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A Letter to the Parents of an Adolescent Kid

Dear Parents

Adolescence is considered to be the most beautiful as well as crucial phase of one’s life. This age begins when your kid is around 11 years old and lasts up to 18 or 19 years of age. This is a very tender and vital age in a kid’s life. He tends to develop a number of emotional as well as physical changes. His mind is flooded with several questions, to which he has no answers. This becomes a very confusing state of mind for him and he needs a lot of guidance to learn to deal with it.

As a parent, it becomes quite difficult to deal with an adolescent child. You may feel tired worrying about your child. There may be n number of worries like where your child is, who he is with, what he is doing, what kind of friends he is having and so more. At times, you may also get disturbed because of the failed attempts to communicate with your child. You may have endless fights, and the open rebelliousness of your kid, the moodiness, the intense emotions, and the impulsive and uncontrolled conduct keeps you unrelaxed.

Sometimes you may feel it hard to believe but the behaviour of your teenage kid seems as if he is an alien being from a distant planet. He is not the same he used to be 2-3 years back. Now he has become a completely different person.

The reason behind it is that an adolescent’s brain is still actively developing; therefore, it processes information differently than a mature adult’s brain. In scientific terms, the frontal cortex—the part of the brain which is used to make decisions, manage emotions, and control inhibitions—is restructured during this particular age, forming new synapses at an implausible rate, while the whole brain reaches full maturity during the mid-20’s.

I, myself, have observed many kids during these developing years. As these kids begin to proclaim their independence and find their own identity which they used to see through their parents earlier, most of them experience behavioural changes that can seem unusual, unconventional and unpredictable to their parents. Your sweet, loving, obedient child who once couldn’t even think to be separated from you, now won’t be seen within an approachable distance from you. He greets everything you say confining within the four walls of his room. The communication between you and your kid becomes almost zero and you begin to feel that his friends are more valuable to him than you. It becomes quite difficult for any normal parent to endure this situation. But the fact is, what your child is doing are the actions of a normal teenager.

But here, the most significant thing on your part is to understand why do the kids behave in such an unacceptable way after reaching this special age? What are the reasons behind their rebellious behaviour? And are you, as a parent, dealing with your child in a correct way or are you making them even more distant from yourself? All these questions are to be answered first before going any further with this article.

As a parent, you might be dealing with your adolescent in an unsuitable way, unintentionally. You might be doing it quite right in your perspective but you forgot that your child has also developed a perspective by this age. And this difference of perspectives is the reason that create issues between the parents and the adolescent kids. Your kid is a kid for you, as he always was, but for him, he is not a kid anymore. He wants to be heard, he wants to make decisions for himself and he wants to gain social acceptance (that he gets from his friends).

Let’s find out what you might be doing wrong and what are some of the more effective ways to deal with your adolescent kid.

The first thing you can do is to be available for them. You can offer your kid to chat with you over coffee. It will probably be greeted with a sarcastic put-down or indifferent gesture, but it’s really very important to show him that you’re available to listen to him. Insist him on sitting down for mealtimes together with no TV, phones, or other distractions. Look at your teen when he speaks. Don’t scold or judge him if he tells you something. Also, don’t get irritated if your efforts are greeted by nothing more than monosyllabic gestures. You may have to eat a lot of dinners in silence, but when your kid does want to open up, he knows you are available for him.

Secondly, try to find common interests between you and your child. Trying to discuss your kid’s appearance or clothes may be a sure-inappropriate way to trigger a heated argument, but you can still find some zones of common interests. Fathers and sons usually connect over sports; mothers and daughters over gossip or TV shows. The objective is not to be your kid’s best friend (you can never become his/her best friend), but to find common interests that you can discuss peacefully and that help you to connect with each other. Once you’re talking, your child may feel more comfortable opening up to you about other topics as well.

Giving punishments to their kids is one of the favourite ways parents try to keep their kids within the boundaries. When we talk about punishing an adolescent, the number one choice of parents seems to be DEPRIVATION. It means removing something of great value in the young person's life temporarily, in consequence of him committing some serious misdeed. You try to subdue him by snatching his phone or laptop, keeping him from going out or cutting him off with his friends. Without his favourite gadget, the young person is not able to maintain his contact with peers at a time when being in constant touch with them feels all-important.

This is not the best approach for dealing with your teenage kid. Giving such punishments can make things worse. The kid may feel rejected and resentful. Hence, he may withdraw himself further from you.

Adolescents always tend to have a bad rapport. Many parents feel that they helplessly watch their lovable children transform into unpredictable confusing beings. They could not help it as their kids don’t want to listen to their long lectures of what is right and what is wrong. The message we give teenagers is that they’re only ‘good’ if they’re not doing ‘bad’ things, such as smoking, hanging around with the wrong crowd, having a love relationship, consuming alcohol, or a lot more things that are considered to be a sin in the society.

