Adolescence marks the transition from a child into an adult. As your adolescent undergoes extensive physical, emotional, and intellectual changes, he begins to look and act differently. The child also gains new social experiences at this age that form the basis of his emotional feelings. As a result, there are discernible changes in the way he interacts with family and friends.
Adolescence is a chaotic time, with your child becoming vulnerable to impulsive and immature behavior that further worsens in a negative environment. You should be aware of adolescence changes in your child and understand the social and emotional alterations that he undergoes. According to a 2004 report in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, the parent-child bonding helps soothe adolescent social and emotional functioning, prevent risk behaviors, and improve coping skills. So, support him positively and successfully help integrate these changes into his life.
Social Changes in Adolescent: What To Expect
An adolescent’s social behavior is a product of his experiences and environment he is subject to. His social development, family experiences, friend circle, cultural values, and community life play a significant part. The changes are indicative of his growing independence and assertion of not being a child anymore. He is focused on carving out an identity for himself different from his parents.
You may see the following changes in your child as he steps into adolescence.
- The child seeks more independence. His actions and behaviors signify his intention to take decisions independently. He does not like to ask for parental permission or endorsement too often for his decisions or dealing with family and friends.
- Your adolescent looks for self-identity. Childhood learning remains focused on following his parents. But in adolescence, your child tries to find out his distinct identity. He looks up to his peer group and friends.
- Sexual identity becomes more apparent after puberty and it plays a role in his choices, relationships, and behavior.
- Cultural background influences his social experiences. Your adolescent starts giving importance to cultural values more than ever.
- Risk-taking behavior is a part of adolescence life. The changes in the brain lead your child to seek new experiences. Unable to control impulses, they are not able to control the urge for risks.
- Moral and social values play a significant role in the life of your child as he steps into adolescence. He becomes more concerned about what is right or wrong. A sense of responsibility for his actions or decisions grows up.
- Romantic relationships may happen during adolescence as sexual hormones soar up.
- With the expansion of relationships, there is an increased use of the Internet, mobile phones and social media. This too has a bearing on their communication methods and style.
Emotional Changes in Adolescent: What To Expect
Adolescence is often linked to a rebellious attitude in kids. Parents may find an adolescent not amenable easily. He prefers to question everything before accepting or adopting anything. Extreme emotions and mood changes lead to major clashes with parents. However, such a condition is not apparent in more than 15% of adolescents, though they behave in challenging ways. Here are the most common emotional changes visible in an adolescent.
- Intense emotions and strong feelings are common. This is linked to under-developed gamma-aminobutyric acid neurotransmission in the adolescent brain.
- Your child may also exhibit impulsive behavior due to the predominance of glutamatergic neurotransmission.
- With his brain feeling the heat of changes, it is natural for an adolescent to experience emotional ups and downs. This results in unpredictable moods.
- Adolescents are more sensitive than any other age group, as they are trying to make decisions independently.
- Increased self-consciousness is another trait. Your child may frequently evaluate his physical appearance and compare it with that of friends and peers.
- Increased independence leads to an enhanced sense of self-esteem and self-reliance.
- Suboptimal decision-making is a characteristic feature of the adolescence period. Decision-making skills are not fully developed, but your child still likes to make decisions himself. He seeks more responsibility.
- Your child loves to experience and engages in risk-taking behavior.
- Gender consciousness becomes more noticeable in the adolescent life.
Relationship Changes in an Adolescent: What To Expect
The influence of friends is more pervasive than that of family members in an adolescent’s life. As a result, family ties may witness changes. Your child spends more time with friends and becomes less inclined to spend time with family. This creates a gap between the child and his parents with the potential for conflict. Arguments often break out as he views parental suggestions as an act of interference.
Though peer influence dominates the adolescence life, a child cannot ignore his family altogether. This shows the primary role of parents in his life. You must be committed to helping your child re-engineer and integrate grown-up emotions and social skills.
Mental Health of An Adolescent
Differential maturation of limbic systems during adolescence influences incentive and emotional processing in your child. As a result, he develops heightened responsiveness, becomes prone to emotional reactivity, and finds it difficult to balance emotions. His actions and decisions put him at a greater risk of poor mental health, antisocial behavior, and unintentional injuries.
Teenagers are more vulnerable to violence, substance abuse, and unintended pregnancy. An adolescent is more likely to suffer from depression, risky sexual activity, eating disorders, drug dependence, school drop-out, and other problems with long-term implications for his health.
Social and emotional changes are a natural part of the adolescence life. You cannot prevent them. However, you can make your child’s journey to adulthood easier, without any adverse, long-term social and emotional effects. Parents must help their adolescent kids to navigate through this period of turmoil.
Supporting Your Adolescent
- Don’t dismiss your child’s behavior as just teenage moodiness. Talk to him, convey your concerns, and motivate him to respect family and social norms.
- A stronger family bond ensures that your child remains more attached to you than his friends and peer groups. This puts you in a better place than others to shape his choices, interests, values and morals.
- Dissent is common in an adolescent’s life because children seek more independence. Understand their emotions and help them channelize them without excessive control.
- Don’t let conflicts become major clashes. Your child is maturing, and it is normal for him to put forth his views. Avoid arguments, as these lead to nowhere except more conflict at home. Better become a friend and a mentor to your child.
- Understand the adolescent perspective of life. His behavior is not to offend you, but is a product of changes in him. He thinks abstractly and begins to develop an independent insight into everything that may not be as you see things and think. However, you have more mature skills while he is yet to acquire such skills.
- Present yourself as a role model for your adolescent Let your children learn from your behavior, deal with difficult emotions, positive relationships, and ways of resolving the conflict.
- Stay in touch with your child’s friends and welcome them into your home. Recognize their importance in your child’s life. Awareness of his social relationships helps you learn more about your child so you can offer consistent guidance.
- Be open with your child about your feelings in a constructive way. Seize on teachable moments to discuss relationships, values, and sexual behavior relating to other people. Reinforce positive aspects while avoiding being authoritarian.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com