For every parent, the teenage years can be the best and worst of times. While some teenagers happily begin sharing their secrets (or clothes!) with parents, others constantly complain that their parents look and sound like someone from another planet.
How can you ensure you can get through your children’s teenage years with minimal scars? The secret is to begin early.
We all know the teenage years is a transitory stage between childhood and adulthood. Usually that encompasses the period of puberty right up to the level of physical maturity, which ranges between the ages of twelve to twenty.
What we sometimes forget is that the period of adolescence is a highly stressful time for children now more than ever. Apart from the physical changes, environmental pressures and socio-cultural challenges, many struggle to keep up with the fast speed of modern living.
While they are trying to adjust to family, school and social life as an adult, they lack the emotional and psychological maturity of an adult. This creates a mismatch between their identity and the actual role they play in the community.
WHO AM I?
The teenage years is also the time when adolescents seek independence from their parents and begin developing their own ideologies and beliefs.
Many will experiment with various things to find out what they want to do with their lives. As teenagers tend to place a lot of importance upon friendships and relationships in this point of their lives, it is crucial for parents to monitor who their teens are hanging out with.
Those who are with the right crowd will usually breeze through the teenage years with good memories. Conversely, those with the wrong types of people will be dragged into negative behaviours such as playing truant, drunk driving, delinquency, substance abuse, violence, premarital sex or suicide attempts.
LOOKING FOR LOVE
The fact that depression and suicide rates have doubled since the 1950’s should be cause for concern. Teenagers who are not taught coping strategies tend to have problems with school performance, family ties and social relationships.
While seeking new experiences to express themselves, teenagers who are not properly guided in their younger years will get involved in drugs, sex or alcohol so that they are part of the ‘in’ group.
Experts explain that interest in sex and sexuality stems from hormonal changes and an increased awareness of the changes in their bodies. So whether they like it or not, parents should not ignore this aspect of their teen’s growth.
Sex education is important at this point as it carries implications such as unwanted pregnancies and complicated feelings. Teenagers must know that sex makes two people very close, hence it is sensible to wait until they are old enough to handle the responsibility that comes with it.
So you should start talking to your child about the birds and the bees as soon as they begin to notice the bodily changes such as the growth of pubic hair, armpit hair, and voice changes.
Admittedly, it’s easier said than done, especially for Asian parents who are less comfortable discussing sex. However, it is easier if you already have a positive relationship with your children at an early age. Having a close relationship ensures that your child is comfortable coming to you for anything, making them less inclined to look for answers outside which may be inaccurate or misleading.
Remember, a child did not become a teenager overnight. So whether your child becomes rebellious, responsible, compliant, confused, overly adventurous, or withdrawn is actually an accumulation of their growing up experiences.
To make the teenage years easier on you and your teen, here are some tips from the experts:
- Talk to them often and communicate your love, acceptance and respect.
- Accept them for who they are, not what you want them to be.
- Believe that your child can be the best.
- Give them ample opportunity to make decisions and feel the consequences of their actions.
- Show that you appreciate and approve of their individuality.
- Support your children’s activities in school and outside.
- Be available for them and take time to do things together.
- Avoid criticising and put downs but encourage communication. Talk less, act more.
- Be specific in telling them what behaviour is expected of them.
- Above all, be an active parent!