Building Relationships We Can All Be Proud Of

Saturday, 20 October 2012

THE TORTUROUS TERRAIN OF TEENAGE

The teen age is the most unsettling stage in all of the various stages of a child’s development. It is the period where adolescents struggle to carve out their identities and gain a measure of independence from authority, at the same time trying to maintain parental approval of them. It is a period where they suddenly wake up to the realisation that there are many issues to address urgently. They suddenly see beyond authority and openness towards the family and start seeing themselves: independent and matured enough to make lifelong choices.

It is a period they wish they knew it all and understood it all but they do not want to ask for this knowledge from authority. This is because by that gesture they would have submitted themselves to authority and become dependent on it, the very thing they are trying to be rid of.  It is a threshold between self-awareness and independent perception of the world as opposed to naivety and controlled perception of the world.

As they struggle to be independent and carve out their individuality, teenagers become secretive and independent thinkers and going beyond that, demand respect for their views. Unfortunately their inability to go through it all alone or handle that independence they are trying to wrest out of their parents and authority in general, tend to put them a step away from the precipice.

In their loneliness and frustrations they go through many challenging experiences and temptations. They become desperate and are prone to making decisions that will satisfy them momentarily while the long term effects are pushed to some distant future.

Being at this stage in one’s development is like being led to a thousand doors the entrance of each one leading to a whole complete maze of possibilities, alternatives and choices each one having their own endless consequences. And every day a teenager smiles at the rising sun he is beset with thousands of such doors. Each day they walk up the street they make and remake choices that affect them in the short term  and the long term. 

Teenagers, in going through that stage may choose either to flee peer pressure or to give in; either to try drugs or not; experiment with sex or not. They even choose whether they really want to continue depending on authority or be rid of it; whether they want to continue opening up to their parents or not.

Parents, at this stage, more than any other stage, should therefore provide that kind of support and show the sort of concern necessary for the child to always feel the hope of coming back whenever they feel the need to.

Rebellion among children begins here. The slightest lack of tact and any intentional effort at keeping the child in their rightful place is a fertile ground for breeding rebels in the home. However, a balance intervention, positive exhortation, quality proactive communication from parents and prompt response to teenage needs will help both parents and their teenagers.

At this stage, if your children will seek freedom and independence: give them a measure of those two and demand accountability and responsibility; respect the changes that are taking place on their physical persons and respect their need for privacy; appreciate their broadening perception of the world around them and use every opportunity you have to tactfully explain things to them. Do whatever you can by way of a balanced intervention, but for rebellion sake don’t intrude! You have led the way for the past 15 or more years, it is about time you walk hand in hand, side by side for the rest of the way!

Teens have countless questions and they demand answers to them. Make yourself relevant to them and be a one-stop centre for solutions. That is the only way they will always come to you rather than going outside for solutions. There is no such time as the right time. Whenever they ask questions, know they are not being impulsive; they have thought hard about it and have gathered the courage to ask! Remember most importantly that they also have in mind someone else they would be talking to in case they don’t get satisfactory answers from home.

With this in mind determine to be the only place where genuine information could be downloaded and therefore a surety that they will always come back to you than go to any other person.

Parents should avoid short yes-or-no answers in handling their teens. Every opportunity that presents itself, and they come rarely, should be moments of building closer ties, bridging the parent-child gap and going all out to be of help to them. 

Parents should be honest with their teens by helping them to trust them. You should let them know your fears, share relevant part of your past experiences with them and let them have a little insight into your concerns. That will be the only way they can understand and sometimes appreciate some of the actions you take. At this stage, any misunderstanding would be misconstrued to be another attempt by you to keep them leashed, all the good reason why they must be rid of you.

The communication that goes on should be quality, and proactive from the end of the parents. Parents should not, however, go snooping around because they want something to talk about. If you have nothing to say, just shut up. It should be at your teen’s convenience. Don’t let it look as though you are going to benefit from the subject of whichever conversation you get into. Sometimes you may talk at length without really saying anything; but you might have spoken volumes! You would have opened the door for future conversations.

At times, depending on family circumstances, teenage needs may go beyond emotional and psychological into material needs.  And in this era of fashion and proliferation of many things that enhances the outlook of teens, like phones and cars and the ability to feel in control financially, the temptation on the teenager to give in to a tempting situation in order to get these goodies are more than ever. 

Parents can throw up their hands in despair because they don’t have the money to meet those needs, or they can do something! Openly let the child know the circumstances at home. It is not enough for daddy to tell mummy there is no money and expect her to tell the children, directly or indirectly! It has to be discussed somehow and in an open and candid way. Let the children know what efforts are being made to sort things out and the circumstances that have made things the way they are! Most importantly, paint a brighter picture about the future; either theirs through the kind of education you are giving them or the kind upbringing they are getting, or a future in your life as a parent because of your expectations that things will work out pretty soon. Silence seldom works. 

Even couples sometimes assume that the other is rich but are refusing to help financially, how much more your children, who see you going in and out looking all good and in control? They would easily conclude you are for yourself and not for them. You do not want your teenagers to think that way about you. 
 
Teens are apt to develop some attachment towards their parents when they feel that sense of honesty in them; it is human nature! Cry with your child if you have to! 

For your children, to know your childhood failings and triumphs; your fears and aspirations and what you have been able to achieve and what you have failed to achieve, is a big leap over the field of parent-child relationship to the field of friendship. Let them know why you think you failed and what you could have done but did not do for whatever reasons. Let them even suggest what they would have done if they stood in your place. Sometimes we need to tell the story as it is. 

Intimate secrets are never treated as old school nonsense by teenagers; they are rather received as priceless lessons in life that can help them guide their own lives. 

For any parent to pretend they never went through any of these struggles is a denial of the human nature and indirectly telling the teenager that what they are experiencing is an aberration and unnatural! Not all the stories may be comfortable to talk about, but as much as a parent can, they should find a way of identifying with the needs, fears and desperations of their teenagers in a way that will not leave them alienated and bound in their plight. 

It is important to let your teens know the effect of allowing their thoughts to be infiltrated by insalubrious things that have the propensity to create a gradually infesting hunger which can lead them into temptations!

In the final analysis many parents have issues with their teenagers because the latter wanted to have their ways and the parents involved would have none of them. It is however imperative for parents to know that primarily, whatever a teenager becomes during that stage in their development is predominantly outside of the teenager's direct control; It is really more in the control of parents. You either invest time in them while they are growing up so that their transition into the teen age and their ability to cope would be smooth, or you spend time coping and handling the various unsettling issues that come up in teenage. But of this be sure; issues will come up during the teen age and the ability to handle it well will determine to a large extent what a child becomes in the future and what kind of relationship would exist between them and their parents.

Secondly, parents should remember that they cannot expect their children to make all the right choices because they did not whilst growing up! Problems that come up are developmental, and differences of any kind should not be taken so personal as to wash one’s hands off their children.

Today determine to make better the relationship that exists between you and your teens. It does not matter how many times they may have walked on you and your counsel. We all at different stages in our lives had had conflicts with people who had our best interest at heart because we took them as nothing short of puppeteers. The funny thing is after the picture was complete, we went back thanking them!

Your teenage kids would not make it any easy for you, but you have to roll-up your sleeves and be ready to work it out for the good of them. You cannot fail in this area or you would have failed in all areas as a parent.

~PG Sebastian~
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