Understanding Teenagers and the Teenage phase

Understanding Teenagers and the Teenage phase

If you have already crossed midnight feedings, lived through toddler temper tantrums, going to the school blues and so much more, and yet the word “teenager” causes you to worry, this is the right place to be.

One important insight the parent of a teenager can have is to understand what their child is most likely to do and why.  It can actually be quite reassuring to discover that the same attitude of your childhood that makes you livid is perfectly normal. This might sound scary, as if there is no reason to believe that their behavior will improve, but that’s not the case. The way they are behaving and its consequences are both crucial to your child’s development. 

So this discipline and learning; the practical application of the knowledge that their behavior is appropriate in terms of their development, as is your response to their behavior and any other consequences they face.

When children enter early teenage years, you should mentally prepare yourself for certain things. This could be developmental milestones, physical, emotional, cognitive, social changes. During this time their bodies, emotions, and identities change in different ways and different times.  This is mainly because of puberty, this time is exceptionally important in your child’s development because puberty is not easy for anybody. They are dealing with so many new changes like; facial hair, changing voice, starting menses and so many other changes that take a tremendous role on them both physically and mentally. The body has to adjust to these new changes, so there could be a difference in their schedule itself: their eating habits, sleeping habits could change drastically, like increased appetite, longer sleep hours and naps. These are all common experiences that are simply their bodies’ way of adapting.

These physical changes are accompanied by heightened emotions and an increased awareness of social opinions. This is a time when children will compare themselves, their bodily developments, their physical attributes with that of their friends or other peers. It is normal for children to become very aware of their physical looks and sometimes this makes children very conscious in public. So as parents you can help decrease this pressure they assert on themselves to look attractive, and help them with their consciousness by complimenting them and their other accomplishments, pointing out their unique physical features, encouraging them on all their little and big achievements. It is extremely important for you, as parents, to not hinder their self-esteem, which will affect their development as your child is hyper aware of any flaws they have and the mistakes they make. Our job as parents is to promote their emotional and physical wellbeing and to understand their struggles and challenges.

The psychological development of teenagers rivals that of physical development greatly. Children suddenly feel very grown up and the intensity of their emotions change drastically. Young boys are less likely to be open about their psychological issues and their emotions, whereas teenage girls tend to reveal a wider range of emotions; from insecurity to depression, anger and so on. However, in reality both of them experience these issues just the same. It is societal conditioning that makes them show their emotions differently based on their gender. It is critical that you understand that weather or not; you see your child experiencing these emotions; they are struggling with them nevertheless. Remember to be forgiving, gentle, and to equip your children with the tools that they need to express their emotions with you. In case your child is struggling with anger issues, allow them a physical outlet which can be a release to that aggression; like Football, kickboxing, Self defence sports, etc. also create a safe emotional place for your children, irrespective of their gender, to cry and to vent their emotions.

Let us talk about the infamous “raging hormones” and their impact, which should not be underestimated. Young men and young women are both experiencing tremendous changes in their hormones, which will be visible through their behaviour just as much as in their physical development. It is likely that they are going to have alternate feelings of confidence and crippling self-doubt, arrogance and lowest forms of self-esteem, all of which are very real. It is a very delicate phase for Young women when they experience heightened premenstrual symptoms, which include physical pain, upset routine, emotional impact and so much more. So if you suspect that your child seems to be overreacting to certain things because of an impending cycle, do not make it explicit. Even if you are correct about it, this does not change what she is experiencing and knowing the cause does not decrease the intensity of it.

Another extremely important thing to understand about your child’s development is that, while their bodily changes make them look like an adult, they don’t have an adult brain yet. As a matter of fact, human brains do not typically finish developing till the mid-twenties. It’s very easy for a parent, teacher or elders in the family to think and behave as though the teenager should be able to make reasonable adult decisions, this is often accompanied by the fact that teenagers also typically believe themselves to be capable of making such adult decisions. 

While your children may be able to make some very reasonable decisions, as though they are an adult or even better, it is important for you to remember that they are not one. This knowledge is important to help guide them and support them rather than discredit their opinions. You can help them consider all the options, and the consequences of those options and also give them a certain strategy for any given situation. By doing these things, you are helping them learn how to make comprehensive adult decisions, though they may or may not have that level of natural ability to do so.

The fact that their brains are not fully developed despite their physical growth, is something to remember and repeat to yourself quite often. This is the fact that often leads to their outbursts, lack of planning, poor decision making and so on. Comfort yourself with this knowledge whenever necessary, that your child has not finished growing both physically and mentally. This should be your repetitive Mantra to keep your patience and to look forward to the day that they will fully develop and will be psychologically capable of becoming the person you have always wanted them to be.

So always help them with this phase by:

  • Encouraging them to take on new challenges often.
  • Encouraging your child to talk about problems or concerns with adults, even if it is not you.
  • Talking to them about ways to manage and handle stress.
  • Listening to their ideas, opinions, advice without judgement.
  • Talking with your teenager about not losing sight of one’s self in a group.
  • Encouraging positive peer relationships.
  •  Accept that they can differ with you about beliefs.
  • Providing loving discipline with limits, restrictions, and rewards in a consistent manner.
  • Trying to spend more time together

Throughout all this, never underestimate the role that you can play in helping your child become a healthy, kind, responsible adult. Remember that you’re going through this together, and you’ll come out of it — together! 

A strong relationship with you is the most important foundation for building your child’s Future!

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