In Part 1 of this series, we found out that adolescence is about:
And we learned that underlying this stage of Independence, is the need for the young person to break away from family and find her or his place in the wider world.
In Part 2 of Surviving Adolescence we’re going to look a little more closely at the stage of:
Remember that one of the ‘tasks’ of being a parent or caregiver, is to support our young ones to develop the maturity and skills to enter the world as healthy functioning adults.
It means supporting our children from the stage of dependence in childhood
into the stage of independence in adolescence…
For parents and caregivers, it means learning to let go of control… gradually… assisting our young people to grow and develop to the point where they can take their place as adults in our society.
This is a monumental task and takes a great deal of parental / caregive maturity in itself!
Let’s look at some of the behaviours that adolescents are likely to display in their growth toward independence…
Let’s have a look at a few of these things and see how they fit into the adolescent task of developing independence…
ps: Sexual Development is also an important aspect of Independence,. We will look at that in the next part, Part 3 of this series.
1. Refusing requests / Defiance / Going against Family Values
This is a part of the adolescent pushing against parents/caregivers to separate and develop an identity independent of the family. It is an aspect of developing Independence…to loosen the ties to parents/caregivers and family: it is usually an unconscious process but one that’s
essential for the young person to successfully move into adulthood. This might also be called being ‘Rebellious’.
2. Emotionally Changeable
The young person is going through puberty with a variety of hormonal chages that have a physical and emotional impact. In addition though, adolescents are frequently torn between ‘doing the right thing’ that they learned from their family, and establishing themselves with their peer group outside the family. As most parents / caregives know, peer group influence can be very strong!
3. Rule Breaking
Another aspect of the young person experimenting by taking risks outside of the family home:
What will happen if I do…? he or she might question.
Think about it like this: we all have a comfort zone, a space around us in which we feel comfortable… but we will never grow if we remain in our ‘comfort zone’: To an adolescent, home and family represents their comfort zone…to grow, they must push against this, and stepping outside a comfort zone means taking risks.
4. Being Self-focussed / Daydreaming
An important aspect of the tasks of an adolescent, is to think about the future…to begin to plan for the future. At some level, whether
conscious or unconscious, the adolescent knows that he or she needs to think and plan for the future…even though sometimes they may not seem like they’re doing it! Much of this planning can be through mental rehearsiing such as:
‘What would it be like if I…?’
or behavioural rehearsing such as taking drugs or drinking alcohol.
Many parents and caregivers I’ve seen in counselling over the years view these tasks of aspects of adolescence as a sign that ‘something is wrong’ – now in some cases, there certainly might be something that needs to be looked into further. But, it’s often how these areas of adolescent development are handled that is the key…
In a later Newsletter I’ll give some tips on dealing with these issues… but for now, a couple of pointers…
First, as a parent / caregiver, don’t take these things personally…quite often ‘rejection’ by a child often triggers off deeper held issues of the parent.
Second, see these tasks of adolescence as something positive and healthy…and necessary. Does it mean you like what you see and hear? Does it mean you have to accept what you see and hear? No! but…more on that later.
Third, seek the support of a counsellor if you are in any doubt as to your child’s mood or behaviour…. Or YOUR mood and behaviour.
Come back next week for Part 3 of Surviving Adolescence where we talk about sex!
Steve Jobson Principal Psychologist