In Part1 of this series of articles on adolescence, we understood the basic changes that youth undergo during puberty and adolescence and as parents how we can be aware and sensitive to those changes. In this part, we learn the true value of a supportive community and how beautiful a healthy teenager can be.
Supporting your child through adolescence
Help your child by providing a stable, safe and loving home environment. Create an atmosphere of honesty, mutual trust, and respect.
Supporting them through physical changes
- Try to support your child in their self-expression, even if some of it seems odd to you, such as an extreme haircut or offbeat clothing choices. These may not be their permanent choice as their tastes keep changing. For example, a 15-year-old wanted a pixie cut, which became a boy-cut and stayed for a year. She had vowed that all her life this was going to be her low maintenance hairstyle but by the end of the year she decided to start re-growing her hair.
- Prepare for long periods of time spent on personal care, such as hours in the bathroom, but chat with your child about reasonable family time limits.
- Talk to your child about any permanent changes they want to make to their body, such as tattoos and piercings, and discuss temporary alternatives, such as removable tattoos.
- Talking to teens about healthy habits can reduce their acne and pimples.
- In today’s world, it’s extremely important to discuss eco-friendly menstruation options and support your child in understanding its usage.
- Boys experience breast growth or tenderness and maybe concerned or can feel less manly with a petite body. Reassurance is the key. Any tenderness is likely to settle once his chest widens. Encourage them into physical activity like swimming, basketball or gymnastics
- Don’t let the names of the body parts be a taboo. Talk to the kids before puberty to prepare them for body changes. Sometimes, kids may not be comfortable talking about it. Respect their privacy and don’t push it.
Supporting them through emotional changes
- Be mindful of the emotional changes in your teenager. Speak to them without losing your patience or giving vague replies. Be precise and if you don't have the answers, promise to find out and be sure to get back.
- Keep an open channel for communication from the beginning. They are not going to open up suddenly just because you see the need to have them talk.
- Your child is struggling and asserting his/her right to become an individual with his/her own identity.
Support them unconditionally. Voice out and stand by their side whenever needed. This is the time they build the unstinting faith in your backing them. If they lose that trust now it's difficult to get it back. Kids who don’t have this rapport with parents grow up often lying
- Don't get alarmed about interest in the opposite sex. Speak openly about their sexual feelings if any. Be casual. Don’t act idealistically. Talk about your own infatuations during your growing up years. Help them understand it's normal and at the same time focus on their own lives at this time. Give them a feeling that you are open to listening anytime.
- This is an explorative phase and their habit now is not fixed for life. Put yourself in your child’s shoes, and try to see their behaviour for what it often is. Don’t attach assumptions and label the children.
- Show that you are available if your child wants to talk. Often parents are so busy with their lives and tasks always running in their heads that it keeps them from prioritizing when kids need a lending ear even if the discussion sounds frivolous.
Being treated like adults and wanting to be independent must be expected. As parents you may have accompanied them when they had to travel long distances but not they want you to trust them to do it alone. Don’t be surprised. While you still pick up and drop them, allow them to start venturing on their own starting with short distances. As parents, given that we hear lots of disturbing news, being apprehensive about security is natural. However, we must understand that they are going to eventually face the world by themselves, hence their adolescence also is a period for parents to open up to newer possibilities.
- As your child transforms into an adult, your role as a parent and family dynamic will change. The dynamics will change for parents when there is an older generation such as grandparents also in the same family setup. If there are different parenting styles across generations staying together, children get conflicting messages. In such cases, be prepared for occasional mood swings, rude and careless responses. As explained, this is a transition phase where the young adults are understanding who they really are. Patience is the key.
- Educate them about safe sex, bad touch, bad influences and consequences around indulging in unsafe practices out of curiosity. Teach kids to handle unwanted sexual advances from the opposite sex. Never let them feel powerless and confused. With the right knowledge and support from parents, kids can learn to handle any situation.
- Drugs and narcotics exposure is very common during adolescence. Be their friend and ensure that a home is a safe place for all discussions Inculcating positive habits from childhood, making time for children will help the parents in passing through this phase without too many challenges.
- Make friends with their friends and have them over. Take them on outings. Observe group dynamics. This can happen only if the children are comfortable with parents being around. This helps you understand where the influences come from, how strong they are and how you can deal with it. Once you know their friends, make them an active part of your conversations as it helps to be connected. This gives you a handle on peer pressure related issues.
- You may also need to accept that you won’t have total control over your child’s choices and life direction at this stage. It may help to trust that you’ve done your best as a parent and trust in your young person.
- Today’s youth face many challenges that are quite different from what the older generations faced. Therefore, the parents of today's youth cannot readily draw upon their own teenage experiences to understand some of the difficulties facing youth in contemporary society. Chat with your spouse or other parents of teenagers. Sharing concerns and experiences can ease the load and open up new perspectives of thinking.
- A young teen may not be emotionally prepared to be viewed and admired in a sexual manner. Parents may wish to assist their kids to determine the limits of what is respectful and acceptable to them and help them develop strategies for handling situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Teenage boys who grow-up sooner than their male peers may have an easier time because although physical prowess in males is respected and admired, it is less common for them to receive unwanted public attention.
In this article, we learned about the various ways parents and the community can support young adults who are beginning to form their adult-identity. In the next part, we will talk about how we can make this a healthy and happier phase in their lives.
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