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Teenagers: Alien Beings or just Temporarily Psychotic? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Tom   

Maybe you’d rather not think about it! Perhaps you should though, since your kids will inevitably enter adolescence. When you consider the physical and psychological changes that we all must go through on the way to adulthood, it’s amazing any of us come through it ok.

The structural integrity of any building starts with its foundation. The same goes for people. That is, when a child feels - right from the start - supported, feels that’(s)he is listened to and valued as an individual, and is encouraged in his/her efforts at autonomy, that child has a head start on negotiating the teenage years safely. Every day you spend with your young child is an opportunity to gradually build up the sense of safety and security that (s) he will eventually need to draw upon later on.

 In California, to push the metaphor a little further, the possibility of earthquakes dictate that buildings must be “tied down” to the foundation with strong steel hardware. Likewise, a strong bond must exist between child and parents so that at times of stress or crisis, the adolescent will have a “home base” where (s) he will feel safe and supported. This basis of support must continue even though for teens, the importance of the peer group increases while parents’ importance diminishes. They still want and need us to be there for them even though they often don’t act that way.

Think about the amazing transition a baby makes from the 1st year to the 2nd and 3rd years. They have to learn new physical and language skills, behaviors and self-discipline in a short time. The pre-teen and early teenage years are like that too; a rush of new skills – social, behavioral, even linguistic –must be acquired. And they must deal with physical changes, sexual feelings, educational and career expectations on top of everything else. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. So show your teen some mercy!

We know that the part of the human brain responsible for judgment isn’t fully developed until the early twenties. This explains a lot. We also know that teens often misread facial expressions making communication more difficult.

Know that your teen doesn’t expect you to have all the answers. Nor do they even want your answers anyway. They just really want to find their own answers; so having someone to just listen to them – like you - is important. Know also that when you screw up, and every parent does, you should apologize; say you’re sorry. Kids need to see what taking responsibility means; that we take “ownership” of our mistakes. Adults don’t know or control everything and we shouldn’t pretend to our kids that we do. There’s no need to be defensive about that. They will respect you for it.

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Healthy Kidz Doc is written by a board-certified pediatrician who's practiced in Santa Cruz County since 1986. www.healthykidzdoc.yourmd.com


Teenagers: Alien Beings or just Temporarily Psychotic?

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