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Understanding and Dealing With Teenage Angst
A teenager is by far the most turbulent period in an individual’s life. Most of us want to erase the memory of those unpleasant years; antisocial and sometimes irritable behavior; about the hurt and confusion caused to our parents.
The transitional period, when one is neither a child nor an adult, can be frightening for a teenager and those closest to him. Overnight, parents, teachers and those in power are seen as enemies. Conversations become monosyllabic. Closed doors eloquently demand privacy. Weird dressing becomes fashionable. The parents are confused by this stranger in their midst.
Still, there is consolation that teenage behavior is only a passing phase, a milestone on the road to maturity. A better understanding of what parents are involved in will save a lot of heartache. It should not be confused with juvenile delinquency, which is criminal or antisocial activity committed by young people, who are likely to suffer from a personality disorder or who grow up in a pathological family atmosphere.
Teenagers are looking for some freedom, but they want the security that a home provides. They want to be treated like adults even though they haven’t yet developed basic human relationship skills, and often end up angry at themselves and those who expose their naivety. ‘No one listens to me and no one cares’ is the feeling that runs through their heads and makes them withdrawn. Sometimes they seek security in peer groups and identify with members in dress and behavior.
Why do teenagers behave like this?
o Changing body, sudden growth spurt, gender specific changes make them feel completely out of control. Daniel WA says ‘A teenager is like a house on moving day.’ Obesity or acne can add to their distress. They imagine that they are being persecuted.
o The adolescent brain is still in the process of development. Through extensive brain research, scientists have come to the conclusion that brain development between the ages of 10-25 is crucial. Here, too, there is no uniform development, and different parts develop at different times. Although the brain is the size of an adult by the age of seven, the gray matter that controls executive functions develops slowly in adolescence. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for coordinating the functions of judgment, reasoning, emotion, and behavior, is the last to mature. As a result, it is difficult for adolescents to make the right decisions. They act rashly without thinking about the consequences. They jump to wrong conclusions and take offense at harmless comments from parents or other adults. In short, they are unable to control their emotions.
o Another troubling behavior is altering teenage sleep patterns. They like to sleep late in the morning and are reluctant to get out of bed. Parents see this as a form of rebellion and label them lazy and uncooperative. Changing the way you sleep is important because while you sleep, growth and puberty hormones are released into the bloodstream. The brain’s circadian rhythm changes to facilitate this process. Adolescents therefore get up late. They recover by evening and are wide awake when others want to sleep. They don’t think about turning up their music systems at night or sitting at their computers until the wee hours. Parents who are aware of this change will encourage their teens to slow down their activities until the evening, avoid stimulants like caffeine and limit internet use at night.
Inside the brain is a ring-shaped area called the limbic area that creates the primary emotions of fear, anger, and rage. The prefrontal area is what keeps emotions under control. But as it is not fully developed in adolescence, the limbic area asserts itself. This is why teenagers act impulsively. Sex hormones acting on the limbic area increase aggressiveness and irritability. Serotonin secretion decreases.
As psychologist David Elkin says: “Teenagers believe in their personal fairy tale – nothing will happen to me. It only happens to others.”
Parents and teachers will be more tolerant of antisocial or rude behavior if they are aware of these physiological changes.
Ways teenagers show their independence:-
1. They cultivate unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking or experimenting with drugs because they are unable to make good judgment or do not appreciate the harm these habits can cause. Instant gratification is all that matters. They are encouraged by peer pressure.
2. They are more prone to accidents because they engage in drunk driving, speeding, drag racing and road obstruction. Death, suicide, and homicide rates are higher among teenagers.
3. Anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse can develop in adolescence. The sooner treatment begins, the better the chances of recovery.
4. Girls like to act like boys. Or they may suddenly become aware of their sexual power. They deal in beauty aids and quirky fashion. Or they may develop anorexia nervosa with the idea of keeping their bodies “like a willow”.
5. Since sex hormones are overactive, they fall into love traps. Rape, eve teasing, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases can get them into serious trouble. Possessiveness in boys can lead to controlling behavior or even violence against girls. Free mixing with the opposite sex, exposure to uncensored mass media, lack of sex education or even a permissive family atmosphere will force them to experiment. In the West, 40% of girls in the 13-15 age group are not virgins, 15-20% are addicted to pornography, and teenage pregnancies are on the rise like never before.
6. Teenagers have a low level of frustration. They are driven by the principle of pleasure and seek immediate satisfaction.
7. Many teenagers find safety in groups. They would rather be with friends than at home. Experimenting with alcohol, drugs or sexual escapades becomes exciting. Skipping school or running away from home are some of the ways they show their independence.
8. Sometimes they want to maintain a lifestyle they cannot afford. So they start stealing or harassing their parents for money.
How to deal with teenage anxiety:-
– Parents need to understand that rebellion is not personal, and that despite their rude behavior, teenagers love their parents and want the security of their home.
– It is important to understand why teenagers behave the way they do. This is only a temporary phase of maybe 2-3 years until adulthood.
– Parents should provide their children with unconditional love and discipline. Discipline should be consistent. Boundaries give children a sense of security. Discipline helps them become confident and mature.
– Parents should set an example. They should always be unique in front of their children. The authority of parents in the home should be unquestionable. The New Age formula of treating children as equals is dangerous. There can be no equality between parents and children. It will only bring negative consequences. Children begin to think that everything is up for negotiation. Parents should insist on good behavior. They should make their teenagers aware of social violence and teach them about sexual propriety and the dangers of unprotected sex.
– There should be openness in discussing serious issues such as good behavior and abuse of freedom. The subjects should be introduced tactfully so that the teenager feels confident to talk about his problems, knowing that his parents have his best interests at heart.
– The door of communication should always be left open. Listening to teenagers and their problems is the most important component of communication. Some parents try to force their unfulfilled dreams on their children and force them to do what they don’t want to do. This leads them to revolt.
– Recently, many parents have started spying on their children, and they feel completely justified in doing so. They could search their rooms or scan their diaries or even surreptitiously follow them to see if they like drugs, alcohol or misbehave with the opposite sex. Some parents even hire private detectives. There is a possibility that this could backfire, permanently damaging the parent-child relationship. John Stott believes that “polite but firm confrontation is a better approach than spying”.
– Socialization with peer groups can be healthy and harmless. Teenagers need to share information and share experiences, and know that there are others going through similar changes. However, parents must be careful about the type of friends they mix with and the activities they are involved in, so as not to abuse their freedom.
Adolescence is a difficult phase in an individual’s life. Due to various changes – physical, emotional, sexual – the fear of the unknown grows. Teenagers need our encouragement and empathy.
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