"Puberty is the time when teens look at their feelings and want more time to themselves. It is not possible to search for an identity and still cling on to parents as before. Nine out of ten times, the child will not cling." Dr.Kit Ng, Psychologist
The third stage, adolescence(13-21), which includes the troubled teens, is perhaps the most difficult period for children and parents. At this time, children seem vulnerable, irritable and susceptible to different influences, chief of which is body chemistry. Girls, in the age group 9 to 13, passing through puberty are affected by the hormone Oestrogen. Boys, in the age group 10 to 15, passing through puberty undergo changes brought about by the hormone Testosterone. These hormones trigger changes in the minds and bodies of the children.
Teens are associated with loud, heavy metal music, garish clothes and unruly behavior. They try in different ways to establish an identity for themselves; but parents think that they use the wrong means. The different perceptions of parents and teens result in a rather tense relationship. The fact is that teens want to conform to standards set by both parents and peers, but get pulled by stronger peer-attraction. Adolescence, they say, is that period in life when a youngster apologizes to his friends for having old-fashioned parents. This peer-tendency is confirmed by research findings. A Gallup Survey of 48,000 teenagers found that 87% of them are influenced most by friends and only 51% by the home. Surprisingly, only 13% said that they were influenced by religion. It is not difficult to understand that raising teens is a distressing time for parents, when all that they try fails and they are truly 'foxed'. One mother complains: "I don't know how to get to him". She suspects that there is a huge wall separating her son from her; the kind of wall that the following letter suggests.
"Dear Mum and Dad,
We can never seem to have a decent parent-child talk. I apologize if this seems a little insensitive, but your 'I'm always right' attitude results in out never ending
quarrels. Well, I'm an individual who wants to see more freedom, despite the dangers out there. I am aware that this is one of your worries. But, one way or the other, I'm going to face reality. So, why not now? Even if I do get hurt, I'll pull myself together and carry on. Isn't that what life is about?
Signed: Silenced." (Letter taken from The Straits Times, Singapore, June 29,2005)
Although most parents shun exercising authority, teens need a structure put in place by responsible parents. Research has shown that 80-90% of teens who do not have parental authority in their lives, get into drugs, take to alcohol, get drawn to bad company and are reported to school/police on behavioral problems. It reinforces the point that parents just cannot give up, even if teens answer back or reject them. One mother uses the term 'tough love' for parental behavior at such times. She adds:
"Stay firm but loving, after setting the right example". She continues: "establish clear limits to what is acceptable and what is not". These limits take the form of a to-do list.
1) Watch for symptoms of trouble. Spot them early. Violent mood swings tell their own tale.
2) Take one problem at a time. Be calm. Do not over react.
3) Define the problem in terms they understand and relate to e.g., coming home late at night - how it affects them and not the family.
4) Objectively discuss a solution to the problem, after examining options. Prepare for the discussion, doing home-work on likely objections. Listen carefully to what is said and unsaid; words and feelings. Look for an appropriate compromise, when that is the best way out.
5) Implement the plan with the help of the rest of the family. Let no one in the family use the term 'rebel or rebellious'. It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
6) Don't get arm twisted or emotionally blackmailed.
7) Be patient. Results will eventually follow. Occasionally, look at the funny side,
when we, in our teens had our set of problems.
8) Never give up.
Chastened by a life-transforming experience, a sage spoke to his small band of followers. One day he had a visitor just at mealtime, whom he invited to share his simple meal. When the sage began to say a prayer before the meal, the visitor swore at God and refused to join in the prayer. The angry sage showed the man the door. That night, in a vision, God spoke with the sage: "This man has been cursing and swearing at me for many years; yet I have lovingly fed and cared for him over the years. Could you not show him some understanding, just for one meal?" What would we answer God if He asked us the same question, but in different words: "Look, only 13%
of young people show some interest in me. Yet I care for all of them day after day;
no exceptions. Can you not show some understanding with the one or two you have?"