by TBOG | May 27, 2022 | Adolescence, Parenting
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brene Brown
You may know that the word crisis originates from the Greek word ‘krisis’ – which means ‘decisive moment’. Crises can, therefore, be seen as an opportunity to either break the communication lines between you and your teenager or strengthen them effectively depending on what decisions you make in that “decisive moment”. Having open lines of communication is what keeps crises from developing into full-blown disasters because, in every home, a crisis or two must occur, but we need to remember that every crisis with your adolescent is also an opportunity further strengthen your relationship.
Life is full of ups and downs and as our children mature, they discover painfully that good things will not happen to them simply because they are good. It is why we encourage every parent to raise emotionally resilient teenagers. When these crises situations occur, we must have tough conversations with our children, especially adolescents, whether that’s explaining to your teenager why Grandma died or hearing from your twelve-year-old that she was body-shamed in class or having your sixteen-year-old fall apart on the night before his big speech. Whatever the case, when crises occur, the appropriate response is not to shy away from it and pretend it never happened.
Some years ago while counselling a teenage boy, he felt that his mom never really loved his late dad. When I asked why he thought so, he said, “mom never talks about dad. She wasn’t even the one who told me that he died. She doesn’t cry about him. It’s almost as if she has totally erased his existence from her life and moved on”. Of course, I knew this was not true because I had had a prior conversation with his mom where she broke down in tears saying that she could not continue her life without her husband but had to keep going becaue of their son. She wrongly assumed that ignoring that crises would be beneficial to both parties. Eventually, she spoke to her son about it. He got to see his mom very vulnerable with him and they had an intimate bonding process. Both mom and son are doing fine now and they are literally best of friends since all they’ve got is eah other.
As parents, we have been conditioned to always show our strengths while masking our vulnerabilities. If you have taken our course, Engaging The World Of Adolescence, you would have discovered that vulnerability is strength masquerading as weakness and you would have understood how to wield that strength. This article, however, is to [for the benefit of those who haven’t taken the course] show how we can as parents use crises moments to our advantage in order to strengthen the bond between ourselves and our adolescents. Avoiding crises or wishing them away is very destructive not just based on our unconventional parenting guidelines but also from research-based and parent-based feedback. Emotions always need an outlet and if you don’t give them room to be expresses in a conducive manner, they will come back with a vengeace that cannot be quantified. Crises situations actually give you a chance to connect more deeply with your child, to teach them how to problem-solve with really big problems, and show them how to manage upsetting feelings – a skill they desperately need to learn during adolescence.
How can you help your child in tough conversations? Here are some tips I will share:
- Listen. Don’t say much, but really pay attention. This creates a psychologically and emotionally safe haven and allows them to know that you value their thoughts.
- Empathize. Feel from your child’s perspective. Let him get those feelings out, no matter how upset he is. Remember how you always felt that your parents never truly got you? You don’t want your child feeling this way.
- Hold your own awareness that it isn’t the end of the world, even if it feels like it to your adolescent child, but don’t try to talk him out of his upset. Your child needs to learn to own his emotions while developing the adequate skills to find solutions.
- Problem-Solve. Once your child is less emotional, help him to problem-solve. You can do this by creating scenarios and you both propose possible solutions.
But don’t wait for crises to have the tough conversations you need to have. Think of it as home-schooling, and you’re the teacher. Or therapy, and you’re the therapist. Many parents feel uncomfortable talking with their adolescents about some issues. You owe it to your child to summon up your courage and have those hard talks. And doing so may avoid some the crises.
Why is it so important to teach your teens and tweens how to have tough conversations? Because close relationships depend on the ability to meet the needs of both people in the relationship and to negotiate the inevitable bumps when those needs conflict. Successfully navigating challenging discussions will bring your family closer, minimize the bumps in your family life, and teach your adolescent a critical life skill – one that’s considerably more important than doing his own laundry.
Your child’s success throughout life will depend on his ability to navigate difficult interpersonal situations – on his block, at work, in intimate relationships. Adolescents learn how to work things out with other people by doing it. If he learns from you that difficult discussions are to be avoided, he’s more likely to get divorced someday, or be fired. If, on the other hand, he learns from you that people who love each other can disagree but work things out so that both people win, he’s likely to put that skill to use with his peers, in his intimate relationships, and in the rest of his life.
