If Your Child Is in Adolescence
— How can you get along with your child in adolescence?
A little kid cries like it’s the end of the world when he gets separated from his mom, but then smiles again when she comes back; he also believes whatever his mom tells him even though she’d cried wolf too many times. However, when the kid grows up and goes to school, he likes hanging out with his friends more than staying with his mom, and begins to have some secrets from her. Moreover, he easily gets mad, cares more about how he looks, and even locks his room door. All these happen as he has reached adolescence.
Adolescence is like growing pains that a child suffers while becoming an adult. Parents experience his pain, too. The child feels confused about his physical and psychological transition, and his parents feel anxious and worried about their child’s uncontrollable behaviors.
However, it doesn’t mean that everybody acts rebelliously against his parents all of a sudden for no reason during adolescence. Since adolescents are sensitive about how other people view them, and have a strong will to be free from their parents, they may express their hostile feelings toward an authoritative attitude which asks them for their obedience. Parents can lose a good relationship with their child if they simply regard his behavior as “rebellious.” No matter how hard a child wants to push his parents away, they are the ones whom he actually needs most. That’s why parents need to stay beside and support him.
The brains of teenagers are under construction: Let them have good experiences
During adolescence, a child goes through the secondary sex characteristics and his brain gets remodeled. When he reaches the ages 12 to 17, there is a dramatic development in the frontal lobe such as in neurons; it’s like his brain undergoes a big construction to have a mature ability to think and to judge like adults’ brains.
In other words, what happens in the brain of a teenager is like tearing down a small room and making a three-bedroom house. During this process, the frontal lobe matters most. The frontal lobe represses an impulse, controls anger, and manages memories, rational thoughts, judgments, and so on, whereas the amygdaloid nucleus is in charge of emotional reactions such as fear, anger, and sadness. For an adolescent, the amygdaloid nucleus reacts faster than the frontal lobe because the amygdaloid nucleus has already developed at an earlier age while the frontal lobe is still in an unstable status. That is why a child may act rebelliously or emotionally even for a trivial matter.
During this period, game addiction or excessive use of a smartphone becomes a major obstacle to his frontal lobe development. Teenagers’ addiction to smartphones and games has been a serious social issue. They get addicted to them because through a virtual world they can relieve excessive stress from school, satisfy their curiosity, and enjoy ideas and actions they cannot experience in reality.
Ironically enough, parents who work at world-famous IT companies such as Google and Yahoo mostly send their children to schools that strictly forbid them from using computers and smartphones. Instead, they guide them to read books, feel the nature, and have diverse experiences. They begin the digital education when the children turn 16. This is according to their belief that students will not be addicted to IT devices only if they know the joy of reading books and exercising.
What gives great satisfaction and joy to adolescents is a very important matter. Their brains change, depending on the source of their joy: playing games, surfing the Internet, acting violently and impulsively, playing sports, going hiking, reading, playing a musical instrument, or doing good deeds. Parents need to help their child to spend a happy adolescence and become more mature, by giving him a positive joy.
Parents need to change from managers into advisers
Let’s compare a child’s tendency to cooking. A young kid eats food his parents make until he becomes an elementary school student. But when he becomes a teenager, he likes trying to make his own food. Although he doesn’t have much knowledge about recipes, cookers, or ingredients, he still wants to make something on his own. If his parents don’t let him enter the kitchen because they are worried that he would burn his hand on the stove or cut himself, then he may cook alone anyway in secret or with his friends.
When your child reaches a certain age and wants to cook for himself, you’d better turn into his adviser from his manager. Of course, it is not easy to trust and support your inexperienced child who doesn’t have good judgment yet. However, don’t forget that it is more important for your child to undergo trial and error and find answers for himself than to give him the answers right away, even if the way your child is walking is obviously a long and rough way.
If parents show too much attention to their child and make him do things the way they want, a hostile relationship can be created between the parents and their child. On the contrary, if parents give up guiding their child, thinking, ‘He is not going to listen anyway,’ and leave him alone, the result may be even more serious than repressing him. It is good for parents to give their child an opportunity to challenge while watching him with patience.
