You utter one word and it can provoke a myriad of different responses – from cringing and sympathetic looks, to enthusiasm and people saying, “I loved it when my kids were that age”. What age is this? Adolescence. Adolescence is by definition the period following the onset of puberty during which a young person develops from a child into an adult.
We know that the period of adolescence provides a challenging time for both those growing through it and their parents or caregivers providing care and guidance along the journey.
Thanks to science, we now know that the brain doesn’t reach full development until around the age of 25. The last part of the brain to develop is the pre-frontal cortex – the part which is responsible for logical thinking and problem solving. We also know that there is a significant amount of physical growth and change as hormones kick in and puberty takes shape.
The years where one transitions from childhood into adulthood come with many trials and tribulations along the way. This is necessary because it is the period of time when a child needs to start making their own decisions as part of forming their own identity, growing their problem solving capacity, and developing their own ideas, opinions, views and values separate to their parents. A crucial part of this task is making their own choices and taking risks and, of course, what goes along with that is making mistakes and being able to learn from those mistakes.
So what does this mean for parents and caregivers? We know children need age-appropriate boundaries, and this is no different for young people. However, this is a time where you want to teach your child the art of negotiation; learning to articulate their point of view, provide a rationale for their ideas and views, getting them to help you understand what they need or want and why. This is not to say that you have to agree. It is important as a parent to have bottom lines and stick to them, but for everything else, negotiate.
Allow young people to make choices for themselves where appropriate. Talk to your children about your worries for their safety and wellbeing. Help young people come up with safety plans for both themselves and their mates, so that you know they are prepared should they require it. Don’t take things personally; it is a period of time where they need to push you away in order to grow, but let them know you are always there for them. Tell young people what you hope for them rather than what you don’t want them to do. Read up on new information that pertains to adolescence so that you are as informed as possible. Let them make mistakes and don’t say “I told you so”. Instead, empathise with them as then they are more likely to take on board the learning. Keep talking to them.
Know where they are, who they are with and, most importantly, who they are. It’s a journey – quite a long journey without a clear map, varying speed limits, with winding and difficult roads at times, smooth straight roads at other times. The final destination being adulthood.
Homebuilders have Family Support workers who can help parents and caregivers, or provide support to young people, who are struggling in this time of transition. We are a free and confidential service for those living in North Rodney.
Feel free to contact us on 425 7048 or check out our Facebook page Homebuilders Family Service.
Suzanne Stewart, Family Support Worker