Happy Children’s Day fro us all at TSAGE and TBOG Consult
by TBOG | Jun 29, 2021 | Adolescence, Parenting
“Blame is the lie by which we convince ourselves that we are victims. It is the lie that robs us of our serenity, our generosity, our confidence, and our delight in life . . . For it is the act of blaming that can’t co-exist with self-responsibility — or with freedom from inner agitation and strained relationships. Abandon the practice of blaming, and we see the fear melt away that we have associated with being honest about ourselves and taking the full measure of responsibility for our emotional and spiritual condition.”
― C. Terry Warner
It’s likely that when you first thought about becoming a parent, you envisioned fun times, meaningful connections, and perfect family meals. Possibly you never imagined how emotionally challenging it can be to manage the emotions of teenagers: the screaming matches, tears, door slams, constant cautiousness around their moods, or feelings of shame about your home. You may have found yourself wondering how you got there. You’re not alone. As a natural response by the body’s physiology and psychology, the ‘excuse-making processes’ in our brains are in full swing when these events occur. And you are tempted to take one of two solutions: either blaming yourself for the unintended outcomes or blaming others. In a way, we all sort of respond to life’s challenges in this manner.
What do I Mean?
First, you need to understand the concept of the self-serving bias.
It explains the pattern of a person taking credit for positive events or outcomes in their lives (internal attribution) while blaming external factors for the negative occurrences (external attribution). This has a positive angle. When a person blames external circumstances for certain negative occurrences, it could spur one on to try again rather than give in to despair. If a person has been out of a job for about a year and this person blames the economy for his situation rather than himself for lacking the appropriate skill, chances that he will try again are high and the odds of getting a job increases with each try. However, there is a negative angle to this. If perhaps this person is truly poorly skilled but never bothers to improve his capacity but rather blames the government and economy for the harsh reality of his joblessness, then he will never get the kind of job he seeks even if he keeps trying.
So, even though it is human nature to take credit for positive events while blaming external factors for the negatives, a lack of understanding will plunge you into two major extremes. These extremes are what I have found reoccurring in parenting especially in this technology-driven social clime – the extreme of consistently blaming others irrespective of your role in the problem and the other side of the spectrum that blame themselves for every problem even if there was no way that it could have been their fault. This article will be looking at both extremes and how they play out in parenting.
A] PARENTS WHO BLAME OTHERS FOR EVERYTHING
The effect of being on this side of the blame game is innumerable and the negative effect this has on your relationships including that with your adolescent is profound. Here are some compilations that arise from blaming others for every problem you encounter on your parenting journey.
- Stunted Personal Growth: A question asked by Dr Shefali easily comes to mind, “is your child growing you up?” I believe that this is a powerful question you must ask yourself as a parent. One of the many advantages of parenting among others is the fact that it allows you to grow in dimensions unimaginable. Well, that is, if you let it. Your adolescents soak in all your behaviours and actions. It is why you must become aware of the emotions you experience because they reflect it. You can only teach your adolescents those insights you have inculcated in your own life. This explains why the S.T.O.P. principle is an important part of the parenting journey. If your adolescents observe that you are constantly displacing your feelings to others and they witness how you blame others for the negatives in your life, this is exactly how they will live too – incapable of accepting responsibilities for their errors. In blaming others for the problems in your home, for example, the ‘behavioural dysfunction’ of your adolescent, you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to truly grow. You have been entrusted with a life and to properly handle this responsibility you must enter into the “Office of the Parent” [this is discussed in detail in the ongoing parenting course].
