Adolescence is a phase of life, spanning through 10-19 years of age or according to the present definition up to 25 years of age. This phase is characterized by the acceleration of physical growth and psychological & behavioral changes. Thus, bringing about the transformation from childhood to adulthood. Adolescence has been described as the transitional period in life when an individual is no longer a child, but not yet an adult. It is a period whereby an individual is naturally subjected to massive physical and psychological changes. Adolescence is better recognized as a phase rather than a fixed time period in an individual’s life. Adolescents are not a homogenous group. Their needs vary with their sex, stage of development, life circumstances, and the socio-economic conditions of their environment.
Adolescence is conventionally divided into certain stages and they are:
Early Adolescence: 11 -14 years,
Mid Adolescence: 14+ – 17 years,
Late Adolescence: 17+ – 25 years
It is nicknamed as a period of ‘Storm and Stress’ because of massive physiological, anatomical, psychological, and social changes. These changes are briefly enumerated below.
The physical transformations observed during adolescence are the results of hormonal changes as the teenager’s body is transforming from child to adult. This phase is called puberty and starts between the ages of 9 and 16 and usually ends between the ages of 18 and 22 years. The onset of Puberty varies from individual to individual. In this phase, a boy’s system produces more testosterone while more estrogen is produced by the girl’s ones.
Anatomical changes are characterized by the development of broader shoulders and chest, voice changes, the appearance of hair (chest, arms, face), the development of genital organs, and experiences of first erections in boys whereas, the development of breasts, first menstruations, broadening hips occur in girls. In both, cases there occurs ‘massive structural changes’.
Adolescence is not only characterized by the common physical changes mentioned above, but this stage of life is also full of emotional and psychological transformations which are no less significant than the physical ones.
In this phase, the teenagers search for their own identity, look for role models, and feel a growing urge for independence; they are put to confusion because they are torn between the desire for autonomy and the necessity to remain dependent on his or her parents.
Friendships become more important and peer pressure increases resulting in changes in behaviour, at times creating conflicts between teenagers and their parents. Their carefree feelings or ‘sensation-seeking behavior’ make them vulnerable, teens like to explore new experiences and can, sometimes get exposed to situations that are dangerous or harmful to their health and well-being. Many of the adolescents start, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and taking drugs. Their attitude towards reckless driving and sexual behavior also become an important area of concern.
Puberty, mainly, the result of hormonal changes is responsible for the physical transformations of adolescents, which may lead to mood swings as well. Adolescence also involves countless difficult decisions to be made by teens, which cause perplexing feelings among them. Such a situation demands a lot of patience and understanding from the teen’s loved ones.
Coping with such massive changes leads to ‘stress’ and hence, a strong support system is essential in order to empower adolescents.
Who can provide that support system?
The Family? The Teachers? Peers? The Society?
Among these variables, family, providing the immediate environment, occupies the first place in empowering adolescents during their growth and development. Although, the family is a very important factor in the life of every individual, be it a child, adolescent, or adult, defining family is not an easy job. It is because of the fact that there is no consensual definition of it as it is difficult to bring the diverse aspects of the family into a single platform. Some attempts to define family included two main aspects: The structural and functional aspects.
Structural definition of Family:
There are diverse views; a householder and one or more other persons living in the same household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption constitute a family. This definition includes many forms of family members but excludes many important ones.
Another structural definition states that two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption constitute a family. This definition broadens the scope by counting as “family” people who do not live together but still excludes many from the ambit of family.
Functional Definition of Family:
According to most functional definitions, a family is any unit in which there exists a sharing of resources and economic property, a caring and supportive relationship, commitment to or identification with other family members, and preparation of children born to or raised by the members to become adults, members of the society. There are other types of definitions too, but for the sake of simplicity, these are not discussed here.
So, grossly, what does a family mean to an individual?
It means the people who accept you no matter who you are, and there’s no hatred or judgment. The love in a family should be an unconditional element, everyone in the family should try their best to provide all they can do for the people in their family, emotionally and financially. Family is the single most important influence in a child’s life. From their first moments of life, children depend on parents and family to protect them and to fulfill their needs. Every parent knows that it is at times difficult to do this important work without help, support, and additional resources. Among the elements of strong family relationships, mutual respect is of prime importance. A lack of respect creates problems in any relationship.
Some of the very important elements of a strong, healthy, and happy family are:
Keep time for Fun: Spending quality time with the child is another key ingredient for building a healthy, happy relationship Constant encouragement is very important. Believe in your family members so they can believe in themselves. Communicated love works like magic.
This applies both to the family your parents make for you, and to the one you eventually make for yourself and (if applicable) your children.
Any form of deviation from the framework will lead to disharmony in the family. There can not be any ideal family without the slightest deviation from, the non-existent fencing.
So, instead of thinking of ideal families, better think of REAL families. The real families, which are approaching nearer to the ideal families are, cozier, more dependable and emotionally supportive. Conflict in the family leads to the collapse of harmony.
Family conflict develops:
When members of a family have different beliefs or viewpoints, or misunderstand one another, someone gets hurt by the feelings and develops resentment. Miscommunication leads to mistaken assumptions and subsequent arguments
Family stages often cause conflicts:
These stages include learning to live as a new couple (cohabiting or married), having the first baby and any subsequent children, sending a child to school, dealing with adolescents, and experiencing the passage of young persons into adulthood.
Each of these following stages has innumerable possibilities for conflicts:
Separation and divorce, moving to a new town, starting a new job, or starting a new school create conflict. Starting to commute long hours to and from work again creates family conflict. Changes in financial circumstances also can create conflicts. Through time, the needs, values, and opinions of family members can change and create conflicts.
Parents can become polarized into, ‘the good parent and the bad parent’, or ‘the disciplinarian and the comforter’. Such divisions are unhealthy for both, the parents and the children.
Any conflict in the family, affects the child being grown in the family. Adolescent children, naturally are passing through, Physiological, Psychological, Anatomical, and Emotional changes which all put stressful situations. So, family conflicts are additional ‘stressors’ to them. To ease out the stressors, they look for other avenues and may resort to any form of addiction.
Parents can play and are meant to play very significant roles in order to ease out the stressful situations that their adolescent children are going through.
To empower adolescent children, parents should follow certain rules, in the form of DOs and DON’Ts, which will benefit both the child as well as the parents.
- Do household chores together involve them?
- Focus on small, cherished moments rather than big eventful ones.
- Share family meals at least once daily, a very important aspect of building a strong and happy family.
- Have patience and find time to listen to your child.
- The sense of humor—keep it up!
- Don’t put extra stress on your child.
- Don’t expect achievements that are not within his/ her ability or aptitude.
- Don’t rebuke the child only when the results of the examination are out, rather take actions beforehand so that they can do better in the examinations.
- Have a happy, healthy, enjoyable, and light environment in the family.
- Never underestimate or demotivate your child.