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Problems during adolescence

Puberty and sexuality
Puberty and sexuality | ©: Andrey Popov - Fotolia

Puberty - one of the most difficult phases in the life of every human being. The term "puberty" (derives from the Latin word "puberty" = sexual maturity) and refers to the period of transition from childhood to sexual maturity; the transformation into adulthood. This transition is characterized by many changes in life. From letting go of the parents over finding their own identity to taking a firm place in society; children and young people face a lot of challenges during puberty.

It is not really surprising that almost every child faces problems during this transition. Some of these are normal and disappear on their own. However, others require professional help because the young person can no longer cope with the changes and challenges.

What specific problems do we see in children and adolescents during puberty?

Puberty: Stress with or for parents
Puberty: Stress with or for parents | ©: emese73 - Fotolia

A major challenge for parents is that, on one hand, they want to give the young person the personal freedom to break free from home; at the same time however they want to convey the feeling that whenever they need help their parents will be there. This takes a lot of finesse.

Children want to grow up

Furthermore, children during adolescence tend to engage in power struggles with their parents to challenge their authority. In addition to the bad mood, typical for this age, due to the almost uncontrollable emotional chaos, the child faces an explosive mixture of feelings, a ticking bomb so to speak.

Sexuality and first love

Puberty and first love
Puberty and first love | ©: Petra Fiedler - Fotolia

Almost always puberty is associated with the first love. As if the hormonal changes were not enough, to the mix now comes the love chaos as well. And not only that: suddenly sexuality plays an important role - with all the pleasant and unpleasant consequences.

Mood chaos to follow

It is not uncommon for depressed moods or even depression to develop during puberty, particularly in girls. The parents should be very vigilant. If the situation is extreme or does not correct itself, professional help should be sought.

It is particularly uncomfortable for the parents that those problems often go hand in hand with an plunge in their academic achievments. What this means the young person is, so to speak, “under construction”.

How are parents supposed to deal with the typical problems of their adolescent children?

  • In conflict situations, stay cool

    If the young person again is out to provoke and rubbing up against the parents, calmness is highly recommended. Show sovereignty and be the quiet, prudent part in the conflict! Your child soon will lose interest to provoke you.

  • Make clear agreements

    Particularly during turbulent times such as puberty, clear rules and agreements are important. However, that might not go down well with your child. However, it is important that you insist on agreed rules without any ifs and buts. At the same time, it is important that you do not have too many rules so you can keep tab of the “number of bad fields”.

  • Be understanding

    Remember: You went through puberty once too. Chances are your parents had to “suffer” through the very same difficulties like you are now with your children today. Strive for thoughtfulness and leniency. This will create less conflicting situations.

  • Don’t be clingy

    Even if you would like to lock your child up in his room for the complete period of puberty: clinginess does not bring anything. The young person needs space to go through the entire process of successfully finding and creating his own identity. Therefore give your child the necessary space - of course, within the stated limits.

  • Convey self-esteem to your child

    Children and young people need to learn to deal with criticism. The easiest way to achieve this is to give your child a healthy self-esteem. You can do this by honest praise and appropriate recognition of the skills and talents of the child.

What should youth worker or –leader look out for when dealing with adolescents?

Puberty and internal emotional chaos
Puberty and internal emotional chaos
©: ***SALAUYOU YURY*** - Fotolia

All those already described rules for parents are useful for the youth worker as well. However, on one hand the youth worker has less influence on the child, on the other hand, children within a group always feel stronger. This may lead to additional problems. The recommendation here above all is: stay cool and do not let them provoke them.

On a better note though: the youth worker can be a helpful sounding board for the teenagers. Young people see the youth worker as a neutral person, outside the conflict between children and parents. As a youth worker, take this chance. It might lead to a harmonious and trusting relationship. You could take on the role of a consultant for each child in your care. This includes responding in the best possible way to the ideas and wishes of the young people.

Programs to offer

Youth work with young people aged 12-17 is quite differently from the work with younger children. While, in the past, a game night would do it for the kids, a teenager is not as easily excitable for a game night. Now there is the opportunity to hang out or to discuss typical issues that concern young people. Young people are looking for direction while at the same time they do not want to be spoon-fed either. They want to decide for themselves.

Therefore, it is important to treat young people like adults, even if they are not adults yet. Similar to toddlers learning to run (and certainly have a few falls in the process), teenager need to make their first experiences with adult life. The physical development and sexual maturity is accompanied by a high level of uncertainty regarding their own and others' sexuality. The emotional development leads to mood swings – towards their parents, themselves and others. Teenagers can be sky high while dying of sorrow the next moment. This is also the time when they make their first experiences with the opposite sex. This in itself can lead to an emotional roller coaster, which is bound to overwhelm the young person. It is not uncommon that those experiences unbalance teens. Things, which were organized by the young person’s parents, the young person now is responsible for and needs to find a way to cope. The physical and sexual development as well as mental changes – everything is coming down to the young person at once.

It is beneficial for the young person to experience the youth group as a space where he is taken seriously. Where he can find a youth worker who is willing to listen, he can trust and also receives direction. Sometimes it might even happen that the youth worker no longer is the program manager but advances to chaplaincy.

Discussions with the youth group on issues such as love and confidence, how to deal with each other, disappointments, growing into adulthood as well as about all the other problems along the way are not just helpful, all of a sudden the young person might even show interest into those topics. It is possible that one or the other topic is not taken all too seriously – but then again, that also could be an expression of the young person’s insecurity. However, thematic game nights such as confidence games or games requiring cooperation followed by bouncing off of ideas can be quite interesting during this age.

Taking time to take them seriously

In my time, I knew youth workers who did not take the necessary time and were gone immediately after the group night ended. I also knew youth workers who called the kids “the little ones.” This means not meeting the young person on equal ground. Therefore, you can’t and won’t take them seriously. This in turn prevents you from building a trusting relationship. Youth work equals relationship work and can only succeed if the youth worker is able to build a relationship with the young person. This is important particularly during puberty. Usually, there are some difficulties between parents and teens. The young people feel no longer understood and also feel restricted. Therefore, it is helpful if the young person meets a youth worker who knows how to listen and can positively identify their needs.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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