“When prospective mothers and fathers imagine the joys of parenthood, they seldom imagine the adolescent years, which Nora Ephron famously opined could only be survived by acquiring a dog (‘so that someone in the house is happy to see you’).”- Read the news feature: http://nymag.com/news/features/adolescence-2014-1/index1.html
The article goes on to describe parents of ‘good adolescents’ going ‘half mad’. The author raises a point, that perhaps adolescence may be more difficult (crisis even) for the adults who raise them than the teens living it. ‘Forty percent of his (Steinberg, author of ‘Adolescence’) sample suffered a decline in mental health once their first child entered adolescence. Respondents reported feelings of rejection and low self-worth; a decline in their sex lives; increases in physical symptoms of distress.”
Divorce, same sex children, and parents without outside interests typically experience the adolescent years with greater difficulty. There is the suggestion that it’s a re-do of the toddler years without the same level of dependence. Its especially hurtful to experience a minimization of their devoted parental role, as a young teen strikes out on his/her own and ‘tests the waters’ of identity and independence.
Ryan was a ‘jock’. Unlike his much older brother, he seldom came home in time for dinner with the family, telling his mom, ‘We have football practice tonight.’ (It was mid-January). They trusted him implicitly as he was in bed by 10pm news time, never realizing he snuck out at 12am, returning before dawn, once ‘senioritis’ hit. When they returned home early from a trip to visit relatives, they were stunned to interrupt a party in progress. As Ryan’s dad explained, ‘There were girls running out of the basement hatch -like chickens, every which way!’ The girls were dashing into the night from the bar & rec room. There was a smell of cigarette and marijuana smoke in the air, punctuated by shrieks and giggles. And clearly, it wasn’t mom’s ‘bridge girls’ heavily sampling the contents of the bar. It was the first of many surprises they were to unravel and experience, which involved plenty of shattered illusions and dashed expectations. They’d come of age too, but this was their ‘baby’.
There are several common points across the literature: 1. Teens are not adults (until their mid 20s). Brain research on development of the pre-frontal cortex supports this. 2. It’s natural (and a developmental given), teens will separate from their parents during this time and strike out on their own; time spent together drops dramatically. 3. As teens develop their own tastes and preferences, they may not appreciate or even disparage their parent’s choices. The article said parents were even rated less favorably on several measures in one research study. 4. Teens who have been over-indulged may fail to comprehend costs, sacrifices, and financial/time & emotional contributions of their parents. Often, parents are portrayed as complete fools in popular kids media and it is the teens who ‘save the day’.
Some of the research suggests the adolescent-parent conflict has only become an issue in modern times. In a pre-industrial culture, life spans were shorter, people married younger-just past puberty, and every one worked to make a ‘go of it’. In extended family cultures, and among much larger family units, one might find special rites of passage and a different value placed on the transitional thresholds into manhood or womanhood. One universal trait, that of valuing others, no matter what their age, for who they uniquely are, has never gone out of style. In his recent book, Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered, Dr. Bruce Perry, a neuroscientist with the Child Trauma Institute discusses the importance of empathy in our broader culture. Its something for both teens and parents to not forget in the journey called, ‘adolescence’.
[photo credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons License 2.0 released for use, permissions granted. Source: Young Talent Time; Author: Eva Rinaldi, Sydney Australia; Uploaded by russavia]
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