- Lack of Empathy: Parenting is a journey that tends to begin with a high level of ‘self’ and if not deliberately monitored, it becomes the energy you take into your relationship with your adolescent. As a result, you may fall into the trap of believing an illusion that you are loving, giving of yourself, and nurturing your children while in actuality you are using them to fulfill some need in your life. It’s how you attempt to heal your broken self. You thrust them into roles in the family that aren’t theirs by right. You use them to affirm your value and sense of worth. Unfortunately, these things are many times done unconsciously. You completely forget that you were a teenager at some point in your life. Empathy is a beautiful tool to use in connecting with your adolescent. Do you remember what your teenage years were like? Do you recall moments you felt misunderstood and hoped you’d be given a chance to explain yourself? Do you recall moments you promised yourself that you would not raise your child in the exact same way you were raised? When you blame others [including your adolescent] for every problem, while absolving yourself of your own role in it, you lose the ability to connect with your adolescent’s core self. You literally lose the ability to empathize. One of the tools needed in parenting in this dispensation is the ability to make your adolescent feel heard, understood and helping them know that their voices matter too. Empathy is the practice of “hurting together” and connecting through hurting. When you blame them for every problem, how do you successfully connect with them?
- Negative Cycles: At TSAGEandTBOG Consult, we curate wellness, wholeness and winning experiences for families, organizations and nations. So, we understand that the journey to wholeness is an active pursuit of all-round development in all the dimensions of wellness. When you blame others repeatedly, you will parent from a place of wounds instead of a place of wholeness. You will become so wrapped up in your own pain that it becomes difficult for you to respond to your adolescents’ needs in the way that they deserve. The repercussion is that your adolescents grow up feeling empty and resentful. With this gaping hole in their hearts, it becomes difficult to form a genuine and intimate relationship with you, their parents and sometimes, even others. This then plunges them to begin to find fulfilment in things that cannot satisfy their longing souls. Thus, a negative cycle is born.
Here is a story I’d like to share. It’s the story of Anabel, a woman in her mid-sixties who is intellectually sound, holds a doctorate, and is a Financial Analyst at a multinational. It had always been her dream to have a child but somehow, neither her desire for motherhood nor getting married has come true. Having been raised in a broken home, Anabel did not understand the concept of stable and present parents. Her mother, a lawyer with a busy practice, was mostly unavailable, and she never knew her father. This meant that Anabel spent her childhood taking care of herself. She felt guilty for suggesting to her mother to attend PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] meetings or her high school graduation. It took her a long time to understand that her mother wasn’t really interested in her because she [Anabel] reminded her of her past [her ex]. Anabel’s mom blames her for the schism between herself and her ex [Anabel’s Dad] because he never wanted a child. As soon as he discovered that she had gotten pregnant, he dumped her. So, she blamed Anabel for that misfortune. When Anabel’s mother remarried, it was to a physically abusive man. Anabel couldn’t believe how a strong and competent woman could allow herself to be humiliated in such a manner. The moment Anabel graduated from high school, she ran away, hanging out with a crowd that did drugs, engaging in promiscuous sex, and living mostly on the streets. After seven years, at age twenty-five, Anabel hit rock bottom and was taken to a hospital because she was suffering from drug-related heart palpitations. Her moment of clarity came in that ER when she realized that she was becoming emotionally paralyzed, just like her mother. Finding a job, she enrolled in school. Her natural brilliance saw her through the University, a Masters degree, and a doctorate. By the time she was forty, she was drug-free and financially stable. Although Anabel appeared successful, internally she was in pain. She was a workaholic and at work, she smashed goals all day. But she used her job to try to fill the longing in her heart because she found intimate relationships suffocating. Unable to trust any man and ready to feel betrayed at the least opportunity, her longest relationship had spanned only three months, which meant she was intensely lonely most of the time. As she felt herself slipping into depression, she lamented, “I have nothing to look forward to. I have run as far as I can from the circumstances of my childhood, yet I still hurt as if I were five. Inside, I’m still that little girl. Doesn’t this pain ever go away?”
B] PARENTS WHO BLAME THEMSELVES FOR EVERY PROBLEM:
The other extreme in the blame game are parents who blame themselves for everything and anything even if the circumstances were completely beyond their control. They just feel that everything is their fault. This is fundamentally wrong. Even though it gives you a false sense of humility, it shows how poor your self-esteem is and it must be worked on. The accompanying package to this extreme spectrum on the blame game is GUILT. It is true that sometimes, parenting is hard! And parenting teens who are struggling can be even harder. But all hope is not lost and guilt should not be given a room in your parenting journey.
