An impressive physical and emotional transformation takes place during the adolescent years of a child’s life. I have many vivid memories of those years after raising my own two children. Now my adult children have adolescent children of their own and I am reliving many of the same experiences with them.
Family or friends
Probably the greatest challenge that I faced when my kids (who are only one year apart in age) entered adolescence was their new desire to spend more time with friends and less with family.
We had always been a tight little unit seemed like very disruptive behavior.If you were to ask me what quality I hoped would describe my children in the future, I would have said that they become independent thinkers and yet I was not prepared for them to move in an independent direction from me.
As the adolescent brain develops, one of its tasks is to mature your child’s thinking toward independence. As I mentioned in part II of this series, you can thank dopamine for this new perspective. For your adolescent to be successful adult, he/she needs to be able to think on his/her own and create their own environment. They do not just wake up one day as an adult. The process takes time and fortunately it happens while they are still with you and are guided by you.
As a result of this maturation process, your child will naturally want to become more involved with their peer group and spend less time with family. This will necessitate a give and take response from you to maintain peace in the family. It helps to remember that a biological process is taking place here and not simply a youthful rebellion.
The maturing adolescent needs to be taught boundaries in relationships and the importance of preserving their own identity and convictions when challenged by others whom they respect. They need help learning how to balance their schedule so that they can give adequate time to family and to friends. They need to learn how to be in touch with the emotional side of people so they can make good sensitive choices. The list goes on and on because they are becoming adults. Although this is certainly a challenging time for parenting, it can also be an exciting opportunity to establish a deep relationship with your child that will be a treasure for both of you.
Suggestions for positive parenting
- Keep the lines of communication open. If possible, set a consistent time each week for you and your adolescent to catch up with each other. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but consistency is important. This will strengthen the bond between you and your child as it is being tested.
- Be creative in the use of your home and your time. By having kids hang out at your house, you get to know your adolescent’s friends and can observe your child’s interaction with them. It can be expensive to feed lots of starving young teens, but the investment is worth it.
- Discuss boundaries with your child and get him or her to buy into your leadership. Your adolescent needs help setting limits (although he or she will protest them) and the limits also provide a way out when your child needs it.
- Look for ways to encourage your child when he/she makes a good relationship choice. Use the dopamine effect to your advantage and search for opportunities to reward them.
Something to consider
How do you feel about your child’s growing desire to be with friends more than family? How have you prepared yourself for this transition?
Every child is different. Please consider the special characteristics of your child as you implement the suggestions in this article.