Handle your adolescent with care

CHILD AT RISK

Handle your adolescent with care

When it comes to dealing with your teenage son or daughter, remember to have open lines of communication at home. But most of all, be available when your children need you, advises Mary Chelladurai

As children grow into their adolescent years, they tend to assert their independence, and this can bring about disagreements and conflicts. For the adolescent, it may seem normal to argue with his/her parents to push boundaries. Despite the squabbling, things usually work out alright in the long run, provided the lines of communication remain open.  To deal and bond with your adolescent, it is best to understand and learn their intellectual and emotional development during this phase.

Speaking of intellectual growth during adolescence, Dr Barry J Wadsworth in his book, Piagets Theory of Cognitive and Affective Behavior, says that an adolescent between the ages of 11 and 15 is moving towards formal operations — the “freeing” of thought from direct experience. Cognitive skills reach maturity during this stage. Potential quality of formal reasoning can be as good as an adult’s thought which means that potential and formal operations are nearly fully developed.

During this phase, teenagers mature in all human facets and learn to become wholesome and mature people — man or woman.  Thorndike (1948) concludes that one’s IQ is sufficiently stable by adolescence and many of them are fairly equipped to make vocational choices. Some adolescents may suffer from high levels of anxiety related to their studies if they lack vocational direction or guidance.

On the emotional front, adolescents are anxious to be accepted and liked, but are generally happy and easy going. They also recognise their own strengths and weaknesses. They have a strong desire for independence. Some of them may want to be free of familial relations and responsibilities. They may share more with peers or the opposite sex, as there is a tendency to be more understanding among the same age groups.

B Kuppuswamy in his book, Adolescence and its Problems, states that adolescents have a strong urge to build strong friendship ties with the members of their own sex but there is also an increased awareness about the members of the opposite sex.  So dating and romantic relationships are common during this stage. They can experience a series of intense infatuations, wherein the sense of being in love is intense. But they can also fall out of love as quickly as they fall in. Girls often start to fall in love before boys, just as they attain early puberty.

There is another turbulent side to this, that of moody silence, slamming doors and flouncing off in a rage. The earlier trait of sulkiness and impertinence is replaced with rebellious reactions. They are quick with verbal abuse, mockery, teases and can make others angry. But they get depressed if bullied. Backtalk from adolescents often includes shaming statements, sometimes even directed towards their parents.  

Right parenting skills  

- Develop a non-directive approach, and help your son or daughter understand his/her feelings rather than prescribe rules. When you are discussing something with your teenager, try to say: “I’m worried about XYZ,” instead of “It’s wrong to do XYZ.” The former statement will immediately put them on the defensive

- Be patient with your adolescent. Be gentle too. This keeps your relationship going even if they’re doing something you can’t approve. Let them know that although you may not approve of their behaviour, you still love them

- Let your attitude towards your teenager express genuine respect. If you criticise him/her without clearly demonstrating how criticisms are fair comments, he/she will have no respect for you or your opinion

- Support your child’s interests and help him/her with hobbies, sports and temporary distractions. Encourage your adolescent to have a particular hobby that requires his/her focus and encourage him/her to be productive. This will be a great head start for the future

- Take active interest in your son or daughter’s online activities. Many parents do not know what their adolescent gets up to on the Internet. Trust them when they are online and they will talk to you if something worries them.

- Do not install monitoring software and parental controls. This will just encourage your child to be sneaky. Ask him/her to recommend some music for you to listen to and recommend some of your favourite ‘oldies’ music that he/she might enjoy

- Stay informed of their work in school and find out from the teacher if your son/daughter is happy in class. If the answer is no, talk to him/her about school and friends. It may be that these issues have been overlooked as a problem, rather than something the school could help with or improve

- Understand that late physical developments can cause worry. Early developers have their own problems. If there is a pattern of late or early development in the family, share that information with your adolescent

- Appreciate and give due attention to good behaviour, rather than the bad, and the latter will soon disappear. Emphasise character rather than appearance. Instead of saying how much you like what she/he is wearing, say, “I like your style, you have a great sense of colour.”

- Some kids may fall prey to a crush or a puppy love; this can be most irritating for parents. Try to understand why such a crush has developed and it would be easier to be sympathetic, this will help them grow out of this phase.

- Above all, be available. Your adolescent will need time to talk to you.

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