Guilt as we have observed in this journey of parenting is of two folds:
- Work-related guilt: This is especially common among working parents who have demanding schedules. In some parts of the world, especially in large cities, 9-5 jobs are no longer truly 9 am–5 pm. When you calculate the wake-up time, traffic time (to and fro) and all other infrastructural and unforeseen factors, you realize that the time spent away from home is increasingly becoming 4 am to 11 pm. The money gotten from these demanding jobs are needed to sustain family life, however, family time is being traded for this to happen. The guilt from not having an appropriate ‘work-life balance’ can be an intense form of guilt for many parents who fall into this category.
- Discipline-related guilt: This occurs when parents feel terribly guilty about reprimanding, punishing, grounding their teen or when confrontations end up in verbal tussles. Guilt also creeps in when parents feel that they might have been too lenient. Many parents today are obsessed with being “perfect”. 75% of parents feel pressured to be “perfect” from friends, family and social media. Parents are literally under so much stress these days, working long hours and spending more time out of the house. When they return home, they want to spend quality time with their children, and when they have to take time out to discipline, they feel guilty. While this feeling might be understandable, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that it’s a dangerous emotion. Guilt is the driving force for most of the bad decisions parents make. As a result, the children of this 21st century dispensation are all about ‘me’, ‘myself’, ‘I’ and ‘mine’.
This is why we are introducing the A.A.H.A. pathway to you in order to ease some of the emotional suffering associated with the blame game and the guilt trip.
THE A.A.H.A. PATHWAY TO BLAME-FREE AND GUILT-FREE PARENTING
We have proposed a four-step pathway to ensuring that you rise above the blame game and the guilt trip on this amazing journey of parenting. We call it the A.A.H.A. pathway. Understanding each of these dimensions and thriving in there, is your surest way to access a guilt-free and blame-free parenting relationship.
A – Authority: The first A, speaks about the rights of the parent in parenting. As a parent, you have the authority and responsibility to direct the ‘ship’ in your relationship with your adolescents. Not knowing that this is an office you operate in as a parent is a major problem. However, if this is all you know, you risk becoming a controlling parent because authority without purpose equals destruction. If as a parent, your rights are all you utilize, you will operate under a hierarchical system of parenting…The end result is an adolescent who will become rebellious, it’s only a question of time.
A – Altruism: The second A, speaks to servanthood. In order to balance out the “authority” you wield, you must remember to be altruistic too. When your adolescent understands that you are a parent with authority, you can give clarity and direction, yet, you are willing to negotiate with them, listen to them [even if you don’t agree with their demands], make them feel heard, you will win their hearts. However, if all you know is the second “A” then it’s also a problem. You will become a passive parent; a doormat and your adolescent will walk all over you because you have no boundaries.
H – Humanity: Your humanity is an advantage. It reminds you that you are a work in progress. It tells you that you don’t need to be the perfect parent 100% of the time. Many parents have paid the price for neglecting their humanity. In their quest to seem perfect, they’ve forgotten to enjoy the little wins and are walking through their parenting journey with so much guilt. As a parent, you will make mistakes. Appreciating your humanity helps you not to stay in the guilt lane. You’re too tired from work and are getting burnt out yet you refuse to have a timeout? You will set yourself up for frustration. Appreciating your humanity gives you balance. It brings to mind your years as a teenager too. It helps you have compassion.
A – Ascent: This is very profound for parents. In Corporate Governance, having a board to defer to in times of difficulties really helps the CEO, don’t you think so? Knowing that the buck stops at your table can sometimes be an inundating experience. Realizing that your every decision can create a lifetime ripple effect is a daunting reality for some parents. It can be overwhelming. But realizing that there is a Grand Organized Designer in charge of the affairs of things, can be of great consolation. Africa is a very religious nation and so being able to defer to a Higher Power to seek counsel is often of immense help. This higher power, however, need not be the Divinity. It can be a coach [like us 😉] who is well versed in your area of shortcoming, guiding you through the tunnel. Understanding that the balance to the shortcoming of your humanity can be balanced by Ascending to higher knowledge is of profound relevance. Identifying who to defer to when salient answers in parenting are needed is the ascent needed to transcend the limitations of your humanity.
