“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”
Similarly, the role of a parent also changes from providing the basic protection, nurturing care and instructions, to the role of preparing the child for independence, and the ability to survive in the world outside the family. The parenting style at this stage changes to provide negotiations, contracts, and advice to their teenage children.
Every family goes through stress and conflict as children grow into their teens- it is a normal part of growing up. Problems like mood swings, revolt, snotty attitudes, cluelessness and a wide range of emotions are part of the growing experience. The expectations of parent’s and the teenager’s inability to live up to them are the major sources of disagreement.
Understanding teenagers better when their emotions are “out of control”, leads parents to lesser conflicts with them. You must know the below mentioned guidelines for different ages.
·11-12 years – Can be very emotional and moody. Their self-esteem may take a sharp drop that returns back when they are 18 or 19 years.
·13-14 years – Can be excitable, irritable, and more likely to explode than to control their emotions.
·15 years – Maybe more moody, withdrawn, and try to “cover up” their feelings.
·16-17 years – Often calm and settle down into a more adult pattern of behavior. They begin thinking about abstract ideas like love, honesty, and justice.
While understanding teenagers, you need to take care of the following.
Teenagers feel closely connected with the way people feel about their body. They often feel uncomfortable about themselves and their body, if they think the general perception is not good. Girls begin changing inside as early as 7 years old, and boys as early as 9 years. Their physical maturity occurs long before emotional maturity, and the hormones that trigger growth can also cause mood swings.
The actual onset of adolescence is marked by puberty. Physical signs of puberty for girls begin with breast development and the onset of menstruation, while for boys it is their chest or facial hair, deepening of voice, and signs of increased awareness of sexuality. They have uneven growth in parts of their body that makes them clumsy and self-conscious.
Teenagers are more sensitive to weight and their general appearance. Their hands and feet grow much faster than their arms and legs. Parts of the face grow at different rates, and nearly all teenagers have skin problems like acne or “zits”, which are related to their hormone changes.
Teenagers feel unsecure about themselves and are convinced that everyone is looking at them. They want to look like and dress like other teenagers or their friends. They spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, and are often under a lot of stress. Teens believe in “magic” – that they will be protected from all the bad things that happen to others.
Growing teenagers have so much on their plates like sports, school, friends, and other teen drama. Adding in unfair, mean, or tough parents just adds to their stress. Teenagers need a supportive environment, along with well-structured, stable, predictable guidelines, as they are so unstable themselves. They experience less stress when their parents are loving, caring, clear, consistent, fair, and firm.
Teenagers may look grown up but they cannot think like adults, as they lack good judgment and maturity. They believe they are unique, and begin to reject the values and beliefs of their parents. They prefer spending time with their friends rather than their family, though once this stage passes by, most teenagers return to their parent’s values.
As a parent whenever your teens need you, make sure to be always ready to give them a friendly ear and hear them out.
As per a Frontline report on the teenage brain – the problem of teenage mood swings is due to hormonal swings that affect the frontal lobe. This part of the brain is still growing in the teenagers to help them regulate their emotions and reactions to stress, thus it is not fully developed to contain the mood swings, but eventually it would all get alright.
You should let them be moody, restless, or sullen if they like, as they have ownership of their feelings and we cannot deny them their emotions. However, a line needs to be drawn if it makes everyone else miserable, if they turn disrespectful and do not wish to participate in the family or do the required chores.
As a parent, do not let mood swings scare you away and stop you from being a parent. You must continue to interact with your teenager and ignore the moodiness as much as possible.
Parent’s need to understand that teenager’s brains are still developing, and some parts of the brain that are responsible for planning, prioritizing, and logical thinking, will not be fully developed till they are into their 20’s. Thus, it can be tough to get through to your teen the importance of things like getting good grades, or preparing for college.
Understanding teenagers can be an uphill task, as they are a jumble of emotions. Their hormones keep changing and while they try to separate themselves from childhood and make their way into adulthood, it can be a very confusing and challenging experience for them. To be a positive parent, you need to understand the changes your child is going through and make things easier for them.
Even though there are some tough times while understanding teenagers through their growing stages, there are some delightfully fun and happy times that seem to make parenting teenagers worth all the trouble. As long as you love your teenager no matter what and how they are, and support them through their struggle and growing years, it will make their troubles and burdens that much more easier.
If you are a parent of a teenager, do share your experiences, the ups and downs you have faced during their growing years.