Facing the Challenges of Parenting an Adolescent
Created by Divya Marwaha Updated on Jan 25, 2021
How time flies…….my heart still holds close those fond memories—the moment when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, the first time she called me “mamma”, her first step, her first day at school—the list goes on. Things have changed a lot since then. My daughter is now a rebellious 15-year-old, showing that she needs no more of me and my “old-fashioned” advice. But then I also realize, that this is perhaps how I was at 15; how indifferent I felt towards my mother and wanted her to give me all the space in the world. Perhaps, this is what adolescence is all about. Talking to my friends, with children of same age, gives me the solace that I am not the only one facing this situation.
Adolescence is the time of transition from childhood to adulthood and is rife with numerous changes—physical, hormonal, emotional and psychological. This is the phase when a child may struggle with issues like discovering his/her identity, independence, and where family takes a back seat while peer group and physical appearance become the center of life.
Certain issues that an adolescent child as well as her parents have to face are:
Peer pressure: The little girl, who once wanted my advice on everything, now considers her friends to be better advisers. Parents need to learn to cope up with the reality of peer pressure. It influences almost every aspect of the life of the child, including the way she dresses up, thinks, feels and behaves. As a parent, one needs to keep an eye on the child, so that she does not fall prey to bad company, but at the same time be subtle about it, to avoid it being read as interference. To read more on how to manage and monitor the company your adolescent child keeps, read our blog "10 tips for parents who don't approve of their teenager's friends".
Substance abuse: The biggest nightmare for me is that my child may one day, falls into a habit of smoking, drinking or taking drugs, or pre-marital sex, for that matter. The best thing a parent might do at this stage is setting an example for the child, by his/her own character and actions. Friendly and open conversations with the child can be helpful. A loving parent-child relationship and a positive atmosphere at home can also be the building block for a healthy transition from adolescence and adulthood.
Tantrums and talking back: A problem which I have to face on a daily basis is the rude behavior of my daughter and her tantrums and back talking, when things do not go her way. As a parent, this sometimes hurts, but one needs to learn the virtues of patience and forgiveness to bear with it. Sometimes, silence can be the best solution- it gives time to both, the parent and the child, and the latter may gradually realize her mistake.
Lifestyle issues: Sometimes, I feel irritated by the behavior of my adolescent daughter, particularly, her waking and sleeping hours, eating habits, lack of cleanliness in her room, her dressing sense and in general, her lifestyle. Behavioral traits like laziness, inclination towards crash diets for weight loss and unhealthy daily routine are some things I have faced as a parent and gradually, learnt to handle positively. Parents need to be subtle, yet firm about adherence to rules, to help children come out of unhealthy lifestyle and habits.
Irresponsible behavior: I want my adolescent child to fulfill her share of responsibilities, but she disappoints me many times. There have been times when I have delegated important jobs to her, like paying bills, buying groceries and making bank deposits, but she has landed me in trouble by not doing these on time. I have devised a formula to deal with this situation- rewarding her every time she completes a task successfully. Rewards can motivate a child to learn the virtue of sense of responsibility. These need not be big ones; even praising the child in front of a friend can do wonders for her self esteem and make her more responsible and confident.
Career decisions: Making the right career decision is a very important part of adolescence. Again, peer pressure may highly influence the child. But the parents need to guide the child about various career options and help her make the best choice, without forcing their decision on her. Parents need to pay due consideration to the aptitude and interest of the child while making this choice and support her all the way.
As parents, we need to inculcate in ourselves certain virtues to walk this tight-rope successfully.
Patience: There are times when I feel irritated by my daughter’s behavior, but time has taught me that it is not going to help. An adolescent child might just want to do the opposite to what her parent expects from her. Sometimes, this does the trick. If I want her to do something, I simply pretend that I want her to do just the opposite.
Restraint: I have learnt that I need to be very subtle and careful with my advice. My daughter wants both, privacy as well as her space, and I need to respect that. I do feel left out, seeing that her life revolves around her room, phone, TV and laptop, but experience has taught me to understand her attitude.
Understanding: Every time my daughter behaves in a certain manner, I try to visualize myself in the same situation 25 years ago. Recalling my past helps me see her behavior in a better light and bear with it. A parent needs to understand the cause of her behavior, rather than analyze it. Parents need to deftly guide them, without being too assertive.
Trust, but not blindly: Through my own experience, I have learnt that giving my daughter small responsibilities, has helped me reinforce my trust in her, and vice-versa. Giving the child opportunities like handling her money matters/ bank account, career choice, paying bills or maybe, taking up a part-time job, can be great for her morale as well as your relationship. One does need to be vigilant and walk the fine line between giving complete freedom and still maintain discipline.
Spending quality time together: Spending quality time with your child can be a bridge between the child and the parent. Being friends with your child makes her comfortable to share her feelings, however we need to avoid being intrusive. I often try and steal opportunities to spend time with her, going for shopping, catch a movie or a drive together once a while.
Focus on rewards, not punishment: Instead of punishment, one needs to focus on rewards. Rather than finding ways to punish or criticize the child for her wrong behavior, one needs to make efforts to reward her when she follows the rules. Concentrate on listening rather than speaking as repeated lectures and threats lose effect, when used repeatedly for handling behavioral issues among adolescents.
Talk to fellow parents: Isolation is a normal adolescent behavior other parents also feel left out as I do, on account of indifference shown by their children. Talking to them has helped us cope up with our problems. My friends/fellow parents have always been my support system and have provided me the motivation to keep going.
Finally, the best advice for my fellow parents is that it is okay if you are not perfect as a parent. After all, we parents are humans too, and can make mistakes.
Time and maturity will hopefully, infuse new life in this wonderful bond of love.
| May 24, 2014
Hi Divya, Yes it's a difficult phase. Only friendship can keep your child safe, that to not her age friends but you as her friend, best friend. Your relationship should be such that when your teenager starts liking a boy you should be the first one she would want to share it with. And you should have a big enough heart to listen to her without giving your expert comments. You will have to act wisely to suggest her what is good & bad for her.
| May 24, 2014
Dearest Divya ur honest n frank analysis n advice is priceless. It has reassured and equipped me for the coming years of adolescence for my daughter who is on the farther side of thirteen now. Can feel the heat already. But ur article has been tremendously encouraging. Thnx.