What part of this write-up spoke to you personally? Feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by TBOG | Jun 7, 2021 | Adolescence, Parenting
Have you ever watched a polar bear defending its cub? Or the gorillas and elephants fighting off a predator just to protect their young? Do you observe how these moms ward off predators even if it cost them their lives? These animals are fiercely protective of their young and this desire to protect their young is an instinctive one. As parents, there is no impulse more natural than the desire of parents to protect their children from harm. While humans do not have to protect their young from the immediate dangers of predator animals, there are a thousand and one things we want to protect our teenagers from, whether it’s protecting them from bullies or from the pain they feel from the loss of a loved one, or from being body-shamed in class or from falling apart the night before a big speech. It’s the same desire to protect them from pain irrespective of the situation.
But can this be counter-productive?
In excessive quantities? Yes! Nobody wants to see their teenager in distress. We want to save them from any form of harm. However, the tendency to rush to their defence can end up aggravating their apprehensions rather than alleviating them. By shielding our teenagers from the parts of life that make them easily agitated, we can inadvertently discourage growth and impede the development of emotional agility (resilience). Have you wondered how many emotionally fragile teenagers are out there? According to Time Magazine, “adolescents today have a reputation for being more fragile, less resilient and more overwhelmed than their parents were when they were growing up.” If this doesn’t make you concerned, what will? We are raising adolescents who are spoiled or helicoptered because we are trying to NOT make the mistakes our parents made with us which is amazing! But you must know that in the midst of the mistakes our parents made, we turned out to be a more resilient generation. So, is there a way to eliminate the negatives from our parents’ own parenting style while absorbing the positives in order to raise resilient teenagers? Of course, there is. We offer courses, masterclasses, etc that cater to these things. Before we delve into how to raise resilient teenagers, let’s talk about what resilience is…
Resilience simply put, is bounce-back ability. It is the ability of our adolescents to bounce back to a pre-crisis state following a traumatic situation. In a dispensation where there are a lot more adolescent mental health crises now than ever recorded in human history, speaking about resilience is a non-negotiable discourse. Training our adolescents to be resilient is even more important now than ever before. The social clime in this dispensation is completely different from the kind we grew up in and that of our parents before us. It’s been a steady evolution over the years but with these advancements in civilization has come to a huge problem over time – the emotional fragility of our children.
We know how important resilience is or at least I do. If you were at my first webinar, HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR ADOLESCENT? you will be familiar to a great extent with my journey to adulthood. How turbulent it was. While I am not endorsing that any child goes through that, what I have found is that a lot of adolescents today cannot go through what I went through and still turn out right. It doesn’t mean I don’t have scars to show for my errors, it does however means I was able to bounce back. Developing that bounce-back ability is what I am concerned about. How do we expect our adolescents to grow if they are easily distressed by difficulty? In this age of social media likes and a false sense of accomplishment from the number of following one garners, how do we ensure that our adolescents measure success by higher standards than these fickle things? If social media pack up today and Instagram for example shut down, a lot of our adolescents might lose their sense of identities. How do we ensure that irrespective of what life throws at our adolescents, they are emotionally agile enough to bounce back? I will show you in a bit!
As parents, it is our duty to protect our children from harm and if it is within the power of our hands to do so, our children will never get to experience any form of negativity or adversity. But I ask, how will they gain mastery over their emotions? How will they rise above the fragility threatening this generation if they do not have practical situations to work out their resilience? Do you not realize that resilience is built in the midst of adversity and crisis situations? Besides, if you do not give them room to become emotionally agile, when they leave your nest, what are they to do when tough times come? Because tough times do come. You can play a big role in helping your teen build resilience and here are some ways we think you can help cultivate resilience in your adolescence:
- Do not see the crisis as a bad thing. That sounds super weird, right? Isn’t that why it is called a crisis in the first place? You may not know but the word “crisis” originates from the Greek word ‘krisis’ – which means ‘decisive moment’. Crises can therefore be seen as an opportunity. When handled appropriately, it can strengthen the bond between you and your adolescent. If you find out that your adolescent has been anorexic for a while, how you handle it can either break the communication lines between you and your teenager or strengthen them effectively. Having open lines of communication is what keeps crises from developing into full-blown disasters. Every crisis with your adolescent is also an opportunity to further strengthen your relationship. When your perception of crisis changes, your response follows suit almost immediately
- Always Listen. Instead of rushing to help your teenager avoid the problem, or even immediately providing them with possible solutions, you can simply listen. This is usually a tough one for parents. It is not really easy sitting still knowing you could easily proffer solutions to the problem and it’ll all be over. But if you do this consistently, you risk raising a dependent teenager who will grow into a dependent adult. I am sure you want to raise a wholesome adult of the future. One who is confident in his/her decisions and does not need to second-guess himself/herself every single time. The process begins now. In simply not saying much, but really paying attention, you are creating a psychologically and emotionally safe haven. Their perception is most likely, “mom/dad values my thoughts”. That’s a huge impact on your adolescent.
