Parenting Adolescents & Young AdultsWritten by Maggie Vlazny, MSW, LCSW
Parenting adolescents can often feel overwhelming and downright impossible. Behavioral changes, mood swings, and our child's development of "an attitude" are a challenge to most parents in this universal transition. Who are these strangers who used to be our kids?
It helps to remember that adolescents are in transition from role of child to role of adult. It is an evolving process, with many tasks to be mastered along way as they prepare to leave nest.
The goal is for them to develop a sense of competence, autonomy, and personal identity, separate and apart from family. (Aren't we glad that we, ourselves, don't have to go through that again?)
The first "fun" part of adolescent development is puberty. I don't know who finds it worse, parent or child. Suddenly your little innocent is shrouded in towels and bathrobes, keeping bathroom and bedroom door barricaded, and behaving as if he or she were only human in history of world to develop such "gross" physical transformations. Their obvious task, at this point, is to become comfortable with their physical changes. Self-consciousness rules during this awkward time, as they must also begin major task of separating themselves from family.
Key to developing their own identity, adolescents enjoy doing anything different from Mom and Dad. They try on alternate selves like costumes (hopefully something you'll despise!) until they discover who real "me" is. Try not to despair. Having what they consider to be an acceptable appearance feels critical to them as they begin their long journey. The process of maturation starts outward and turns increasingly inward until it is complete. If all goes well, this usually occurs between ages 18-22.
Behavior such as questioning authority is one way in which they learn to create their own interpretations and solutions to problems, rather then simply accepting adult explanations as they did when they were younger. The closed bedroom door and blasting stereo are literal physical barriers, helping them process normal developmental task of emotional and psychological separation. They're supposed to do this!
Teens must also learn to establish satisfactory relationships with peers. Learning cooperation, feeling comfortable in groups, and forming friendships lay groundwork for future romantic and work relationships. As they move into later teen years, adolescents begin looking outward, beyond family, friends, and self. They begin to develop a philosophy of life, a world view, moral standards, and a guiding belief. They begin looking toward future. Educational and career goals take center stage at this time.
Throughout these stages, teens must learn flexible coping strategies and how to behave appropriately in different situations. Much as we might like to, we cannot prevent them from making our mistakes. Just as we had to learn from experience, so must they. But we can teach them how to make decisions, how to cope, how to behave. We do this by modeling (showing them, through example, how we do it). They will close their ears when we try to preach, but their eyes are always open, watching how we manage relationships and life. They miss nothing.
The Truth Behind Having ChildrenWritten by Dr. Randy Wysong
In beginning, having children was just a byproduct of sexual instinct. Later it was a means to increase manpower for survival (hunting mastodon, tilling fields). It was just a part of life, even what one aspired to. A strapping daughter was great, a robust son perhaps even better. Having children can be an expression of love to our mate. How more intimate can two people be than to literally mix their biological (genetic) essence into a tangible package. Children also help cement marital bond through shared common interest. There's ego involved too. For how would world be right without our personal genetic packages continuing on, right?
But bearing children is serious business, not just a diversion from boredom or a means to pacify our insecurities or ego fantasies. In modern civilization things are different than in bush or on farm. The world already has more than enough people for its resources. Children do not help families survive; rather they are an economic burden.
To not have children is to miss out on something not duplicated by any other possible experience. It is such a joy that some parents keep repeating it without a full understanding of long-term responsibilities and consequences. Regardless of their age you never really break cord. So procreation is not recreation. Todayís world requires an intelligent approach to most everything. Certainly, would be parents should be educated on child rearing as well as impact population pressure has on world. In fact, nobody should be allowed to have children without such training. Itís insane that such an important responsibility requires nothing more than capable (and always willing) genitals.
But since there is no such training or requirement thereof, Iíll take on duty here. Before you become Mr. or Mrs. Fecund, consider following:
1.Babies grow up to be in-your-face teenagers and adults. They are not always so cuddly, cute and compliant. Yes, you will be god to them for about 12 wondrous years, but thatís it. Then you will have rest of their life with responsibility without authorityÖthey want you there to provide and pick up pieces but donít want to follow your advice.
2.You will not make your children what you want them to be. They are not your toys, something to solve some ego or insecurity problem you have or a glob of clay for you to shape into your perfect view of a child (modeled after you, of course). They will not change from first time you can recognize their personality in crib until they die of old age. Donít try to spank them into submission or conformity to your dream of what they should be. It will not change them but it will leave you with memories to regret. All you can do is provide a healthy and loving environment for them to be what they will be. The rest is up to them.
3.You will never stop feeling a sense of responsibility toward them regardless of their age. You will never stop feeling guilt that you should have done more when they were young.
4.Children are a dramatic departure from a singles life and take a huge amount of energy and effort. It is no longer all about you. They require total devotion. If you have children when you are biologically ready in your teens, you will have plenty of energy to raise them, just not a whole lot of savvy to go along with that. Youíre still a kid yourself and have not yet even figured out that world does not rotate around you. They will be raised and gone while you are in your thirties. If you have children in your thirties, you will have plenty of energy to begin but will be running out of steam in your forties and fifties. You will have much more life wisdom to help in their rearing though. Having children when you are quite young is therefore not a good idea, having them when you are quite old isnít either. My vote, however, is to have them when you are older (not too), smarter, less egocentric, more mellow, are not thinking bar-scene and appreciate and savor things around you more. A child is something to savor. 5.You will never stop feeling as though they should listen to you (rightly so), but they will pretty much stop when they are about 12.