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The adolescent years are notable for the "changes" that accompany this age: physically, emotionally, and socially. The academic pressures of getting into a good college adds an additional challenge into the mix. Perhaps the fear that your adolescent will not graduate from high school at all concerns you. In either case, parents are concerned for an adolescent's future, and his or her ability to earn a living to sustain self or a family.
Adolescents face several developmental tasks, including establishing a stable identity and becoming a complete, productive adult. To achieve this they try on different behaviors and seek new experiences that will give them feedback about themselves, their influence on others, and how people respond to them. Parents can be supportive by creating an environment that encourages open discussion or else systematically creating the time to sit down and discuss what is going on in your adolescent's life on a regular basis.
It is helpful for parents to remember the developmental tasks that face adolescents. These involve:
1. Achieving a level of mature behavior and interactions with both girls and boys in their age group. Parents assistance here is vitally important because teens may look like adults physically, but they are not adults and they rely on parents to place limits on behavior. Boundaries are still important at the age. Teens still need parents to monitor their activities despite their protests to the contrary.
2. Adolescents must establish their social roles. This category encompasses discovering what it means to be male or female. Parents can be supportive here by encouraging sons to articulate their feelings, especially when they feel hurt or sad, and encourage their daughters to assert herself by stating her needs, wishes, and preferences rather than accept what life deals out in a passive manner.
3. Accepting one's body type. Adolescents are vulnerable to the idea that there is a "perfect" body type. Girls especially are more likely to engage in disordered eating patterns to attempt to gain a perceived "perfect" body. Boys may try products that "enhance" the masculine physique. In either case, parental support and feedback is important. Body types vary and genetics play a role in determining how the body is shaped. This is something to teach your adolescent. Good health ought to be the goal. Encourage better eating habits, if possible, join a gym where body work can be properly taught and supervised, and be mindful of how you comment on how they look.
4. Adolescents must achieve emotional independence from parents or other adult caregivers. Moving toward self-reliance and autonomy is not easy. As the adolescent gets older, personal independence increases to include a variety of experiences, perhaps, including trips to out of town locations on a school break, and how late to stay out on prom night. Parents set boundaries and curfews, but it helps if there is some kind of mutual agreement between the teen and the parents about checking-in to notify of a safe arrival, chaperon supervision, and the like.
5. Preparing for an economic career. Today's market demands a higher level of education, technical skills, and other related training before entering the job market. Parents can encourage their teen to consider different ways of accomplishing this goal. Not everyone is interested in a four-year institution, and technical schools provide both academic and hands-on training opportunities. Technical colleges mandate core curriculum including Mathematics, Writing Skills, Science, and Psychology in addition to the technical classes. Other young adults choose a two-year college for core classes and then move up to complete their degree at a four year college or university. Sometimes an apprenticeship to a trade is the best route to achieving a good living. Be open to the options your adolescent suggests.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|