We deal with many adolescents and their parents. The teenage years can seem like a nightmare. Early adolescence (particularly between ten and fourteen) can be a challenging time for children and parents alike. Research shows that parents and families can greatly influence the growth and development of their children during these awkward years. It’s not easy with the constant challenge of social media and living in an “always on” world. Added to that are our own worries, exhaustion, anxiety, a lack of support and limited resources may make it hard for us to be all that we want to be for our children. To this end, we have put together some tips on helping your child through early adolescence.
Learning as much as you can about these formative years is an essential step in helping your child. During these years, children undergo many physical, emotional and mental changes. Added together these changes can alter the lives of young teens and their parents. Major problems can arise if children are not watched carefully.
Watch out for Emotional Changes
There are several theories on just how much “raging hormones” affect adolescent children. These hormone changes lead to fits of tantrums, wanting time alone and mood swings. Young children cannot think far ahead but once they get to the early teenage years, they can. This can lead to worrying about things in the future (which we may consider irrational but which can become hugely important to the child). Things that cause them worry include:
- Their physical appearance
- Peer pressure
- Bullying at school
- Something happening to their parents
- Drugs and drinking
- World social problems
Because they are experiencing dramatic physical and emotional changes, some young teens are very self-conscious and are often overly sensitive. They sometimes believe that they are the only ones who have ever felt this way. This can lead to feelings of isolation followed by loneliness.
In addition to the changes in emotions that they feel, young teens often explore different ways to express their emotions. For example, hugs and kisses for a parent may be replaced with a pulling away. It’s important to remember, that these are usually changes in ways of expressing feelings and not the actual feelings about friends, parents and family. Excessive emotional swings or long-lasting sadness in your child may be a sign of severe emotional problems and needs to be checked out.
Parents often become less involved in the lives of their children as they enter this new phase. However, they need as much love and attention from you now as they needed when they were younger. Research demonstrates that to be an effective parent, we need to show the following:
- Show love
- Provide support
- Set limits
Young adolescents need adults who are there for them, someone who connects with them, communicates with them and spends quality time with them. By showing that we are genuinely interested in them we teach them to show genuine care and interest in others.
It’s important to praise the child when they’ve done their best. They need support and encouragement to develop interests and their personal characteristics, in other words to become themselves.
Consistent structure and supervision that is firm and appropriate for their age and development is required. Setting limits keeps all children, including young teens, physically and emotionally safe. Those parents who have an authoritarian style (laying down rigid rules and expecting their children to always do as they are told) or permissive parents (who have very few rules or regulations and give their children too much freedom) are most likely to have the most difficult time as parents. Instead try being a role model. It’s possible to be perfect all the time, but children learn from what they see and actions speak louder than words.
Communication is key
There is no recipe for successful communication. We know that by monitoring (when parents know where their children are and what they are doing – and when the adolescent knows the parent knows) adolescents are at a lower risk for a range of bad experiences, such as drug, alcohol and tobacco use; sexual behaviour and pregnancy; delinquency and violence. The key is to be inquisitive but not interfering, respect your child’s privacy as you establish trust and closeness.
Work around the child’s interests and use these times to talk and ask questions. It’s important to not talk during these times and instead really listen to what they are saying. Sometimes the less you offer advice; the more your young teen may ask you for it. Listening can also be the best way to uncover a more serious problem that requires your attention. In short, create opportunities to talk to them.
These are just some tips on helping your child through adolescence. If you have any worries, please contact us to help.