Guidelines For Raising Teenagers

Prof. Morris Green, M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine retired pediatric professor, notes the following parent guidelines for raising teenagers: Teenagers, for the most part, do not view the adolescent transition as particularly more stressful than any previous developmental stage. Great physical, intellectual, social and emotional growth occurs between the ages of 11 and 21. The central task for the teenager is to develop a sense of personal identity by adapting to these changes. This process will challenge family rules and values. There are three stages of adolescence: Early Adolescence: rapid growth and sexual maturation. Has increased personal sensitivity about body changes, measures appearances and skills against the "ideal" and is not tolerant of differences from the "norm." Girls have a bigger problem with this aspect than boys. The need to belong to a group is intense as well as the desire to conform to a group.
Middle Adolescence: Peer influence decreases somewhat, but achieving psychological independence from the parents is paramount. Experimentation with alcohol, cigarettes and sexual activity occurs between the ages of 15-16 years. However, there is a greater motivation to do "what is right, " control impulsiveness and resolve conflicts. Peer pressure increases. Great intellectual growth occurs during this phase as well as the ability to engage abstract concepts. Late Adolescence: The main tasks of this stage are to prepare to enter the adult world, including the formation of vocational goals and a strong sense of personal identity. Health Issues: Illness and injury are generally related to behaviors, such as drinking, driving and sexual activity. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for15-24 year olds, followed by homicide and suicide, typically involving firing arms. 50 percent of 8th graders have tried alcohol. Cigarette smoking continues to increase, usually starting between the 6th and 9th grades of school. More than 50 percent of teens have had a sexual experience by age 18.  Parenting Adolescents: Teens receiving supportive, authoritative parenting tend to have higher levels of competence, self-esteem, moral development, impulse control and independence. Discipline based on asserting power with harsh punishment leads to anxiety, immaturity and behavior problems for teens. They respond better when allowed to disagree and state their concerns. It is important to respond to a teenager's need for increasing responsibility and decision-making power while maintaining family closeness, warmth and communication. Teens need parental praise, support, availability and interest in their daily activities. Unconditional positive regard is extremely important. The balance of power between a teenager and parent is naturally going to shift in time. However, clear expectations and consistent discipline should continue.
Sreenivasarao Vepachedu, 08/05/98

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