliefs/skills.
  • Parents should assign tasks to their child in order to teach him/her the meaning of being a responsible person. We should be cautious so as not to assign tasks which are incompatible to their age and their cognitive level.
  • Parents should reward their children for their progress and their success, especially at the beginning of their attempts. Any reprehensions should come in a soft (or moderate) and instructive way. Offensive and damnatory comments are not recommended because of their irreverent nature and the fact that they have no real results in a long term way!

 

P.S: The purpose of this article is not to judge. As well as, we do not claim that every teenager will experience violent changes in his/her life or that every family will face serious problem as their child becomes adolescent. We just described some common situations and their major causes.  

Bibliography: 
  • E. Campbell, G. R. Adams, W. R. Dobson(1984). Familial correlates of identity formation in late adolescence. In Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 13.
  • Steinberg, Laurence D. (1981). Transformations in family relations at puberty.

Author

Military Psychiatrist