My Child Has Become A Teenager

"Mother nature is providential. She gives us twelve years to develop a love for our children before turning them into teenagers." - William Galvin

If your child has just become an adolescent you may be feeling a little anxious and confused. After the relatively relaxed and easy years of middle childhood adolescence can be quite a shock for some parents. You may be wondering why your child's once-extensive vocabulary has been reduced to a few Neanderthal type grunts. Or why your child's smile has been replaced by a permanent scowl or an upturned lip. Perhaps you are thinking that the A in Adolescent stands for attitude and it is not all positive. Teenagers can be difficult to fathom at times leaving the most capable parents scratching their heads in surprise.     

Adolescents have a poor public image. If you were to take notice of some media coverage of young people you couldn't help but think that most teenagers are drug-crazed, sexually rampant gorillas intent on creating mayhem. Take note that the majority of kids make it through adolescence unscathed, although they will invariably give their parents and teachers a few headaches along the way.
It helps for parents to know what is normal and what's not. Following is a list of common problems, behaviors or issues that many parents of adolescents currently encounter.

1. My teenager thinks about three things - sex, sex and sex

Anyone who can remember their own adolescence would realize that sex and sexuality is a pretty big issue for this age group. With their hormones rampant most adolescents are on a fairly serious voyage of discovery. 

Don't be surprised if your son sticks pictures of scantily clad females all over his bedroom wall or your daughter displays posters of males from the entertainment industry. Both sexes are obsessed with body image. While many teenage boys spend time building up their pecks over 50% of teenage girls have dieted at some stage. 

Younger adolescents like to talk about sex and tell each other and their parents grubby jokes. Much of a teenager's talk about sex is just that - talk. It is in the later adolescent years when kids will actually try to put into practice what they only fantasized about in earlier years. 

The emerging sexuality of a teenager can be a reminder to parents that they are no longer at their physical zenith. One mum revealed how she felt quite old when she realized that men stared at her fifteen year old daughter rather than her when they were together.

How much should I worry?

1/10 - It has been estimated that adolescent boys think about sex every 20 seconds. If you have a daughter you are probably thinking that teenage girls talk about the opposite sex at about the same rate.

2. I can't live with the moods swings

Sometimes the smallest thing can trigger a noisy emotional outburst from a teenager. The slightest remark about their appearance or even a harmless joke can send teenagers stomping off to their bedrooms shouting 'leave me alone'. Often there is no real reason for bad moods. When asked what's wrong they may answer truthfully, "Nothing" or "I don't know". Frustratingly for adults many teens will resist any attempts to cheer them up giving the impression that they actually enjoy their bad mood. 

Hormones can be partially blamed for the mood swings but more than likely they are influenced by a combination of factors. Teenagers are experiencing an enormous number of physical, social and psychological changes all at once which can be confusing. It is helpful if they have somewhere such as a bedroom to retreat to rather than inflict their mood on others.

How much should I worry?

7/10 - While moodiness seems to be normal, if it continues, then it may be a sign that something is really troubling them and that help is needed.

3. My teenager no longer wants to be part of the family

Teenagers, particularly the eldest, often don't want to join in with the rest of the family activities. "It's childish", It's kids stuff" is often on their lips. 

It can come as quite a shock when an adolescent opts out of family activities particularly birthdays or gatherings that involve grandparents and broader family. Sometimes the only way to entice a teenager to join everyone on an outing or even a holiday is to allow them to take a friend. 

Wanting the rights of an adult but accepting the responsibilities of a child some teens stop helping out around the house. Parents need to gently but firmly point out that rights and responsibilities are linked and even though there may be heaps happening in their lives a little help is still required.

How much should I worry?

5/10 - One of the tasks of adolescence is to gain a sense of identity so some opting out of mainstream family events is to be expected. But many family events such as birthdays are non-negotiable. It helps also to remind them from time to time that you are not running a boarding house so their assistance is required.

4. The peer group rules

A significant authority shift occurs when children become teenagers. You may have already discovered that the opinion of peers carries far more weight than your own considered view of the world. In early adolescence physical appearance becomes important which is influenced by acceptability in the eyes of peers. Wearing unfashionable footwear or sporting the wrong type of hair style can mean instant ostracism from a peer group so teenagers must wear an acceptable label on their clothing or even have the right parts of their bodies pierced. 

Membership of a peer group often becomes an obsession during middle adolescence as young people identify with particular forms of music, icons and even lifestyles. It is ironic that in their search to be individuals adolescents go to great lengths to resemble each other. 

But things haven't changed much. I recall spending most of my sixteenth year dressed in the uniform of a surfer - ugg boots, flannelette shirts with button up collars, long blonde hair and Neil Young music were de rigueur. The fact that I had never actually seen a wave let alone surfed one was irrelevant. The important aspect was that I belonged.

How much should I worry?

5/10 - Peer groups help adolescents bridge the gap as they separate from their family and develop their own opinions and learn to stand on their own two feet. While most peer groups are relatively harmless acceptance to some groups is linked to participation in dangerous or risky behaviors.

5. My teenager wants to get his or her body pierced

Once a person only had to figure out which ear to have pierced now teenagers must not only consider which body parts should sport a stud, sleeper or cute little diamond but how many they should insert in each spot. It seems that few parts of the body are sacrosanct these days as teens dream up new places to insert a piece of jewelry. 

