Published: 08/14/2018 - Updated: 02/08/2019
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
People say that adolescence is the most rebellious and painful years of a human’s life. Could this be true? Or have a lot of us collaborated on this idea to make it true?
It’s true that between 12 and 18 years of age, we go through an importance period of maturation, of accelerated hormones and systems that need to adapt to new physiological needs that correspond to growth and sexuality. It’s also a time when adolescents are trying to enjoy their world in their own way, they are discovering themselves, which implies the need to free themselves from anything that makes them feel trapped “in a bubble”, and blocks them from exploring and defining themselves.
That’s why youth have to begin to deal with emotions like rage, especially towards their parents or authority figures that they feel limit them. They also deal with anxiety and depression, which aren’t purely bad, but merely reactions that sometimes take place according to each person’s understanding and comprehension. These emotions only become harmful when you don’t know what to do with them.
The beautiful stage of Adolescence
In spite of everything that someone could say about adolescents, they are undoubtedly in an incredible time of their lives. They still haven’t developed the rigid and inflexible mentality that sometimes develops in adulthood, yet they no longer have an immature mentality that blocks them from absorbing deep understanding. They still have the freshness and ingenuity in their minds from childhood, with their love of curiosity, and fascinating drive towards adventure and risk. Their minds possess the capacity to absorb wider understanding, and are flexible still. So taking advantage of this time to help them mature only requires a bit of understanding by the adults that surround them. With these tips, you will avoid several spats, fights, and headaches, and you won’t spend your nights wondering when your son or daughter will “finally grow up”.
1. Don’t interpret their actions: I’m listing this first, because this is one of the most harmful things you could do to your relationship with an adolescent. The truth is, interpretation is a way of translating something from one form into another, which depends entirely on the experiences and understanding of each individual. To say that an adolescent did something “bad”, or is “rebellious, inconsiderate, immature, or abusive”, is just an interpretation. Just expressing this to a youth in a severe way could bring the youth to act it out. In this way you are negatively programming them, and you are telling them something that, quite literally, is just your point of view. So the first thing to do is learn to observe what the adolescent does, without judging them. Keep in mind that what they sometimes really want, in that moment, is to attract a bit of attention from those around them. One way of liberating emotions that weigh them down, or that they don’t understand, it to act out in “rebellion”.
2. Do not punish or reprimand them; reflect with them: The best thing to do when an adolescent does something, no matter how it doesn’t seem right to you, is to put all your energies into stopping your impulse to reprimand or classify the action. Sit down to reflect with them. Helping them to think is a very powerful and valiant key for all youth, because with this, you are allowing them some space to consider things for themselves. This is something that they value greatly, because, remember, what they apparently want least of all is to be controlled. But what they truly want deep down, is for you to guide them; but not towards what you want or consider to be “good”, but to guide them to discovering what matters most to them. They want you to help them mature their emotions through reflection. Your guidance should not be through scolding, or insults, or punishment, but through guiding them back to themselves in the friendliest way possible. Why did you do it? What do you think made you react that way? What do you think you should do now? How can you resolve the situation? This will make them feel like you are giving them space to be, and that you value them, that you consider them to be a person capable of thinking and reacting to what they did. And with this, you are saying to them that you believe in their ability to make wise decisions.
Getting a conversation going is frequently difficult, especially when you’re not used to it. But if you start off by not yelling or reprimanding, and you take more interest in what they feel, little by little, the conversation with begin to flow. You’ll be surprised by what youth say when you help them reflect.
3. Place loving limits: This is the time of parties, friends, and of wanting to do different things. This is the time to fly to coop. It won’t help you at all to scold or punish them, because they’ll leave without even letting you know. Or they’ll come home late, or will stop doing their chores. They will look for ways to avoid them. So the secret key to all this is to just calm down, and to little by little, begin to establish intelligent rules. For example, if one day they ask your permission to go out, and you feel it is appropriate, say yes, but that you want them home at a certain time. You must tell them lovingly, that if they come home after that time, then they themselves will be choosing to stay at home the next time they want to go out. And if by chance they come home late, you don’t need to walk out of your room reprimanding, but simply say hi in a friendly way, and sometime later say “I’m sorry you chose not to go out next time”. If they yell, or get angry, or give you excuses, if they take is as a “punishment”, you don’t need to yell. Simply say that it’s not you punishing them, you’re simply following through with what they decided the moment they didn’t come home on time. You can do the same thing with their chores. Tell them: before you leave I need you to clean your room, or finish your homework. If you don’t, you are making the choice to not go out, or not leave with your friends. By simply making them feel like they “choose” their consequences, you are giving them another type of responsibility.
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Open dialogue in the Adolescence
This wonderful advice works better if applied from an earlier age, even if your child hasn’t quite yet reached adolescence. Making youth responsible has nothing to do with yelling at them, hitting them, or making them feel “bad” for the things they do wrong. The more you help them to think, and make them conscious of their actions, the more respect they will have for you. They will value your presence because you are helping them grow, by allowing them experience what they feel and what they do, without criticizing or blaming, but rather through understanding and consciousness. Your words can help them in their personal growth, rather than blocking their maturation or lowering their self-esteem. Never tell them that the are bad, and never make them feel guilty. This only hurts them and makes them insecure. It’s better to help them explore themselves, and to guide them with questions that help them make wise decisions.
And even though through it all, your child may still want to leave, living with them will improve in every way. If you truly try to establish a conscious and friendly dialogue with them, you will more than likely begin to see them as an emotionally intelligent adult, rather than an immature and insecure child, who doesn’t know what to do with their life.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 02/08/2019
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