By Ms. Annuradha Rakesh, Psychology
Age of Puberty has reduced further but does the small mind of a teenage equipped to handle what all it stores? When parents deal with teenagers, an important thing to remember is, they might be dealing with their own unfinished “teenage business”.
Every part of life is a short story. Most would like to re-write parts or whole of it, given a chance. Life never gives a second chance or retake for the bygones. While dealing with children, we actually are constantly mentally re-living our past stages. We find even proudest of proud ‘cooing’ (making child-like sounds) back to a child’ or an otherwise strict disciplinarian officer running around the park hitting a ball with his grandchildren and giggling.
A bit serious observation of such childlike adult behavior, reveals a tendency in adults to regress (resort to behavior styles of earlier stages of own development) while dealing with children. Actually, “usual adult behavior to a child is a symbolic enactment of own childhood”.
From this point of view, the ‘behavioral give and take’ between an adult and a teenager, is no different. Teenage is a transition period when most people must have had issues balancing factors like own body changes, curiosity, parents, social expectations and own aspirations. Many a time this leads to aggression; expressed outwards by some and suppressed inside by others. Both lead to conflicts which though unresolved are conveniently buried while moving on with a socially acceptable age-related transition to early adulthood.
Later in life when one deals with a teenager, as a parent, a teacher, a neighbor etc; it’s this unresolved issue buried deep within, that creeps into own behavior/reaction. The seemingly unruly behavior of a teenager might actually be, some aspects touching any chords of dissatisfaction with your own subconscious teenage story. The reaction a teenager around draws from you, is a possible reflection of your own earlier comfort level with your bygone teenage. Solution While dealing with a teenager, always leave your adult ego state and come down to his/her level.
That doesn’t mean you behave like a child, but just be empathetic. Just understand, that the teenager is struggling to come to terms with his environment and himself, and your supportive nurturance is imperative. Remember that you can come down to the level of a teenager since you have already gone through that stage to reach wherever you are today, but a teenager can never raise his thinking style and behavior to match your current level of accumulated life experiences.
A teenager may be as intelligent as you are and may have more updated new world ideas, but emotionally he/she is just at his age level only and needs your help to adapt. In an interaction between a teenager and an adult, the only one who can and must make an adaptive adjustment is the adult and the adult only. It’s very important not to project your own earlier conflicts as a teenager, onto any teenager you currently deal with, as a teacher/parent/responsible adult. So, if you frequently feel uncomfortable while in the company of teenagers; do meet your ‘psychologist’ to resolve own conflict first.
If you want to guide a teenager (advice would be the worst blunder), you first need to get into his/her world. Experience those fantasies, imaginations, curiosities, and anxieties. Travel in time and space with them for a while.
Once you have formed a trusting relationship with them, you would be surprised at the volume of things they want to share and discuss with you. Once you reach such trusting levels in the relationship, all you need to do is to be genuine.
1. Be supportive and appreciative of their explorations.
2. Be experimental and creative in dealing with their confusions.
3. Genuinely express your disagreements but in a suggestive manner and never with an authoritative or advisory tone. You would be surprised at the way they accept your views.
4. Always be unconditional in your acceptance of them while respecting their right to think different.
5. As a teacher or parent, it’s very important that you follow the values you suggest, e.g. time management.
6. Treat their mistakes collaboratively as if it’s yours too. Always give ample space to discuss it and plan further.
7. Day to day behavior of a teenager may fluctuate like monsoon climate, but all you need to is, be stable and calm eternally.
8. Finally, be ready for surprises and capriciousness, it can be a roller coaster thriller. Be prepared to love it, whatever it is. You shall find that mentoring a teenager can be a thoroughly fulfilling experience.