Teen times are tough times not only for the teenagers but for their immediate family too. But instead of getting angry and frustrated on the kids the parents should try to understand the problems their kids face and help them out. Sangita Thakur, who is a Clinical Psychologist tells us how.
Ritu a 15 year old says, “People glare at me, whether I go shopping or for a walk. Even if I wear proper clothes they look at me suspiciously. I feel so odd and scared. This never used to happen when I was younger. Is growing up so bad?”
Ashok is sweet sixteen. He says, “Even though I am sixteen year’s old, I still do not get freedom to do things to my liking. I have to be home by 10 o' clock and watch TV. I am not permitted to bring my friends home. If I am not allowed to do things of my choice then what is the fun of growing up?”
Like any other stage in life, adolescence is also full of ‘storms and stresses’. It is a period during which the environment around the life of a adolescent permits him to perceive the world around himself and often is given opportunities where he has to make his own decisions.
Often, many teenagers face problems in adjusting, to this period of ‘growing up’. Sometimes, problems faced by them are so severe that their personality foundation gets shaken up and this creates more problems for them as adults.
When children are small, parents need to give them support, love and guidance. In the same way when their children grow up parents need to become a pal to them. Given below are the psychological changes and problems which adolescents go through and due to these reasons it is important that parents try being supportive:
‘Am I developing normally’
As many physical changes like increase in height, weight, changes in voice, skin and sexual development are taking place, adolescents are under constant pressure. They feel very odd and awkward of their body size and shape changing. To check whether they are developing normally or not they keep on comparing themselves with other adolescents and are often obsessed with the idea of checking and measuring their height and weight at constant intervals, looking at the pimples on their face and puppy fat increasing on their hips and other parts of the body. If they think that they are developing abnormally, they start developing an inferiority complex and have a low self image. Minor incidences, make them furious and irritable at themselves and others. At such a stage if parents explain to their teenage children about the physical changes, it would become easier for the adolescents to pass through this stage.
‘I have to look good’, ‘Am I wearing the right clothes’
Adolescents have a strong desire to look good and be admired and praised by others. Teenagers spent hours in front of the mirror trying out various clothes and deciding which they should wear. They often have arguments with their parents about the kind of clothes they should wear. Parents insist that they wear clothes which are decent and light colored, while they want clothes on the basis of the ongoing fashions. A 16 year old girl complains, “Whatever clothes I wear, my mother has to pass some sarcastic remarks about it. This really makes me angry. Do I not have the right to wear the kind of clothes I want? Why does she not understand me?”
As children start growing up, looking ‘attractive and good’ becomes a more important goal compared to studies. They are often obsessed with the idea of trying out various face packs, hair cuts, clothes and shoes. If other teenagers look at them and pass positive comments, it increases their self image and makes them feel accepted. But if they are teased about their looks, they feel rejected and avoid socializing and prefer to be a loner.
‘I want to be known as ‘ME’ not as my fathers son (or daughter)!
Teenagers want to develop their own identity in the locality they are living and school or college they are studying. To achieve this, they try to become popular by excelling in studies or participating in sports, cultural activities, and other extra curricular activities in school/college. Things like wearing odd clothes, growing hair (for days), Becoming a ‘Gunda’ in the college are also ways of being popular. ‘I get a lot of pocket money and also drive to college in a Maruti’: Owning a two wheeler, having a girl–friend or boy–friend, wearing expensive clothes, becoming a champion in some sport, smoking, drinking are all status symbols. Achieving these things put them ‘At top’ compared to others.
Manoj says “I have started smoking and drinking, just to show others that I have matured and to be a part of my friend circle. I have to do it, even though I do not enjoy it much”. Now–a–days having a friend of the opposite sex has become a matter of prestige for many adolescents. It is something for which they strive and such a desire often keeps them pre–occupied with their looks, clothes and under constant pressure and tension to accomplish it. Adolescents who cannot achieve it, often start developing a lack of confidence and consider themselves to be worthless people and failure in life. Due to these reasons, when adolescents fall in love, suicide becomes the only alternative for them to escape from their loss of prestige.
‘I want many friends’
Adolescents have a strong desire to become part of a group of individuals of their own age with passage of time, friends become more important to them than their own age with passage of time, friends become more important to them then their own family. This peer group has a lot of influence on adolescents attitudes, rights and wrongs of life, interests, behavior, thinking etc. Adolescents desire a lot to be accepted by a peer groups. To them it is a very important goal and to achieve it they are willing to follow all the rules and regulations set by the group. Whether it means smoking, drinking or playing pranks on others or joining the same study course. With growing up adolescents tend be choosy of their friends, and they select them on the basis of similar view interests, and goals in life.
‘I think, I like him’
A 15 year old boys, says, “I often keep getting attracted to many girls, with some I become infatuated, but then it is only for some days. I hope I am normal”. With the physical changes and sexual development, adolescents tend to develop attraction towards the individuals of the opposite sex. This is a very natural desire which comes with growing up . Attraction towards the opposite sex is often followed by falling in love i.e. getting infatuated. Infatuation is puppy love which fades away after sometime.
“I am scared of the future”
Adolescents often feel insecure as they are uncertain of their future, as well as confused and worried about their life in general.
A list of adolescent worries
School, Homework, getting along with teachers, good marks, not failing, college entrance. Being accepted by Classmates.
Getting along with siblings, conflicts with parents. Arguments at home, Parental domination.
Are they true friends? Not be accepted, to be a leader in the group, to be popular, not to let friends down.
Career choice, success in career, getting a job.
should look good, pimples, fear of losing good health, being slim and trim.
‘I become over emotional’
Due to over expectation and constant nagging from parents, adolescents feel irritated and angry. They often express their anger by sulking, refusing to talk to anybody or loudly criticizing those who have angered them. As the body changes physically, teenagers start feeling slightly awkward about the changes in the beginning. It takes them some time to adjust to these changes. During this period they often like to be left alone. Their food habits also become erratic and they get angry very fast.
‘I am very curious’
Teenagers are very curious to know about things happening around them as well as interested in trying them out and getting more information. Due to this they indulge into activities like reading pornography books, seeing blue films, gambling, rock climbing and car racing. They also want to know, what it feels like to smoke, drink and take drugs. They are always in look out of doing things which are novel and different.
‘I like going into a different world’
Daydreaming is part of growing up and adolescents spend many hours, in imagining themselves to be a ‘Conquering Hero’ getting success in life or a ‘Frustrated hero’ (being a failure in life). They love to flow away to with these thoughts. For some, differentiating between fantasy and real world often becomes difficult. Such teenagers later find it difficult to cope up with the problems of life.
‘I look as if I am elder to him’
Some children mature sexually (connected with the physical changes) earlier than their sex group. They are called early matures, while those who mature sexually later than their sex group are called late matures. For boys, early maturing is advantages as it helps to derive much of their prestige and status in the peer group, as well as become leaders of their groups, and popular among girls. while on the other hand boys who mature late tend to become depressed, rebellious, attention seeking and also are less popular.
Ravi, a 14 year old boys says, “I am the thinnest and shortest boy in the class. Everybody teases me and calls me chutku. I feel so bad”.
Girls, who mature early are considered to be grown up and sophisticated in their behavior, appearance and thus have problems in socializing. They also lack confidence and are shy and self conscious of their over developed body. While on the other hand, girls who mature late generally become concerned about their normality. They often avoid the company of the other adolescents and prefer to be left alone. As such, early or late mature adolescents only temporarily find it difficult to adjust to their under or over developed body, with passage of time, most or them, are able to cope up with it.