When A Child Reaches Adolescence And The Associated Challenges
By: Danni Peck
Updated February 13, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tiffany Howard, LPC, LCADC
With parenting, there are struggles at every age. When children are newborns, all they seem to do is cry, eat, sleep and dirty diapers… but, mostly cry. Of course, with a baby, their cries mean something, but they are unable to tell you what is wrong. So, the biggest struggle with newborns is to play the guessing game of figuring out what is going on. Then, with the toddler years, comes the temper tantrums and the rule testing. At school age years, comes the social struggles. And, of course, the adolescent years bring their own set of challenges.
What Age Is Adolescence?
Adolescence usually involves a child's age from 10 years of age to 19 years of age. The onset of adolescence truly begins when the onset of puberty starts. Many professionals consider adolescence the transition years from childhood to adulthood.
What Struggles Should I Anticipate?
During this period, your child's body is changing. They are experiencing hormones running through their body like never before. They are also experiencing physical changes, such as a deeper voice for males and more body hair for both genders. This time in and of itself is extremely confusing and challenging for almost every child that enters it. For many children, they feel as though they cannot find a category that they fit in. They're not a little child anymore, but they're not yet quite an adult.
With this confusion, there may be a lot of internal questions that are happening inside of your child. They may begin to question what they want to do when they become an adult if they go to college and all other thought that goes into life planning. They may also have a lot of questions regarding their self-identity. They may be unsure or confused about who they are attracted to. These years, for many children, are awkward and uncomfortable.
Some of the most common struggles that parents identify with their children going through adolescents are:
- Mood Swings. Ever hear the jokes about women going through PMS during her "time of the month?" Think of that, but more severe. Children in adolescence can go from happy to mad to sad and back to happy all in the span of a few moments. They lack some of the skills necessary to manage their emotions appropriately. These mood swings can go for both boys and girls. While girls have certain hormones going through their body during puberty, so do boys, in the form of testosterone.
- Poor Self-Image. Let's face it; the adolescent years often come with body hair, body odor, and Their bodies are changing. They are highly uncomfortable in their skin. Also, as they watch their bodies changing, it is common for children to compare how their friends and other children their age are changing as well. By doing so, however, they are setting themselves up to feel as though they do not look a certain way. Therefore, causing them to form a poor image of themselves.
- Substance Use. In going along with the social struggles and self-image that comes along with adolescence, many children in this stage experiment with drugs or alcohol. In a time where they are scrambling for a little bit of control in their life, using a substance makes them feel as though they can obtain this. However, what they do not realize, is that once they use drugs or alcohol, and it feels good, then they go back for more because they liked it, that's it. They're sucked in. So, they do not have control. They, in fact, passed all control that they did have over to the substance they've now become dependent on. Children also get involved with drugs and alcohol depending on their friend group. If a child is looking for acceptance from his or her friends, they may decide to try a drug that was offered to them or drink a beer because everyone else was doing it.
- Adolescent children often have difficulty in expressing themselves to a group of people. When they do not know how they identify themselves, then they are unsure how to present themselves to others. They may be socially awkward, in that they are quiet, reserved or they do unusual actions when trying to speak, such as a stutter or tap their foot. Of course, if a child does something unusual or awkward while trying to engage friends or improve their social skills, they have the chance of being made fun of or being bullied.
- Social Media. Along the same line as above, social media is an overwhelming presence these days. Today's adolescents are active on social media and often have more than one account. They are learning how to navigate a computer far faster and better than their parents did. With the speed and instant access to social media comes a whole new realm of parenting challenges. Children tend to talk to or play games with people from many different states or even different countries. In reality, they are playing with complete strangers. In a world where they may be feeling all alone, a stranger can prey on that child and take advantage of his weaknesses. Children can also succumb to cyberbullying.
What Type of Parenting Is Most Effective?
The best form of parenting for the adolescent is one that is non-judgmental. Children just seem to have this innate desire to argue and always to be right. They do not understand that you have more knowledge than them, so they should probably listen to you more than they choose to do. However, they are trying to find their place in this world, and they are trying to seek more independence. Just as when they were two years old, going through the "I can do it myself" phase, your child will be looking for you to put trust into them that they can handle a situation.
Now, it is essential that you realize that they cannot, in fact, handle all situations, because as just mentioned, they have not been through this before as you have. So, it is also important that you remain in contact with them about the troubles that they are going through. It is important that they view you as a support for them so that they can go to you with their troubles. If they feel as though you are unapproachable about certain things, they will not come to you when they have a true problem.
Try to establish appropriate and open communication with your child from the start. That way, they will have no hesitation to come and talk to you about what is going on because it will be comfortable for them.
How Can I Help My Child Through Adolescence?
Your parents made it through your adolescence and you will make it through your child's as well. It is your role and responsibility as a parent to mold your child into a responsible, law-abiding adult by the end of their childhood. The adolescent period can feel like it is never-ending. During that time, your job as a parent will include getting your child ready for the real world; teaching them independent living skills, such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting, grocery shopping, etc.; showing them how to open a bank account, deposit money, and pay bills. They need to be equipped to make it on their own and also feel the security of your support to grow and thrive. You need to be both strong and sensitive, kind and strong, knowledgeable and supportive. You may try your best, and still feel frustrated, as though it is not good enough.
As you both navigate this crazy, adolescent world, family counseling could be beneficial, as well. A therapist can meet both with your adolescent child and yourself to obtain feedback on how you are doing and give therapeutic suggestions as to how you can improve your relationship. A therapist could be a good sounding board for your child, as they will be someone completely separate from your home and family to be there to just listen to your child.
You can find licensed counselors here at BetterHelp. There are hundreds of licensed therapists online 24/7 waiting to speak with you and your child. These family sessions can be done from the privacy of your own home and at your convenience. They are private chat rooms that only you, your therapist and whomever you invite into the room can access.