A teenager likes to be treated as a grown-up, not as a little child. However, he also wants to be protected by his parents. He doesn’t welcome his parents’ discipline outwardly, but inwardly, he somewhat expects and depends on it. Then the parents can get confused by his ambivalent attitude. However, no matter how difficult it is to keep a close relationship with their child, the parents must make efforts. When they have a bond of sympathy, the child will give ear to his parents’ advice, acknowledging they have more wisdom and experience.
How to communicate with your adolescent child
1. Your child wants to be respected
In an educational publishing company’s survey of 426 middle and high school students, 43.8% of them answered that they need care and respect from their family members and friends to overcome adolescence. Once your child becomes an adolescent, you should no longer treat him like a little child. You must respect his feelings, thoughts, and personality. If you keep treating him like a little child and try to force him to go the way you want him to, he will only grow more rebellious. It doesn’t mean that you should treat your child like a friend. You need to keep your parental position and dignity, and express your feelings and thoughts to him, while avoiding unilateral commands.
2. Look for your child’s strengths
During adolescence, children are more sensitive than reasonable. So they sometimes overreact to the little things others say or get hurt when someone points out their problems. The best way to handle this situation is to point out their mistakes quietly and to compliment their strengths loudly and frequently.
When you compliment your child, he will tell you about his problems without resistance. You can make your compliment more effective if you pick out something unexpected and comment on it in detail. Keep your eye on something about your child that others wouldn’t notice, and compliment him on it. He will accept your compliment a lot more joyfully.
3. Have a sincere conversation with your child
Most children who refuse to have a conversation with their parents say that they don’t want to talk to them because they know their parents will end up nagging. If you don’t have conversations with your child frequently, you are very likely to point out his errors as you try to say everything you have wanted to say to him when you get a chance.
You’d better ask your child often in a kind manner what he wants and what he likes you to do for him. You need to solve problems through a genuine conversation. You don’t always need to have a serious conversation with a heavy topic. Try to have amusing and friendly conversations with your child about the things happening every day as often as possible. The most important thing is to listen carefully to what he is trying to say.
- Things you shouldn’t say to your adolescent child
- “What’s wrong with you?”: Your child will feel extreme frustration and anger.
- “That’s what you always do.”: Although you don’t like how your child behaves, never use extreme expressions.
- “See! That’s what happens when you don’t listen to me!”: It will discourage your child.
- “What’s your problem?”: Adolescence is a stormy period. A teen may feel sad, angry, and helpless at times. Such criticism can make him think that his feelings are ignored.
- Any kinds of words that can hurt your child’s self-esteem: Abusive language, nagging, and unilateral commands can cut off conversations.
4. Express your love
The biggest help you can give your adolescent child is to express warmth and affection to him. Rather than thinking it’s enough to love your child in your heart, you’d better express your love to him with words and actions so that he can feel he is loved by you. Having physical contact with him like hugging, holding hands, and patting on the shoulder will give him emotional stability and help him relieve stress. Try to express your love by saying, “You’re the most precious person to me no matter what other people say!” “It’s okay. You can do better next time!” or “You don’t know how happy you make me!” so that he can know that you are always on his side.
5. Help your child understand the importance of family
A child who knows how precious his family is has confidence and knows how to wisely overcome problems he may have with his friends or teachers. The first thing for you to do to help your child understand the importance of family is setting a good example. If you have discord with your spouse, lack love, and do not talk to your child at all, he will easily suffer confusion and conflict. According to a survey, children growing up in violent families are five times more likely to become delinquent. If parents respect each other, their child will also respect them. Keeping harmony in your family and talking with your spouse in a friendly way will help your child communicate well with the world.
Adolescence is a crucial and significant period when teens are forming lifetime values. Dr. Mike Riera, a parenting expert and educator in the United States, says that patience, trust, and family bonds are the keys to success for the parents of teens. Fruits need to endure the scorching sun and severe thunderstorms to ripen. It is the same for parents and their child. If parents always encourage their child and stay on his side during his adolescence—the most sensitive and unstable period in the process of human growth—he can go through puberty without big problems and grow to be a good man.