At the same time as adolescents are tied into a changing of body their emotions are often at the mercy of hormonal change. They may feel from time to time that nobody is in control! Here there is a need for personal space and sensitive space. Remember they are not yet adults and you will have to treat each moment as it comes, sometimes they will want you to give lots of hugs, other times they will brush you away. Do try to be understanding.
With the best of your intentions your teenager may still feel no one understands. Someone has said that every adolescent believes they are the first adolescent in history! This can lead to a sense they are meeting the challenge alone, and as their fears are often poorly articulated, they can be misunderstood by adults as a rejection of their love. This is not the case but they need to talk on their own terms and at their own choice of time, which rarely coincides with a time convenient to us.
Dr Ross Campbell in his book, ‘How to Really Love Your Teenager’ gives some helpful advice on how to recognise those times when your adolescent wants to talk. Everyone will be able to identify those times if they look for the clues. He writes about the teenager who really wants to talk on a subject which they find threatening, so instead of getting straight down to the point, will ask a question quite out of character. The alert person will pick this up.
For example, if they never ask about how your day went but suddenly do, this is a clue that a deeper conversation is being looked for. Campbell puts it like this, ‘We must be alert for such unsolicited and sometimes puzzling gestures, usually a hesitant teenager’s way of asking for time and focused attention. He is ‘feeling us out,’ testing us to see what kind of mood and frame of mind we’re in – to see if it is safe to approach us on an issue about which he feels uncomfortable.’ He says that for his own children he got used to the words, ‘Oh by the way’ being the code to pay particular attention.
As has already been indicated, adolescents have not achieved a settled identity and part of the emotional change they go through is establishing this identity. The question, ‘Who am I?’ can lead to crises. Pressure on all sides to be this or that creates confusion, inconsistency, discouragement, and even anger. As adults you must recognise your own fallibility and if young people have not already grasped this truth, they certainly will during the adolescent years. This realisation may cause anxiety as they come to terms emotionally with this truth.