Just as you are heaving a sigh of relief after dealing with the terrible twos, first-day of school jitters and the tweens, it’s now time to deal with the teenage years. Despite hopes that parenting in this phase will get easier many parents actually find the teenage years more challenging and require closer parental supervision. However, there is hope yet for those of us who are open to learning a few tips on how to deal with them.
What Teens Are Expected to Go Through
The teenager, by definition, is a young person aged between 13 and 19. Adolescence is another term, which generally means almost the same thing but focuses on the onset of puberty and ends with transition into adulthood. There are several challenges which the teenager is expected to overcome during these years, and they include puberty, development of self-identity, dealing with peers and the opposite sex, as well as development of autonomy in relation to parents’ control.
Spotting Signs of Danger
How do you know when your teen is in trouble? Generally, when professionals assess teenagers, they tend to look at whether the teen is functioning well or not. It is normal for your teenager to want to have some privacy in his room. However, if he stays in his room until he begins to miss school or miss out on socializing with his friends; that may be a signal to get some professional help. Another sign is when there is a deterioration in his school grades.
Common Teen Problems
1. Stressing over Expectation
There are several common teen issues that parents may want to get a handle on. A common concern of a Malaysian parent would be the teenager’s studies. Teenagers are under a lot of pressure to perform academically. We always want the best for our teenager and we think excelling in his studies would be the best way to get the most out of his future. However, it’s another thing altogether to expect him to obtain straight As, get 90-100% marks or be number one in class.
A more realistic way of setting an objective would be to aim for a better grade than what he had before. Also it is better for the teenager to be focussing on subject areas that he enjoys and interested in. Everyone learns better when they are having fun!
2. Peer Influence
It is also important to realize that during the teenage years, friends play a more significant role than parents. It is a sign indicating the teenager is learning to become more independent and to fit in with the people around him. So don’t feel bad if your teenager doesn’t want to spend time with you like he used to. Do allow him to gradually connect with his friends via telephone, online, at their homes and outside, all within appropriate limits. Good, authoritative parenting means setting reasonable limits to ensure safety but also allowing freedom and empowerment to the teenager within those limits. Another good idea would be to get to know his friends and invite them over to spend time at your house, so you can keep an eye on them.
Some friends can turn nasty. They may say hurtful degrading remarks or manipulate your teenager into doing things for them. They might shame a teenager in front of others. Girls tend to bully by ostracizing another girl from their circle. These things will happen regardless of how protective you are. What is important is that you keep communication lines open for your teenager to confide in you, whenever such issues arise. Then if your teenager has good self-esteem, he can ignore such behaviour and find better friends for himself.
4. Too Much Time Online
In this digital age, we cannot avoid discussion of teenagers using the internet and smart devices. It is second nature to them so it is pointless not to allow them to use it. What is more important is setting limits to the behaviour and teaching them how to be safe online. Paediatric guidelines recommend not spending more than a couple of hours a day online. Your teenager should also not bring his smart device to bed because he might spend too much time on it and his sleep will be interrupted. He should not put his personal details online and always be cautious with whom he befriends online.
Hopefully by now you will realize that it is very stressful being a teenager these days. Good stress management skills are essential for your teenager. So do encourage him to have other interests and hobbies other than studies. Sports, music and volunteerism are good activities as pastimes.
We also need to keep communication lines open to our teenagers. Questions like ‘How do you feel?’ and ‘What do you think?’ will stimulate your teenager to expand his emotional vocabulary, as well as his problem-solving skills.
An educational collaboration with Malaysian Psychiatric Association.