The teenage years are a time of intense changes. Hormonal changes leading to dramatic physical growth are one of the most obvious. But there are also immense changes in a teenager’s emotional and social development and therefore their reasoning and understanding of things. Negotiating these changes is a normal part of a teenager’s journey towards independent adulthood and can be challenging, for all involved.
Strong family relationships and the support and understanding of parents provide a secure foundation from which teenagers can make these changes. Keeping communication lines open – no matter how difficult that may seem when faced with either a withdrawn or angry teenager – lets your child know that you’re there for them.
While each teenager will experience development at their own pace and in their own unique way, common behaviours can include:
- Seeking greater independence from parents and control over their own decisions
- Relationships with friends becoming more important and more intense
- Moodiness and mood swings
- Appearing self-absorbed, self-conscious and more aware of differences between themselves and others
- Valuing privacy and personal space. Personal feelings may be hidden from parents
- Experimentation (e.g. with different identities and friends) and risk-taking
- Forming emotional attachments, and often romantic and intimate relationships
- Increasingly forming their own opinions and challenging the views of others, such as their parents and other authority figures
- Tending to return to childish behaviour, particularly when stressed.
For parents, this stage in their child’s development is also a period of intense change and adjustment. Your parental control is gradually, or suddenly, reducing. You might be feeling ‘shut out’ of many aspects of your teenager’s life. Your teenage child might be making more of their own decisions. You might feel worried, confused and challenged by their behaviour. The small happy child that confided in you, laughed with you and loved your hugs might seem long gone. Don’t worry – they are still very much there. They just need to adjust to all of the changes that are taking place in their world and while they’re doing that, they still need all of that reassurance and those hugs.
Bear in mind that teenagers are not able to see the situation in an adult way. Their perspective is mostly centred on their own needs. While you may find this upsetting at times, it is normal for their stage of development and you need to understand and respect it.
Adapted from the Parenting Positively series, a series of booklets by Barnardos that provides information and guidance to parents of children between the ages of 6 and 12. Please see www.barnardos.ie or www.loveparenting.ie for further details.