And piercing is not confined to any particular sub-culture. I've seen belly buttons and eye-brows pierced on both grunge type teens as well as very sporty mainstream types of kids.

How much should I worry?

3/10 - Not a great deal but you should consider your own tastes in body adornment before you criticize your teenager. I once heard a mother with a row full of earrings down her left ear complain that her sixteen year old daughter was going overboard with the body piercing caper. It's not smart to be cooler than your adolescent.

6. Parents know nothing and are complete dags

The young child who may have looked up to his or her parents as wise and possessing some savvy as an adolescent reminds them about how little they actually know. Teenagers commonly think that there's is the first generation to reach puberty. "You just don't understand. You don't what its like...." is a type of anthem that blocks parents' attempts at making themselves heard. 

Fathers often suffer from the Clarke Kent syndrome when their sons reach full-blown adolescence. Young boys invariably put their fathers on a pedestal holding them in some superman-type awe. However when they reach fifteen or sixteen they go to great lengths to prove that their fathers like Clarke Kent are human and fallible. This fall from grace can be hurtful for many fathers.

How much should I worry?

1/10 - Just make sure you drop your teenager off three blocks from any function or allow them to walk ten paces behind if you are in public together and you will both save face.

7. My teenager is in trouble at school and shows little interest in schoolwork

With so much going on in kids' lives it is a rare individual who can keep his or her nose clean throughout secondary school. Often problems at school occur around Year 8 or 9 when the novelty of secondary school wears off and detentions, the occasional truancy and skipped homework become a badge of honor for some kids. Children who have learning difficulties often get by in primary school but will give up or display a lack of interest in all things educational in secondary school rather than appear inadequate or stupid in front of their peers.

How much should I worry?

8/10 - While some problems may just blow over parents may need some assistance when kids mess up or display little interest in school. The best course of action is to work together with your child's school to find the source of the problems and formulate some type of plan to get your adolescent back on track.

8. I know my teenager drinks alcohol

The legal age for drinking maybe eighteen but the reality of adolescent alcohol consumption is quite different. Recent Australian research shows that over one third of 15 year olds drink regularly (not just experimenting). Those teenagers who drink do so at weekends and will often binge on alcohol becoming excessively drunk. The harm minimization approach that has been adopted by Australian health and educational professionals encourages those who work with and raise teens to teach them to drink sensibly and responsibly. Alcohol is a pervasive part of our culture so teens need to be encouraged and taught to drink safely and in a socially acceptable way. In case your teenager becomes hooked on alcohol, you have the option and the right to sign him or her up to a teen alcohol treatment program.

How much should I worry?

6/10 - This is a hard one. While the majority of teens adopt sensible drinking habits as adults, there is little doubt that alcohol consumption puts teenagers at risk particularly when it is combined with other behaviors such as sexual activity that have their own inherent risk factors.

9. My teenager is smoking

Many kids will have choked on their first cigarette or raided their parents' liquor cabinet before they reach adolescence. Twelve or thirteen is a time for experimentation in many behaviors that belong to the adult world. But often one sip of spirits or a few puffs of a cigarette are enough to satisfy their curiosity for a while at least. 

Despite the health promotion campaigns teenagers are still lighting up - approximately 30% of 15 -16 year olds smoking regularly. Research indicates that the longer a teenager puts off deciding to smoke the less likelihood he or she is of taking up the habit.

How much should I worry?

3/10 - Smoking is a matter of choice - harmful, expensive and not too bright - but better than some alternative drugs that are around.

10. My teenager spends long periods in his or her bedroom

It is common for teenagers to spend long periods in their bedrooms doing very little - perhaps, playing music or just 'mucking around'. This can be extremely disconcerting if you believe that kids should be productive and always making the best use of their time. But time alone is not necessarily time wasted. Adolescence is a confusing time so young people often need to be alone to reflect, to daydream and draw on their inner resources.

How much should I worry?

2/10 - Just hope that they don't play their music too loudly and disturb the rest of the household.

11. My teenager always wants more money

It is the universal law of adolescence that they never have enough of the folding stuff. Many moody teens will suddenly become communicative and extremely obliging when they put the sting on their parents for some hard-earned cash Does this approach sound familiar? "Mum, do you want some help? By the way can you please loan me $10? I am meeting my friends down at the hamburger place." Astute observers will notice that teenagers will always round the amount up to the nearest ten when they want money and they never give back change. 

Don't be fooled about lack of wealth. Smart marketers know that young school-aged people generally have a higher disposable income than their parents and so target them accordingly. So adolescence is an expensive time. It is also a time when a keen young teen will take on a part-time job and learn some skills while filling his or her coffers.

How much should I worry?

1/10 Provide some pocket-money commensurate with your income and their needs. Then encourage your teen to take on a part-time job. Not only will this provide some extra cash but it may teach him or her some valuable job skills as well.

Raising a teenager is like reaching the green in a golf game. It is whole new ball-game requiring different skills, more patience and greater concentration than you needed down the long fairway of middle childhood. There is also less margin for error, the pressure can be intense and sometimes you get yourself in an unplayable position. But those who can keep their cool under pressure will invariably come out on top.    


More by :  Michael Grose

Top | Parenting

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