Adolescence: The Last Step Before Becoming An Adult

Adolescence: The Last Step Before Becoming An Adult
All children will journey through several developmental stages on their road to adulthood. Sometimes these stages look more like steps that must be completed before continuing on. For most (there are always rare exceptions) there are four or five such stages of growth where kids learn and model certain things. 1. Infancy (birth to age two), 2. Early childhood (ages 3 to 8 years), 3. Later childhood (ages 9 to 12) and 4. Adolescence (ages 13 to 18). Sometimes there is more of a distinct stage between later childhood and adolescence called pre-adolescence (age 13-14). But for most the basic four are propionate and distinct. In most countries and especially in the US, anyone 18 and over are considered adults in society. While some try to prolong their adolescence, others try to achieve it too quickly. On average, we all grew up and are growing up in this same pattern.
Parents typically will learn how to take care of their baby and young children from reading, observing and examples in their life. At the hospital or with the doctor, you might pick up information about what to feed them or how long they should sleep. Later, school faculty may remind you about the importance of talking and reading to your young children. You can also see how your friends or relatives treat their kids. You cannot say the same thing about learning to talk with teenagers (adolescents). It seems like everyone, even teachers and neighbors have difficulty relating to and understanding today’s students. Some give up and give in by simply doing and saying the same things your parents did at that age. Caution: those were different times!
You can begin to understand and relate to this age group much more effectively if you remind yourself where this group of people are in the overall growth sequence. Remember that fall right next to the adult stage, the last step before being an adult. Simple, but often we adults forget that even though they might look like, dress like and talk like an adult (at least when they want to) that they are NOT yet adults.
During this pre-adult stage, teens are trying to determine their future. Will I attend college or where will I attend college. What will I do for work? Will I have a family? Will I get married? Will I get rich or will I be poor? What tragedies will I face? The point is: that one of the first major steps towards healthy independence is that teens must start making their own decisions. There must be a gradual separation and restraint from rescueing and deciding for them when something big is at stake. Of course if the decsions and lessons could be learned with the same influence without consequences, we parents would opt for that. We don’t want to see our kids in pain but it is necessary for healthy development. To do this they must put a little distance between themselves and their parents. This does not mean that you can’t continue to “look after them” or help them when needed. You should, as much as possible, let them learn from the results of their actions. Example: they no longer want to go to youth group because “everyone is in middle school” or “I don’t get anything out of it” or “none of my friends go”. OK, listen up parents! This is not an example of giving them space. They may miss occasionally due to conflicts with youth group but the vast majority of the time they need to be connected to their youth group every week! Not monthly, weekly. One day you might need that support group called Youth Ministry – and then it is too late to slap it all together and it be adequate. Keep that as a non-option in the game of distance and freedom. Let their decision space be in the area of savings, spending, flexible times for curfew with good track record, choice of family outings, etc.
Remember, adolescents also need to be around other adults, both male and female. Don’t negate the important influence of grandparents, relatives, neighbors, coaches or teachers. Of course, they should be positive role models. Your teenagers can learn from them about things like how to fix the car, getting along with others, responsibility, family systems or ideas for future jobs. Finally, don’t worry if they want to spend time alone. Adolescents can kill lots of minutes day dreaming about their future life. However, make sure that the same minutes of freedom are not outnumbering their constructive minutes. A good statement you can use to declare to your teenager as a way of thinking, working, prioritizing and living is: What do I NEED to do before I do what I WANT to do.
Life is good, Live well!