BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN ADOLESCENTS AND PARENTS
The phase of puberty is a challenge to both an individual going through it as well as the people around. With the dramatic turbulence of the hormones and subsequent physical changes, the adolescents’ mood, behavior and thought process is also struggling for stability. During this phase parents often find it difficult to maintain a healthy, peaceful relationship with the child. Moreover, the difficulty in accepting the sudden changes in behavior leads to a further strain. The tendency to oppose parents can reach a point where the adolescent indulges in risk taking and dangerous behaviours. Research shows that in 20% of the families the parent-child conflict is intense during adolescence. A warm, supportive and more accepting approach from parents can bridge this gap and facilitate the development of the child.
- Allow autonomy– This is the time when your child is struggling to find his/her identity and a sense of autonomy can provide the confidence and strength to do so. Gradually disengage from doing things and let him/her do them. Start with tasks like ironing the school uniform to packing tiffin and go on to endow bigger responsibilities like paying school and tution fees by himself, placing the order in a restaurant etc. Also allow the child to choose for himself like the dress to be bought or the food to be ordered.
- Respect privacy while keeping an eye– A major part of the tendency to rebel comes from the feeling of not being acknowledged an independent existence. Dictating every move is not a good idea and may lead to counter effects like truancy, hiding facts, etc. Instead keep a check on the child from a distance and do not intrude everywhere. You don’t need to know about everything that your child discusses with his/her friends. As you show respect to the child’s privacy, he/she will tend to reciprocate and tell you if there is something important to tell.
- Be sensible in granting permission– During this time hang outs with friends enters the scene and it’s very important to give permission sensibly because an extreme either way could have dangerous effects. As mentioned before not allowing the child to participate in any activity with peers will lead to a lack of transparency. On the other hand allowing the child to go anywhere and everywhere without a second thought could also lead to adverse effects. The adolescent will not learn to properly use his/her discretion in making decisions. If you feel that the chosen hangout place is not suitable yet, gently explain the child why you feel so and you can also come up with alternative suggestions. This will have a dual benefit of making the adolescent feel that he is allowed enjoyment as well make him sensible in choosing the healthy ways of seeking enjoyment.
- Educate the adolescent about risk taking behaviours- During this phase there is always a risk of resorting to risk taking behaviours like truancy, substance abuse and even delinquency. Often the way we talk about these issues leads to an intense curiosity about these and added to that the usual tendency to oppose authority and a strong need to belong to a peer group leads indulgence. It’s important to educate adolescents about substances and their effects in a neutral and informative manner rather than sending off messages like “these are bad things to do” or “bad people do these” and telling them to never show any interest in these. What they need to understand is that substances are harmful for them and that is the reason their usage should be avoided. That way they don’t feel dictated to the point where they want to rebel or become curious about the mystery around it to try these with peers. Instead their knowledge about substances enables them to make more sensible decisions when they are offered in a peer group.
- Be their friend alongside their guardian- As parents it is important to set rules and boundaries but it’s also important to be the person they can confess about their mistakes or seek help when they get themselves in trouble. Disapprove their acts but not them, explain them the reason for disapproving, support and encourage them to rectify. Show interest in their dreams and aspirations, motivate them to work hard for their goals and share your stories to establish a friendly bond with them.