Understand and deal with adolescent distress

By far, adolescence is the most turbulent period in an individual’s life. Most of us wish we could erase the memory of those awkward years; of asocial behavior and, sometimes, curmudgeon; of the pain and bewilderment they caused our parents.

The transition period, when one is neither a child nor an adult, can be frightening for the adolescent and those closest to him. Overnight, parents, teachers, and those in authority are seen as enemies. Conversations become monosyllabic. Closed doors eloquently request privacy. Strange clothing becomes fashionable. Parents are puzzled by this stranger among them.

However, it is a comfort that adolescent behavior is merely a passing phase, a milestone on the road to maturity. A better understanding of what it entails will avoid a lot of headaches for parents. It should not be confused with Juvenile Delinquency, which is a criminal or antisocial activity committed by young people, who probably suffer from a personality disorder or who grow up in a pathological family environment.

Teenagers demand a bit of freedom, but they want the security that a home offers. They want to be treated like adults even though they have not yet developed basic human relationship skills and often end up angry with themselves and with those who display their naivety. ‘Nobody listens to me and nobody cares’ is the feeling that plays in their minds and makes them lonely. They sometimes seek safety in peer groups and identify with members in dress and behavior.

Why do teenagers behave the way they do?

o The changing body, growth spurt, sex-specific changes give them the feeling of being totally out of control. Daniel WA says, “A teenager is like a house on move-in day.” Obesity or acne can add to your distress. They imagine that they are being persecuted.

o Teen brains are still developing. Through extensive studies of the brain, scientists have concluded that brain development between the ages of 10 and 25 is crucial. Here again, uniform development does not take place and different parts develop at different times. Although at seven years the size of the brain is that of an adult, the gray matter that controls executive functions develops slowly in adolescence. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for coordinating the functions of judgment, reasoning, emotions and behavior, is the last to mature. As a result, teens find it difficult to make wise decisions. They act hastily without considering the consequences. They draw the wrong conclusions and take offense at innocuous comments made by parents or other adults. In short, they are unable to control their emotions.

o The other disturbing behavior is the alteration of adolescent sleep patterns. They like to sleep late in the morning and are reluctant to get out of bed. Parents understand this as a form of rebellion and brand them as lazy and uncooperative. The change in sleep patterns is important because while you sleep, growth hormones and sexual maturation are released into the bloodstream. The circadian rhythm of the brain is modified to facilitate this process. Therefore, teenagers get up late. They cheer up at night and are wide awake when others want to sleep. They don’t think about turning on their music systems at night or sitting in front of their computers until the wee hours of the morning. Parents who are aware of this change will encourage their teens to slow down their activities at night, avoid stimulants like caffeine, and restrict internet use at night.

Within the brain there is a ring-shaped area called the limbic area that generates primary emotions of fear, anger, and rage. The prefrontal area is what keeps emotions in check. But since it does not develop fully in adolescence, the limbic area reaffirms. That is why adolescents behave impulsively. Sex hormones that act on the limbic area increase aggressiveness and irritability. Decreases the secretion of serotonin.

As psychologist David Elkin says, “Teenagers believe in their own personal fable. Nothing will happen to me. It only happens to others.”

Parents and teachers will be more tolerant of rude or antisocial behavior if they are aware of these physiological changes.

Ways Teens Show Their Independence: –

1. They cultivate unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, or experimenting with drugs because they are unable to make sound judgments or do not evaluate the harm these habits can cause. Instant gratification is all that matters. Peer pressure incites them.

2. They are more prone to accidents as they indulge in drunk driving, speeding, sprinting and distraction on the roads. Death, suicide, and homicide rates are highest among teens.

3. Anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and substance abuse can develop in adolescence. The earlier treatment is started, the better the chances of recovery.

4. Girls like to act like tomboy boys. Or they may suddenly become aware of their sexual power. They look for beauty aids and strange fashions. Or they may develop anorexia nervosa with the idea of ​​keeping their bodies “like a willow tree.”

5. Because sex hormones are hyperactive, they fall into love traps. Rape, teasing, pregnancy, or sexually transmitted diseases can cause a serious disorder. Possessiveness in children can lead to controlling behavior or even violence against friends. Free mixing with the opposite sex, exposure to uncensored media, lack of sex education, or even a permissive family atmosphere will lead to experimentation. In the West, 40% of girls in the 13-15 age group are non-virgins, 15-20% are addicted to pornography, and teen pregnancies are on the rise like never before.

6. Teens have a low level of frustration. They are governed by the pleasure principle and seek instant gratification.

7. Many teens find safety in groups. They prefer to be with friends than at home. Experimenting with alcohol, drugs, or sexual escapades becomes exciting. Truancy or running away from home are some of the ways they show their independence.

8. Sometimes they want to maintain a lifestyle that they cannot afford. Then they start stealing or harassing parents for money.

How to deal with teenage distress: –

– Parents must understand that rebellion is not personal and that despite their rude behavior, teens love their parents and want the safety of home.

– It is important to understand why adolescents behave the way they do. This is just a temporary phase of maybe 2-3 years until they reach adulthood.

– Parents must give their children unconditional love and discipline. Discipline must be constant. Boundaries give children a sense of security. Discipline helps them mature and connect with themselves.

– Parents should lead by example. They should always present a united front to their children. The authority of the parents in the home must be indisputable. The New Age formula of treating children as equals is dangerous. There can be no equality between parents and children. This will only bring negative repercussions. Children begin to think that everything is in negotiation. Parents must insist on good behavior. They should educate their teens about social violence and teach them about sexual property and the dangers of unprotected sex.

– There must be frankness when discussing serious issues such as good behavior and the misuse of freedom. Topics should be presented tactfully so that the adolescent feels safe discussing their problems, knowing that their parents care about their best interests.

– The doors of communication must always be left open. Listening to the adolescent and their problems is the most important component of communication. Some parents try to superimpose their unfulfilled dreams on their children and force them to do what they do not want. This makes them rebel.

– Lately, many parents have started spying on their children and feel perfectly justified in doing so. They can search their rooms or scan their diaries or even sneak up on them to see if they are into drugs, alcohol, or misbehaving towards the opposite sex. Some parents even employ private detectives. There is a possibility that this could backfire, permanently damaging the parent-child relationship. John Stott believes that “loving but firm confrontation is a better approach than espionage.”

– Socializing with peer groups can be healthy and harmless. Adolescents need to exchange information and share experiences, and to know that there are others who are going through similar changes. However, parents should monitor the type of friends with whom they interact and the activities in which they participate, so as not to abuse their freedom.

Adolescence is a difficult time in an individual’s life. Due to various changes – physical, emotional, sexual – there is a growing fear of the unknown. Teenagers need our encouragement and empathy.

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