Handling Adolescents

Handling adolescents can be challenging as teenage years can be a turbulent time for both children and parents. This is mainly because teenagers lack the skills and maturity to handle emotional stressors.

Teenagers are unique and often self-contradictory. As a group, they struggle for individuality yet desire peer acceptance. They act like they know everything, yet lack much experience. They feel unbeatable and yet are often insecure. Some succeed in testing and challenging authority. A few may be self-destructive.

Teenage mood swings can be challenging and extremely draining on all family members. These mood swings are primarily due to hormonal changes in the body. Teenagers want their own identity and pull away from their parents, but lack the skills and maturity to handle emotional stressors.

Not all teenagers are rude or difficult to handle, but some disrespect is a normal part of teenage growth and development. At teenage, your child is learning to express and test out his own independent ideas. As a result, there will be times when you disagree.

Developing individuality is an important part of growing up and a good sign that your child is trying to take more responsibility. He’s also still learning how to handle disagreement and differing opinions appropriately.

Your child’s moods can change rapidly. As a result of how teenage brains develop, your child may not always able to handle her changing feelings and reactions to everyday or unexpected things. This can sometimes result in over-sensitivity, leading to bad-temperateness or impoliteness.

Sometimes disrespectful behavior might also be a sign that your child is feeling particularly stressed or worried.

Looking for a roadmap to find your way through this period? Here are some tips:

  1. Educate Yourself About Teenagers

Read books about teenagers. Think back on your own teen years. Remember your struggles with acne or your embarrassment at developing. Expect some mood changes in your child, and be prepared for more conflict as he or she matures as an individual. Parents who know what’s coming can cope with it better. And the more you know, the better you can prepare for the same.

  1. Put Yourself in Your Child’s Shoes

Help your child understand that it’s normal to be a bit concerned or self-conscious, and that it’s OK to feel grown-up one minute and like a kid the next.

Some parents, understandably, have a very hard time with this one. They may feel that anything their kids do is their business. But to help your teen become a young adult, you’ll need to grant some privacy. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your child’s privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it’s a good idea to back off.

In other words, your teenager’s room, texts, e-mails, and phone calls should be private. You also shouldn’t expect your teen to share all thoughts or activities with you at all times. Of course, for safety reasons, you should always know where teens are going, when they’ll be returning, what they’re doing, and with whom, but you don’t need to know every detail. And you definitely shouldn’t expect to be invited along!

Start with trust. Tell your teen that you trust him or her, but if the trust gets broken, he or she will enjoy fewer freedoms until it’s rebuilt.


  1. Talk to Kids Early and Often

Start talking about menstruation or wet dreams after they’ve already begun is starting too late. Answer the early questions kids have about bodies, such as the differences between boys and girls and where babies come from. Just answer their questions, and don’t overload them with information. If you don’t know the answers, enquire from someone who does, like a trusted friend.

The later you wait to have these talks, the more likely your child will be to form misconceptions or become embarrassed about or afraid of physical and emotional changes.

And the earlier you open the lines of communication, the better your chances of keeping them open through the teen years.

Give your child books on puberty written for kids going through it. Share memories of your own adolescence. There’s nothing like knowing that mom or dad went through it, too, to put kids more at ease.

The teen years often are a time of experimentation, which can sometimes include risky behaviors. Don’t avoid the subjects of sex and drug, alcohol, or tobacco use. Discussing tough topics openly with kids prior their exposure actually makes it more likely that they’ll act responsibly when the time comes. Share your family values with your teen and talk about what you believe is right and wrong, and why.

Know your child’s friends and their parents. Regular communication between parents can help create a safe environment for all teens in a peer group. Parents can help each other keep track of the kids’ activities without making the kids feel that they’re being watched.

   4. Set Clear Expectations

Set clear guidelines about behavior and communication. Involve your child in discussions about rules. This helps you to later remind her that she helped make the rules, and that she agreed to them.

Establish and apply consequences, but try not to set too many. At times, it might be appropriate to use consequences for bad behavior.

Emphasize on your child’s behavior and how you feel about it. Avoid any comments about your child’s personality or character.

5. Learn The Warning Signs

Certain changes are normal during the teen years. But too drastic or long-lasting a switch in personality or behavior may signal real trouble and may need professional help. Watch for these warning signs:

  • extreme weight gain or loss
  • rapid, drastic changes in personality
  • skipping school often
  • falling grades
  • signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use
  • sudden change in friends
  • sleep problems
  • run-ins with the law
  • talk or even jokes about suicide

Any other inappropriate behavior that lasts for more than 6 weeks can be a sign of underlying trouble, too. You may expect a glitch or two in your teen’s behavior or grades during this time, but your A/B student shouldn’t suddenly be failing, and your normally outgoing kid shouldn’t suddenly become constantly withdrawn. Your doctor or a local counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you find proper counseling.

SEE ALSO: Why Kenyan doctor committed suicide in Cuba

As kids go through the teen years, you’ll notice a slowing of the highs and lows of adolescence. And, eventually, they’ll become independent, responsible, communicative young adults.

So remember the slogan of many parents with teens: We’re going through this together, and we’ll come out of it — together!

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