Changing Adolescent Needs

How do we adapt to the needs of our adolescent children?

Throughout life’s developmental milestones we receive benchmarks to indicate that our children are growing and developing at a healthy pace. When our children are infants and miss or fall short of these expectations attention is received from parents, pediatricians and teachers.

“When we are very young the only approval we need is the approval of our parents and as we go through adolescence we make this transition where now we need the approval of our peers.” Simon Sinek

Moving into adolescence, the milestones are not as clearly defined therefore our response can feel more confusing. Indicators that an adolescents’ emotional and mental growth is struggling is reflected in behavioral changes. This includes depression, anti-social behavior, acting out, changes in grades, isolation, self-harm, and drug use.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines adolescents as those people between 10 and 19 years of age. 

Adolescence is a time of finding balance between self-discovery, incorporating parents’ expectations and seeking approval from peers. Even in rejection teenagers still need their parents. Learning how to continue caregiving during emotionally volatile times is important.

Families need consistency and structure to foster a positive home environment.

  1. Teenagers need acceptance to try to do things on their own even if it is different than our way.
  2. Letting adolescents know they matter through active listening and interest in who they are becoming and what they are doing.
  3. Knowing when school, friends and life feels hard there is a soft place to land and unconditional love at home.
  4. Maintain structure and care despite rejection and moodiness.
  5. Eat meals together.
  6. Maintaining our role as parent means creating consistent routines and schedules even when adolescence is testing independence and parent separation.
  7. Acknowledging their thoughts and feelings as valid and important.
  8. Teach through example.
  9. There is a difference between rejecting bad behavior and rejecting a person.

As parents we like to take credit for the good behavior in our child and downplay our role in what could be perceived as negative. When we approach parenting decisions we go in with the best of intentions sometimes resulting in an unfavorable outcome.

Our current culture highlights an emphasis on equal treatment a “sticker” for everyone, regardless of what was achieved but that one tried. This is a good intention to contribute to the development of healthy self-esteem and inclusion but undermines some basic needs of inner drive for challenge, physical and emotional growth. These are all necessary contributors to our individual evolution.

Adults and children know the satisfaction and pride in accepting an honor based on achievement that has been earned. The encouragement that inspires us to strive to be the best version of ourselves grows through the times we are challenged.  

Developmental Needs of Adolescents (Elizabeth Ann Clune, 2017)

  • Meaningful Participation in Communities
  • Independence and Responsibility
  • Positive Communication with Adults and Peers
  • Self-Definition
  • Development of Personal Vision
  • Creative Expression
  • Competency and Achievement
  • Physical Activity
  • Structure and Clear Limits

As we see our children go through unexpected challenges it is important for them to know there is a solid foundation for them to get up and try again. Perfection doesn’t exist for our children or in parenting but we do have the ability be consistent, reliable, loving, and understanding.

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