One evening, Renee, an exemplary Grade 11 student experiences a sudden meltdown triggered by a silly argument. What ensues is a verbal screaming match with her mother. The heated argument ends with the slamming of doors and a loud declaration by Renee to her mother, “I hate you!”
Being an only child of loving parents, Renee lacked for nothing. She went to the best of schools and her mom ensured that her schedule included a lot of fun-filled after-school activities. The family even took frequent trips to exotic holiday destinations. What used to be a close-knit mother-daughter bond is now pathetically strained with a few grunts here and there, which constitutes the daily conversation. How did it all come to this? Well, the reason was ‘the emotional snap’. Let’s see what we mean by this.
The emotional snap
It is widely believed that once children are capable of doing their daily activities independently, they no longer require the support of their parents. When teens, especially, seem too precocious with a lot of strong-headed ideas and ideals, parents aren’t really worried about ‘taking care’ of them. Also, during the early years of their children, parents cherish a healthy bond with them. But, once the children hit the teens, parents seem to focus more on their academics and career path. As a result, many forget to foster the emotional bond. This leads to an ‘emotional snap’ causing the loving parent-child relationship to turn into a nightmarish boss-employee relationship.
This is exactly what had happened in the case of Renee. And, so too is it in most homes where children enter the phase of adolescence. So, what is the solution? To bridge the emotional gap and, at the same time, give teens their personal space to grow and develop into individuals with their own unique identity. For this, parents need to realise that their teenager still needs them. And, to understand why teens still need their parents, we need an insight into their adolescent mind. The following points will help in this.
Key points to keep in mind about your teen
- As children hit puberty, certain spatial learning and reasoning skills take the back seat leading to a lot of disorganisation and sloppiness. This is why many teenagers appear messy, lethargic and indifferent. Do help them sort their routines!
- Teenagers, generally, seem to have an indifferent attitude; however, in reality, they are hypersensitive to others’ comments or opinions and lack the necessary social skills to deal with how others perceive them. Keeping the channel of communication open and engaging them in healthy discussions will help them effectively handle these issues.
- Though teenagers are capable of highly abstract and critical thinking, they can, at times, be as impulsive as toddlers. This makes them rash and reckless in their decision-making.
- Arguing and rebelling are simply new-found skills most teenagers are too eager to demonstrate and show off. This is just typical during this phase and does not indicate any behavioural issue.
- Teenagers experience a high level of social stress and anxiety owing to their changing appearance, attitude and hormonal-spurt. Despairing and undermining comments can wound them badly and give them a poor sense of self esteem or a highly defensive attitude.
- Harsh verbal disciplining and physical punishments lead to aggression and many teens, in turn, become ‘school bullies’. Some may even exhibit depressive symptoms or show signs of mental illnesses triggered by stress and anxiety.
- Teenagers don’t learn from advice. They learn from their unconscious role models. When parents shout to make their points heard, the impressionable teenager learns that it is the only way to deal with a stressful situation.
- Stop being judgmental: Just like how you wouldn’t want to be overtly criticized and judged, try not to deliver a judgment that everything is wrong with your teenager.
- Teenagers often seem to prefer spending time on their own rather than having a chat with their parents. Although it is important to give them their space, parents must make sure that they do not let the distance widen.
- Teenagers may appear to need complete autonomy and independence but guiding them through this crucial period may be the solution to a lot of their angst and problems. Therefore, it is good to be your teenager’s friend and guide him.
- Your teenager would love to feel all grown-up and important. Therefore, instead of giving a constant stream of instructions and dispensing ‘gyan’, share your thoughts with him and ask for his opinion. Not only will it benefit you by giving you a different perspective but it will also help your teenager understand things better and develop problem-solving skills.
Teenagers learn best from healthy parent-child relationships and a conducive home environment. Let your home be a place of good understanding and communication. Having regular small talk without it being too preachy and stifling will bring down the ‘wall of defense’ that most teenagers seem to have around them. Teenagers are on an emotional and a physical roller-coaster ride. Rather than trying to fit them into a pre-made mould, understand and accept them. Get on that roller coaster and help them enjoy their ride!
The author is a psychologist, public speaker and special needs consultant.
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