- Be Sure to Empathize. This is an important part of grooming a resilient adolescent. You have to feel from your adolescent’s perspective. Let her get those feelings out, no matter how upset she is. Do you recall how you always felt that your parents never truly got you? That’s right. You don’t want your child feeling this way. Even if you have all the answers in the world, you have to make them see that you are on their side. You might be wondering how empathy might help. Empathy makes you vulnerable. Vulnerability is good! In our course, we speak about the power of vulnerability and how potent a weapon it is in befriending your adolescent. As parents, we have been conditioned to always show our strengths while masking our vulnerabilities. This is, however, inappropriate not just by our unconventional parenting guidelines but also from research-based and parent-based feedback. Becoming empathetic towards their plight also teaches them the importance of being empathetic towards others. That’s intentional parenting. You actually get a chance to connect more deeply with your teen, to teach him how to problem-solve with really big problems, and to show him how to manage upsetting feelings – a skill they desperately need to learn during adolescence. After listening and empathizing with them, you can then use the opportunity to teach them problem-solving skills while you help them explore the sources of their anxieties. Once you’ve figured out what’s really worrying them, you can brainstorm together about steps they can take to navigate their situation. Ask open-ended questions that will help them solve the problem themselves.
- Teach Them to Feel Emotions. This is very peculiar to our male children. Society keeps telling them, “you’re a man, deal with it”, “men don’t cry”, “why are you behaving like a sissy, deal with it like a man”. Over and over again, we are raising our boys to be very disconnected from their emotions. While this is more peculiar to boys than the girls, I have seen this at play in many teenage girls too. Our goal is not to suppress or deny emotions. Rather it’s to help them learn to benefit from emotions while knowing which ones may undermine their well-being. These are the skills our adolescents should build because, in this shark-infested world, those are basic survival skills for them so that they do not cower under the pressure of a bottled up emotion. That being said, we must fully protect our children from “toxic” stressors, those challenges that can be threatening to develop brains and bodies, such as drugs, abuse, (rape series) neglect, and violence. As we build resilient teenagers, we must not believe resilience means invulnerability. Everyone has limits. And we actually don’t want to build invulnerable human beings. Why? Because we want our teens to be passionate and compassionate. We want them to experience joy. To be committed to lifting others up and building a better world. To do so, they must have emotions — even though feelings set them up to experience pain.
Finally, I advise that you create support systems. Your teenager can also draw the strength to bounce-back from other supportive adults, like grandparents, aunts, uncles or teachers. Friends and classmates can be great sources of support too. Your adolescents’ success throughout life will depend on their ability to navigate difficult interpersonal situations either at work, in intimate relationships, with neighbours, in places of worship, literally in whatever situation they find themselves in. Adolescents learn skills more by doing it rather than just being taught. If they learn from you that difficult situations and conversations are to be avoided, they’re more likely to get divorced someday or fired because they lack problem-solving skills. If they learn that your world comes crumbling after every crisis situation, they are likely to give in to despondency, depression, and other mental health situations because they are emotionally fragile. If, on the other hand, they learn from you that people who love each other can disagree but work things out so that both people win, they are likely to put that skill to use with peers, in intimate relationships, and in the rest of their lives. If they learn from you that bad things happen to good people but the ability to feel the emotion, without getting sucked into the dark hole of depression is a possibility, they will thrive in life.
