So your 'little one' is growing up quickly and you're fast approaching the dreaded moody teen years. Arm yourself with some advice and information on why this can be a difficult time for your teen from Sarah Newton.
The teenage years aren’t just difficult because teenagers themselves are just plain old challenging. The trainistion to the teen years involves lots and lots of changes in both the teenager’s brain, the way they think, and their motoivations. It can be painful and difficult as parents try to understand and naviagate the somewhat choppy waters, not quite knowing which way to turn. So let’s help you a little here by sharing a little of what happens during these trying times.
The teen years contain some of the most important life transition stages, i.e. school; college; work. These transitions cause stress for the teens as they search for a new sense of balance in their lives.
Let me explain how this works. Any transition has three stages and, starts to finish, can take three years. These stages are:
We live, whether we like it or not, in systems – family systems, work systems, society systems and of course for teenagers a school system. Each system has its own goals and interests, which may not necessarily be the same as the individual’s goals and interests.
For example, the school has a system of wearing a school uniform which may not be a system that the child agrees with; the family has certain system which as the teenager grows and develops may not match their own. As a child gains abstract thought (approx. 13 years, year 9) they begin to question these systems and the goals and interests within it. This is not rebellion, just testing – they need to question each system to see if it is one they want to carry forward into adulthood or not. The teenager begins to separate their system self from their true selves and of course, some conflict follows.
For a parent this means that suddenly things the teenager use to do and like change and parenting styles that use to work no longer have any effect. This is why they are increasingly more interested in their friends (who are also in this conflict). This can make parents panic and try even more to enforce a system, which in turn causes more conflict. As a parent at this stage you need to take more of a consultative approach with your teenager, looking at what they would want to change and coming to agreeable outcomes. This will be far more beneficial for all concerned and will in fact teach the teenager that they do indeed have control over their lives and the decisions they make.
The teenager’s separation of the system-self to their true self causes them a huge amount of stress. The teenager begins to realise the increasing disparity between their system-self and their true self and does not know what to do about it. They begin to focus only in the short term, are driven by status symbols, have outer-directed priorities and have reactive decision making, which to an adult in the balance stage is hard for us to comprehend. In this stage, the teen is in a relentless rush, never stopping to catch their breath.
As a parent, just recognizing this stage can take the pressure off you both. Knowing that what they are doing is just a natural progression and not about our parenting and us is help enough! Supporting them to make decisions on what is important to them and supporting them get a great sense of self is very helpful in this stage.
As the young person matures and begins to make sense of their system-self and true self and integrate the two, they reach balance; they know who they are and what they are good at. They are more focused on the long-term; they have meaning and are inner-directed.
Clarification that they do eventually get there is helpful.
This can also answer the question why a very disrupted year 9 student can, in year 11, become more resigned to the fact that they don’t behave in English because they are “not very good at it”, as one student said to me today – maybe right or wrong, that is what he had taken to be his true self. This is why, when a child is 13/14 we need to be very careful what we say to them about their capabilities. If we tell them at this crucial stage that they are not good at certain things then they may choose that as one of their “systems” and carry it forward to adult life.
Information based on Don’t Waste Your Talent – Bob McDonald and Don Hutcheson
If you need one to one advice with your teenager you can contact Sarah through her Greatvine profile.
You can view the full list of Greatvine experts who can offer advice for parents on the teenage years.