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UNDERSTANDING ADOLESCENTS: Transitioning to Adolescence

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

Parenting is no child’s play, especially when little one’s begin to bloom into adolescents. With girls hitting puberty between the age of 8 to 13 and boys beginning to hit puberty between the age of 9 to 14 years, it’s important for parents to understand ways to manage them better. Puberty can be understood as a period of change where young children go through a host of physical, psychological and emotional changes that are triggered by hormonal changes. These changes are also linked to finding one’s independent identity and the process of learning to be an adult.

Understanding and successfully helping children navigate through this phase helps strengthen parent-child relationships. Now, as we’ve decoded puberty’s meaning, let’s dive deeper into what exactly happens to adolescents!

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN ADOLESCENTS As young children learn and grow within a social context, they begin to question their identity and their place in the world. Their development mainly revolves around gaining a sense of independence/autonomy, intimacy & personal identity.

Teenagers strive more towards independence and look for opportunities to show their ability to be accountable.

Here’s what parents can do: Give them tasks that would help them feel important and responsible - a chance to prove themselves. For instance, ask them to fill out bank cheques, assist in opening a new bank account, assign them the responsibility of remembering to pay electricity bills every month and the like.

In adolescence, children also engage in more risk-taking behaviours in their attempt to seek new experiences. Adolescents also tend to think that they’re wearing an invisible cape and that nothing can harm them. Now, this one’s a slippery slope because these ‘risk-taking’ behaviours can have adverse effects on children’s lives even in the long run. We’re talking about risky behaviours like substance abuse and risky sexual activity undertaken only for the sake of experiencing something ‘new’.

Here’s what parents can do: -Trying to be overprotective of your teenager and imposing restrictions on them might be counterproductive. Channel their energy into relatively constructive activities, such as martial arts, trekking, hiking or anything that’s new, it could also be some sports, creative activities. This depends completely on the child’s likes and preferences. -A lot of teenagers also like to experiment with their clothes, give them the freedom to choose what they want to wear. You can tell them if you think an outfit is inappropriate but make sure to explain why you think so, instead of directly saying, “You’re not allowed to wear this, go and change”. -Depending on the child, parents can also set basic ground rules and make these rules in a way that the child feels more responsible for following them, rather than making them feel like they’re tied down. -The idea is to let children do what they want, but keeping an eye on what they are doing without making them feel like they’re being monitored all the time. Adolescents also begin engaging in more independent interactions with others, including their friends, adults and a lot of other groups. With more interactions, they also come across newer perspectives and try to form personal opinions. Parents need to encourage teenagers to think independently and build their own thoughts, with information from different sources.

Here’ what parents can do: -Engage in dinner table conversations about current affairs and ask for your child’s opinion on things that are happening around the world or even general everyday things. -If they mention something that does not fit with your thoughts/ opinions, ask them why they think that way. However, make sure you don’t make them feel like they’re not ‘making sense’, even if you think there might be some scope of improving their understanding. -Give your children a chance to express their opinions and perspectives freely, without making them feel judged. At this stage, children begin to develop their own sense of morality and values in turn, trying to understand the difference between right and wrong.

Here’s what parents can do: -Talk about your values and beliefs, explain why you think the way you do. -When you are drawing out differences between the right and wrong, explain why certain things are right. In that, tell your children why you categorize something as wrong. For example, explaining that lying is wrong by saying that it is a way of misleading and manipulating others and it only creates more trouble because you would have to spin out 10 other lies to protect one. -Next, help them understand the consequences of wrong actions or behaviours. Also, practice being a good role model for your child when it comes to doing the right thing.

Towards adolescence, children also start exploring romantic relationships and begin to develop their sexual identities. This could start off as increased interactions with those from the opposite or same gender. Parents would often see teenagers gushing about crushes and boyfriends or girlfriends with their friends.

Here’s what parents can do: -This is when parents need to give children some space. -Let them have their share of crushes and have feelings about others. Look at these relationships as the first step that your child takes towards developing deeper connections, a capacity to share and care. -However, work with your child to promote a habit of striking a healthy balance between romantic relationships and friendships or family time. -You may want to get to know their romantic partner better, but your child may not be comfortable with that so avoid pushing it too much. Instead, you can ask your child to invite them over for dinner along with other friends so that they both don’t feel awkward. Emotional Development in Adolescents Moving on, let’s look at the emotional changes that the transition towards adolescence brings with it. Parents may often notice children reacting more intensely at certain times, along with more sensitivity towards others’ emotions.

Here’s what parents can do: -Avoid lashing out at them if they react very intensely or aggressively. It takes no time for these interactions to turn into screaming matches and it only gets uglier. -Instead, take a minute to understand their point of view and try to empathize with them. -If this seems impossible to understand them, take time to cool off and tell them that they might want to rethink their actions, give them a chance to think about what they did. -Don’t directly start blaming and yelling at them. Teenagers also become more aware and conscious of their physical appearances, including their clothes, hair, skin, weight and height.

Here’s what parents can do: -Parents need to remember that calling children names and nagging them about their appearance can do more harm than good, especially when done at this age. -Bullying in schools and classes, especially with regards to appearance also needs to be kept under strict control because ‘just for fun’ jokes and bullying can impact a child’s life immensely, even if it is at a subconscious level.

Managing your not-so-little, little one The key to managing ‘teen problems’ as many people call them, is in understanding and empathizing with children. As a parent, one needs to be aware that their child is also going through a lot of changes at the same time and they too, cannot comprehend many of these things. Reacting to your child’s sudden intense emotions with the same intensity is going to bring your relationship down. Instead, learn to respond (and not react) to things that they do and actively give them signals that they can trust you with information about themselves. Let’s take an example, if your child confides in you about having a crush on someone in school or about their romantic relationship, don’t dismiss them and blurt out the usual phrase, ‘this is not your age to do all this, pay attention to your academics’. As a parent, you may be concerned about their grades more than their love life, but it’s a good idea to hear them out and guide them through the path of romantic relationships. If you think it’s getting in the way of their studies, sit them down and talk to them about what you feel. Take on a friendly approach towards children during adolescence and you’ll see the change. However, draw the line and strike a balance between being friendly and overly lenient.

If you’re having parenting problems, especially in dealing with your child who is going through the adolescent phase, know that you’re not alone. You can also get in touch with us for a free consultation to explore therapy as an option for you. For any queries or to book your free consultation, get in touch with us on: info@themoodspace.comor book your free consultation session on

Written by: Vrushti Oza

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