Teenagers are happy people.
Yet to figure this out myself! This one is really my attempt to understand my teenager and respond to loads of my clients, colleagues and peers, who have a teen to tackle, or should I say, have a teen that needs to tackle them!
My understanding of adolescence has been largely biased, influenced by years of listening to parents, teachers and my peers about teenage and teenagers. This is really my first time with a teenager (hands-on, head on) at my own home, as a mother. That almost sounds like the world’s steepest, toughest, scariest alpine climb!
Lets rest assure, it isn’t!
Biology is what defines a teenager largely. You need to be going through those very specific chemical changes in your body to qualify as one. And no, the 40 plus kind of glandular changes not included, and in no way should we confuse that with teenage. Although, loads of us would love to believe that we are heading backwards! How confusing would that be, if the kids and parents were both at their peaks of “hormone-ing”, and competing for each other’s attention at the same time in the same house. Exhausting as it may sound, it does seem to exist!
Adults cannot be teens and teens are not adults. As obvious as it may sound, the phenomenon is greatly misinterpreted. The kinds of situations we get into, with these lovely young humans, are proof of that.
There is great pride attached to turning 13, great celebrations accompany. Kids are told by other kids and adults around, how different they are going to be and how special it is to be 13.That makes them wonder too, ‘how’ different and ‘what’ different, just as I wonder. I’m beginning to think, it is just as different as we make it.
None of the stages before this were simple for the parents; not the birth, not the feeding nor the teething; not the toddler tantrums, or the initiation to school. This in fact seems the simplest of them all. You have a child here who thinks and expresses, overly so at times; responds to you and your concerns, if need be; will give you suggestions and can help you around with so much, given a chance.
The tackling bit – suggest it is best to focus on the positives and begin without the myths. Myths can be mystical, without reason and untrue. Discussions around the teen years can be the result of very idiosyncratic experiences, which may not apply to your child or family situation.
So, while some teenagers may hate their parents, may detest any sort of authority and rules; slam doors; howl, shout and cry at the slightest of reasons, an overwhelming majority do not.
While we encouraged them all this while, with every step they took as toddlers and with every bite of food during preschool, why brand them as trouble now!
The trouble is actually over; mums and dads it is time to enjoy your child. They understand most of what you say. Even if they do not display it at once, they reflect upon what you’ve said and appreciate it eventually.
Teenagers are in general, happy, smart, confident kids, who love two things in abundance – friends and food. So, if you can generously provide them their two ‘Fs’ at short notice – fun with friends and favourite foods, they might just help you with some of your own storms and not create fresh ones!
Without worrying too much about waste and their waists, giving these growing bodies plentiful treats pleases them immensely.
Pleasing your teenager is important, just as toilet training your toddler was.
The world of these junior adults is divided into two parts- themselves and those who love them (translated as, understand them, agree with them, allow them and so on). If you are not in one of these two categories, you do not exist. They can’t see you and hear you, until they need something from you.
Teenagers are in fact, little people seeking love and approval. Give it to them in plenty. Love without condition, listen whenever they want you to, hug without reason and praise that strange dress, make-up or hair style they might have attempted; however awful you think it may be. There will be enough people to tell them, what is not good about them, once they step out of their homes and forever in life here on. You be that one constant and consistent source of unconditional love and support.
The two phrases you will hear most often from them will be “I KNOW” and “WHO CARES”! They are “know it all” people. In fact, if you think about it, they have never known so much as they do now, and will only learn more and more each day until adulthood. They are serious researchers, about things that interest them. They are in training for the future battles of life. They are preparing themselves to be great men and women. If we discard their beliefs at this point, we are only thwarting their confidence.
Teenagers are awesome buddies, if they want to be; extremely sociable, if they want to be; very affectionate, if they want to be and very helpful too, if they want to be!!
”If they want” is something that characterises them most, I would say.
They have a great sense of humour. You can decide when to stop laughing, because appreciating them only encourages them to get more and more silly and funny! They love to be a part of adult discussions and feel terribly offended if their suggestions are discarded.
They hate criticism. It hurts them to no extent. Hurt brings in hate, and there-in the saga of stress. Support and appreciate their efforts, they are trying to look good, do well in school, impress peers, fit in the crowd, yet stand out. All of this exhausts them immensely. They are trying to figure out the world around, not sure of a lot of stuff. Well neither were we to begin with!
Positives work better with them than too many NO s. Yet saying no is important too. Rules and limits need to be defined and stuck too. We can keep the battles against alcohol, smoking, late night parties, responsible behaviour, safety and security alive; while save our energies when it comes to daily brawls.
Trust is the tact. Teenagers want to hear you say that you believe in them. They are all out to impress. They want you to have confidence in their abilities. If you treat them like incompetent beings, they will be. That would hold true for anybody at any age, I would think.
It is important to show interest in the lives of your teens. Ask relevant questions, not prying ones. Show up at their school events. Do not hate their friends; try not announcing it at least!
Lead by example. Create an environment conducive to discipline and learning at home, if that’s your expectation of them. Do not drink and drive yourself. Follow the rules. Do not speak to house help/staff, rudely. Do not lie. Your children are ‘uncoated’ and honest reflections of your own true self. They can actually help you better yourselves, than the other way round!
‘Rebels without a cause’ need to be handled with patience and pause! Our exaggerated responses only add to the turbulence within them, however real or imagined it may be.
I think it is for each parent to discover what works for them and how they can just about manage to make their kids, their friends for life, or miss out on that opportunity forever!
Rohini Sethi Child Development Consultant https://in.linkedin.com/in/rohini-sethi-32715247