It could really become a self-fulfilling prophecy as negative expectations can actually promote the behaviour you fear most. So instead of giving your child ethical lectures, focus on his interests and hobbies, even if you don’t understand them. You could open a new path of communication, reconnect with the child, and learn something new in the process.

As a parent, you should not overpower your choices on your kids. Maybe you don't like your young daughter's haircut or choice of clothes. Or perhaps it literally doesn’t suit her. But now she has started to have her own choices as well. So, before you step in to prevent her, look at the big picture. If her decision is not putting her at risk, give her the freedom to make age-appropriate decisions and make her learn from the consequences of her choices. Every parent wants to protect his child from any pain, disappointment, or failure. But confining your child from the struggles of life takes away valuable learning opportunities - before she is out on her own.

Of course, you'll be her parent throughout your life. So be there for guidance and not for spoon-feeding. Challenge yourself to step back and let her make the little decisions for herself. Approve her decisions if they aren’t causing any harm. Let her know you're there for her.

The next thing is try to create a balance between obedience and freedom. If you put too much emphasis on obedience, it may help you to make your kid fall into line - but at what cost? Adolescents raised up in inflexible environments tend to have a lower self-esteem. They miss the boat that would have helped them to develop problem-solving or leadership skills – just because you're making the decisions for them.

On the other hand, too little discipline doesn't help, either. Adolescents need to have clear structure and rules to live by as they start to explore the world outside.

As a parent, it's your responsibility to set your family's core values and communicate them through your words and actions without imposing the same on them. You can set up certain limits for them that are approachable. One example can be – permitting your child to go out with friends but setting up a limit that he has to reach back home by 8 anyhow.

Since your child is in his crucial growing phase, give him some personal space. When your adolescent moves through his teenage years, he moves toward individuation too. This is a process how your child grows from adolescence into adulthood. And this phase of development requires some private time and a personal space.

When you don’t give your child a place of his own in which he can emote, do inner work, and most importantly, be private - you are making him feel that he can't be trusted. Trust is an incremental experience, and you can build trust with your child by first giving him certain small responsibilities, watching to see if he fulfills them. If he does, you can give him more. All along the way, you are teaching him that he can earn your trust, and that there is a positive reward for doing so.

Also, personal space doesn’t only mean to give him a separate room. It also includes to have the basic privacy etiquette that we look forward for ourselves. Do not peep into his phone or laptop. Keeping an eye is important but you should do it in a subtle way.

Providing necessary space also helps your kid in gaining self-trust by learning that his behaviour has consequences. As he seeks positive reinforcement, he is also building a strong central core, a sense of himself that can build both confidence and competence in him.

Trust is important for any relationship. The way you want your kid to be loyal to you, the kid too wants to have your trust in him. If he is not confident about you or he feels that you are going to judge him for any misdeed, he’ll never share anything with you. If you want your teenager to listen to you, or consider what you say, you should earn their trust as well. Try to keep an open and respectful relationship where you share things with each other confidently. Share your life incidences with him like, “When I was your age, I came across the same situation like you…”.

When you share significant things about your life and work with him, your kid will know that you believe him and is more likely to open up to you about his life.

Adolescents’ sense of identity is based on who they hang out with. They want to get social acceptance by any means. If they spend more time with their friends instead of with you at home (which is most likely to happen), it is because they want to fit in, which is a typical adolescent behaviour. The problem comes up when your kid spends more time with people you do not approve of (though they don’t even care about your approval), or with a company who you think can influence your kid in a negative way.

You surely have a decent reason for disliking your kid’s friends but always take time to know your child’s friends before rejecting them. You can call them up at your place for lunch. You should ask them about where do they put up or what do their parents do? If you think that you are not happy with their attitude, you should bring that to your kid’s notice in a subtle way. Gently share your concerns in a non-judgmental way whilst telling your kid that you trust them to make the right decision. This will help him to encourage to review the friendships he is choosing.

Try to envy that, building a network outside of the family unit is a normal part of an adolescent developing more independence.

We have the tendencies to nag the child continuously, when he makes a minute mistake but we never ever appreciate him for his achievements until and unless they are the greatest accomplishments. Even with us adults, appreciation is required from time to time to boost morale. Same goes with the kids. Whenever your kid performs well in any task, be it big or small, always genuinely appreciate him. This will also let him see that you don’t just nag him constantly but also appreciate his efforts.

Also, be precise when you appreciate. If your kid shows you his achievement, don’t just say, congrats; inquire about how he came about achieving that and praise it point wise.

All my suggestions may seem a bit awe-inspiring to deal with but don’t lose heart; where there is a will, there is a way! The tips given above, coupled with your willingness to be patient and understanding, will help deal with the various issues you face with your kid. In time, everything will get into pace.

Your friend and guide


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