Please leave your comments in the comments box and if you want to reach me personally? Send me a message at email@example.com
by TBOG | Nov 16, 2020 | Adolescence
“I see no hope for the future of our people, if they’re dependent upon the frivolous youth of today. For certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and be respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise––otherwise known as disrespectful, and impatient of restraint.”
Hesoid, 700 BC (A Greek Poet)
People have been complaining about adolescents for centuries. For example, adolescents can be a problem for the future of our culture if they continue the way they are. Parents worry about teen pregnancy, being disrespectful to their elders, and things like being unable to control their impulses. All of these things have been a conversation about adolescents apparently since the beginning of time. But we say to ourselves, “don’t worry, each generation turns out just fine” then these adolescents, in turn, complain about the coming generation once they attain parenthood. The cycle continues. It is partly true that each generation turns out right. In the sense that each generation complains about the next but somehow, they find their footing. But there has been an obvious decline in outcomes over the decades. Our adolescents are no longer turning out fine! A publication from the American Psychological Association among others sounds the alarm over the significant increase in mental health issues among adolescents in the past decade. It is no longer okay to assume your adolescents will mysteriously turn out fine with time. Time does not heal, time only reveals. In the same way that we do not assume that an injury will turn out fine without adequate care since it could become gangrenous, so also should we end the assumption that we can be erratic with our parenting and hope for the best. Because in the end, they do not turn out fine!
So, what is adolescence exactly – how do we define it?
We can look at it chronologically, basically just an age which people tend to define as the teenage years between 13 and 19. You can also look at it biologically, using physical markers or physical changes to mark the onset and offset of adolescence. For biological definitions, it starts at the pre-pubertal height spurt, which precedes puberty and ends when people reach full reproductive maturity, which would be around 15-18 years. Or, you can define adolescence in terms of society. The sociological definition would be the timeline between the onset of puberty, the biological markers of puberty, and ends when adolescents assume adult responsibilities. That would be things like leaving home, being able to support themselves, maybe owning a house or a car, or having children, maybe having a job, all of those kinds of things. Some of these definitions can be fairly narrow in time.
The chronological timespan is just six years, but if you take the sociological definition, adolescence could be considered to be 10 or 15 years. For example, if a child doesn’t leave home and take on adult responsibilities until they are around 27 years old.
Puberty is usually an awkward time for our little humans. As parents, we should never forget what it was like for us. It’s what makes us empathic towards the confusion they many times are unable to verbalize. The only saving grace during this weird time is the fact that we must all suffer through it. Somehow, we have to work out a way to come to grips with all the physical changes – and that’s the first task adolescents have to deal with. Puberty alters body size, shape and functioning.
One of the first markers of puberty is a growth spurt. Boys and girls both, tend to grow about six centimetres per year right until they hit their growth spurt. Then their growth increases. For girls, they start to grow about eight and a half centimetres a year for a couple of years, and boys grow about nine centimetres a year for a couple of years. That results in a pretty rapid change in height for children.
I remember my adolescence; I was growing so fast that people found it difficult to believe that I was just twelve years old. I was around 168cm in high school, that’s quite tall for a 12-year old. I was always embarrassed when I stood among my peers because I always stood out! Some of these changes, particularly growth spurts, can happen so rapidly that it’s uncomfortable for children. And on top of that, they have to figure out how to control and move around in a body that is getting very tall and has change proportions.
For girls, it happens a little bit earlier than boys. Girl’s puberty starts earlier than boys and ends earlier than boys. On average, girls start their growth spurt at about 11 years, whereas boys don’t really start to see their growth spurt until 13 or 14 years. This is why when girls hit their growth spurt, girls are often a full head taller than their male peers – because the boys don’t hit their growth spurt until a few years after the girls do.
Adolescents have a lot to deal with. There are a lot of changes that happen during that period, and they have many things to master before they can go on to be adults. One of the things that adolescents have is to come to grips with is all the physical changes that are happening to them—it’s easy for adults to forget how weird it can be when you’re in the middle of it. They also have to find their own adult identities—some sort of identity that they’ll take on as an adult that’s separate from who they were as a child, separate from their parents. They have to learn to manage their emotions and grow their moral inner compass. Finally, they just have to learn to simply to survive. It turns out to be a little bit more difficult than you would think.