Adolescence and Change : Preparing the Parents

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Over an argument with your child, you notice that your teenager is walking about angrily and slamming the door at you for the first time ever. You are puzzled by this behaviour because your little child has now stood opposing you in a manner that is not acceptable to you.

Stepping into adolescence is a phase of changes for both the parents and the child. Changes to accept, for the parents and changes to deal with, for the child. As parents, we always want to be prepared for the changes in our child’s life. We read up and equip ourselves to know what’s ahead and work towards enhancing the child’s environment for the best. That being said, most often our knowledge is that of the physical aspects of growing up – this we keenly follow and regularly check. However, the psychological changes are usually not looked on deeply.

We take it for granted :

How bad can it get?

We can all deal with it.

I have raised my child well

I am the parent, the child doesn’t have a choice but listen to me.

The psychological aspects could be broken into the cognitive, emotional, social and behavioural development. These aspects further play a major role in the child’s development. However, we will look into aspects that could prepare the parent for an adolescent child. Being aware equips you to handle frustrating situations so as to make translate that into directional behaviour.

Be a parent that encourages critical thinking skills in your adolescent :

Their new found ability to critically think will be put to use very often. You will see your child contradicting, opposing what you say. Allow them to (within the boundaries you set as a parent). It is but them practicing their reasoning skills. Being aware of this, allows you as a parent to understand the space they need. Critical thinking is an important aspect of your child’s development. Building on these skills allows them to further their ability to take into account different consequences before making decisions.

Be the parent who asks open ended questions :

Your adolescent child is bound to get frustrated when you question them about the things you do. It is but them trying to put their decision making skills to use independently. A response to a decision with a ‘Why have you done this?’ or ‘What is it’ could throw them off. They are likely to sense it as an attack. However when you do approach them with open ended questions, it enables them to reason what they have done to you and themselves. Engage them with non threatening questions. Questions that come across as threatening to them will only make them step back into a world of doubt.

Be the parent that invests in identity formation :

Identity formation is an integral part of adolescence. From value building to self-concept building, they are questioning their belief system, values and ideologies that have been there thus far. Just like parents, adolescents make mistakes. Allow and guide them through the process of what could be done better. At this age, your child is building for himself/herself a personality which they can closely connect to. The environment that they are surrounded by has a huge impact on them.

Be the parent who invests in social development :

One of the most obvious changes in adolescence is when allegiance changes from parents to peers. This change does not mean that family has taken lesser importance for the adolescent. Invest in your child’s peer group even more than you did earlier. Instead of telling your child who to hang out with or not, influence them to understand what should make a supportive peer group and allow for your child to make that decision. Peer group serves as a powerful reinforcer as sources of popularity and acceptance which are integral in identity formation. A study (Bagwell, Newcomb & Bukowski, 1998) found that fifth graders who were able to make at least one good friend were found to have higher feelings of self worth at age 30 compared to those who were friendless. These social skills enable them to do better, face stronger and believe deeper.

Finally, take this process one step at a time. Don’t fret. This stage of adolescence can be overwhelming for the parent, understandably. Continue to parent your child the best as you do.

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