This is a time of changes and you might notice the face of your angel start showing disrespect, silence, anger, attitude, bad language. Perhaps this might sound like your teenager. Teenage problems are necessary, and families can learn how to navigate through the meaning of these problems while preserving the family. Teen issues can vary from mild to extreme, but all teens go through a transformation in order to arrive at the stage of development known as adulthood. Adolescence is the bridge between childhood and adulthood. How sturdy that bridge is depends on how well it was built in years past.
THE BASIC DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES
Adolescence is a developmental stage. Most parents do not know the developmental stages of life. It is little wonder that by the time your child reaches adolescence you are little more than confused, dazed and terrified.
This is a time of changes for how teenagers think, feel, and interact with others, and how their bodies grow.Your teen might have concerns about her/his body size, shape, or weight. Eating disorders also can be common, especially among girls. During this time, your teen is developing his unique personality and opinions. Relationships with friends are still important, yet your teen will have other interests as he develops a more clear sense of who he is.
Many child therapists believe that this stage is the most important. Developmental stages are not exact on beginnings and endings. It can at times be terrible because a good-natured toddler can turn on a dime, into a red-faced, screaming, demanding, little person who is out-of-control. Why does this happen and what can you do about it? The toddler has developed the beginning of a sense of self. Her struggle is how to be separate from and dependent on you at the same time. Too often, teens take the path that is easiest and most available to them: They do what their friends are doing. This is not an easy dilemma to solve. So, she/he practices her/his will and she/he sees what you are going to do about it. Are you going to throw her away and abandon her/him, as she may suspect, or are you going to be available to teach her/him that she can be who she/he is and you will still be there and love her/him?
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
What can you do to help? Most of all it is important to be patient, curb your anger, avoid personalizing and try to model the behavior you want to see. We set limits with teens just like with 2-year-olds.
- Find ways to be together; encourage constructive ways to be apart.
- Speak with respect and ask questions that begin with “What” or “How” rather than “Why.”
- Eliminate “Why” from your interpersonal vocabulary.
- Engage in dialogue, not monologue.
- Don’t fight, yell or do battle. Remember this is your child.
- Learn from your teen, ask for her opinion, and complement him on his point of view or openness to seeking a point of view.
- Watch your fear. Your fear will lead you to acting in ways you will later regret.
- Encourage your teen to volunteer and become involved in civic activities in her community.
- Compliment your teen and celebrate his efforts and accomplishments.
- Show affection for your teen. Spend time together doing things you enjoy.
- Respect your teen’s opinion. Listen to her without playing down her concerns.
- Encourage your teen to develop solutions to problems or conflicts. Help your teenager learn to make good decisions. Create opportunities for him to use his own judgment, and be available for advice and support.
- Respect your teen’s need for privacy.
Remember, adolescence is only a bridge to adulthood, where a young person is attempting to figure out what to take on that journey and what to leave behind in childhood.
Safety of your teenager
You play an important role in keeping your child safe―no matter how old he or she is.
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of driving and how to be safe on the road. You can steer your teen in the right direction. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death from unintentional injury among teens, yet few teens take measures to reduce their risk of injury.
- Remind your teen to wear a helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, or all-terrain vehicle. Unintentional injuries resulting from participation in sports and other activities are common.
- Talk with your teen about suicide and pay attention to warning signs. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth 15 through 24 years of age.
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of drugs, drinking, smoking, and risky sexual activity. Ask him what he knows and thinks about these issues, and share your feelings with him. Listen to what he says and answer his questions honestly and directly.
- Discuss with your teen the importance of choosing friends who do not act in dangerous or unhealthy ways.
- Know where your teen is and whether a responsible adult is present. Make plans with her/him for when she/he will call you, where you can find her, and what time you expect her home.
- If your teen engages in interactive internet media such as games, chat rooms, and instant messaging, encourage her to make good decisions about what she posts and the amount of time she spends on these activities.
- Encourage your teen to get enough sleep and physical activity, and to eat healthy, balanced meals. Make sure your teen gets 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
- Keep television sets out of your teen’s bedroom.
- Encourage your teen to have meals with the family. Eating together will help your teen make better choices about the foods she eats, promote healthy weight, and give family members time to talk with each other. In addition, a teen who eats meals with the family is more likely to get better grades and less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs, and also less likely to get into fights, think about suicide, or engage in sexual activity.
If your teen is involved with drugs and alcohol, it is best to seek help from a professional. Many parents believe it is normal to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Teens in therapy quickly admit there are many emotional reasons for using substances. They are often glad to find a nonjudgmental adult to help them problem-solve. Sexual promiscuity, excessive anger, withdrawal from family and friends, loss of interest in usual activities, and problems with insomnia (not being able to sleep) or hypersomnia (too much sleep), overeating, undereating, a change in behavior and poor grades in school are all signs that a parent needs to note and seek the assistance of a psychologist or counselor.