Understanding Possible Issues and Problems that Affect Our Teens
The world is fraught with challenges and threats. And this fact can feel more terrifying if your children are in their teens and are on the verge of exploring this world on their own. Your heart and mind may be filled with a lot of questions: What issues will my teen face? How can I protect him or, at best, ensure that he gets through these issues and perhaps learn from them? What help do I need? What will I do if my teen gets involved with drugs, with the wrong peers or gets in trouble with the law?
Indeed, there are many “what ifs” that come with parenting a teen. You can either become paralyzed by these fears or you can choose to ignore them and act as if they do not exist. However, the best option is for you to prepare yourself to face these issues by becoming more informed. Getting a deeper understanding of an issue can help you map out the best steps and course to take.
Here are some issues that may trouble your teen:
- Adoption and self-esteem issues. If your child is adopted, feelings of insecurity or abandonment may arise during the teenage years, as this is the time that he is trying to build his identity. A teen who knows that he has been adopted may have a lot of questions about who he is, who his biological parents are, as well as why his biological parents decided for adoption. It will be wise for parents who have adopted to prepare their child well for this time, to reinforce to the child that he is their child in every way – that he is loved unconditionally and that as parents, they are there for him.
- Divorce. When the relationship of parents break down, the teen may feel a gamut of emotions running inside him. He may feel angry (Why are my parents doing this to me? It’s unfair!), guilty (Is their separation my fault?) and abandoned (If my parents left each other, what is stopping them from leaving me?). With these feelings, a teen may act out in anger.
- Peer pressure and associating with the “wrong crowd”. Your teen will desire to be part of the “cool crowd” and sadly, this can be a crowd that is involved in reckless behavior, rebellion and substance abuse. Teens will do something that they know is not wise just to gain approval and to look “cool” before their peers. The phrase “… but everybody’s doing it!” may cause your child to question your house rules and expectations.
- Stress. Parents may not be aware of this, but the teenage years can be a stressful phase. This is when teens crave for acceptance from their peers, desire to assert their independence and individuality and at the same time, manage the demands they have from school, the social life and their hobbies. Cases of bullying (whether physical, emotional or cyber bullying) may even magnify a teen’s stress levels.
- Depression. Raging hormones, the changes in a teen’s body, peer pressure and the teen’s level of self-esteem and body image will take its toll on his mental health. A poor self-image, coupled by stresses from his studies, social life and family life, coupled with lack of sleep, yo-yo dieting and unhealthy eating habits can leave your teen depressed. During this time, your teen may start withdrawing from family and friends and suicide may be something that he is seriously contemplating.
- Anger and rebellious behavior. Teens may act out in rebellion and defiance, not only of parents but also of authority figures. In some cases, a teen’s anger may manifest in a disregard for others, a lack of cooperation, reckless behavior, getting into trouble with the law or resorting to physical violence.
- Substance abuse. The teenage years can be a time of experimenting, and your teen may turn to alcohol and drugs out of curiosity, peer pressure or anger. It is important to note that substance abuse may be indicative of another problem and delving more deeply into the cause of the substance abuse will help in the process of recovery.
- Reckless behavior. Developmentally, teens do not yet have the full capacity to evaluate risks from a more logical perspective. For them, taking risks is attractive because of the high they feel. This reckless behavior may include indulging in unprotected sex, exposing them to sexually-transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.
- Eating disorders. The pressure that teens feel from media, peers and social media with regards to achieving a certain body type or look can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
- Gaming addiction. Teens are easily addicted to online and role-playing video games. Gaming addicts will remain glued to their computers or playing stations, foregoing sleep, regular meals, classes and schoolwork. The result is poor academic performance, an irritable attitude (because they lack sleep) and social isolation.
What can parents do?
- Show unconditional love. Teens can sometime push your buttons because of their behavior and attitude. Even when you are in the process of disciplining and correcting your kids, the foundation of unconditional love must be laid down.
- Know your child. Get to know who your teen is and what makes him tick – who his friends are, what things are troubling him, what his schedule is for the day, etc. This can only be achieved by keeping communication lines open. Study your teen – getting insights into his thoughts and feelings can help provide another layer of protection against many of the issues and problems listed above.
- Be firm but reasonable. Parents must achieve the balance of laying down the rules and implementing them. The teen must know that there will be consequences when he breaks the house rules. However, these rules should also be reasonable and should be discussed with the teen ahead of time.
- Get help. If you feel that your teen’s behavior is going out of control and your disciplinary actions are not getting results, you can consider getting professional help. This can come in the form of counseling, therapy or enrolling your child in a troubled teen program. Programs such as teen summer camp can help get a child out of his comfort zone and help develop healthy attitudes and behaviors.