From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Teens Need Healthy Adults
Believe it or not, teenagers are a shy group. The media often portrays today's
teenagers as boisterous and aggressive, but in my 14 years as a family therapist, I have
not found this to be the case. Among peers, kids will be kids; one on one, there's a very
sensitive person living inside that growing and changing self. Here's how I read it...
- Teenagers want to communicate with their parents in non-threatening ways. Like the rest
of us, teenagers shy away from criticism and rejection. They constantly fight feelings of
insecurity and inferiority and need encouragement. Teenagers long for parental respect and
confidence, but are quick to turn away when their feelings get hurt. Parents need to coax
their children to communicate freely, and then honor their trust once it is established.
- Teenagers need to relate to healthy non-parental adults. Teens choose various adults as
their role models. These adults may be teachers, counselors, doctors, neighbors, friends
or other relatives. If they are healthy well-intentioned individuals, they may guide your
child in successful directions or simply provide a comforting ear. Through these
mentor-like relationships, your child may gain a stronger sense of themselves and worth as
a human being. They may also provide a safety net to help children cope with their
problems or get help before its too late.
- Teenagers have every right to fear for their safety. It is a dangerous world for our
teenagers. They are at high risk for suicide, depression, drug/alcohol problems and
violence. They need safe places to turn. Teenagers are exposed to difficult realities
every day, both in and outside of school. Their health and safety are constantly at risk.
They often receive poor health care, are exposed to sexually-transmitted diseases, get in
traffic accidents, or find themselves in potentially violent conflicts. For many teens,
life is one nightmare after the next.
- Teens need a Safe Place to which they can return. Teenagers are caught between
independence and the need for continued dependence. Like the toddler who vacillates
between walking and holding onto "Mama", teens need to venture out in the world,
test their wings, and then have a safe home for return. They are challenged to find a
"happy medium" point of relying upon themselves, and relying upon support from
those they love.
- Teens need a life-plan for success. It is easy to get lost in the complex here-now day
to day experiences. Teenagers need a vision of their future to make sense of life on a
daily basis. If they have well-defined goals and confidence in their ability to succeed,
they can more easily cope with the momentary struggles. But if the future looks dismal and
painful, they may too easily give up on themselves and their lives.
Teenagers are just young adults who will soon move into their independent lives. As
parents, it is hard to let go, and hard to watch them trip and fall. We can't always
rescue them or prevent their pain, but we can assure them of their ability to achieve and
be happy. When we are confident in our children, they learn to be confident in themselves.
Some years ago, I quoted Sandra Maass-Robinson, M.D. as saying, "Ultimately,
parenting becomes the wonderfully rare opportunity of assisting in the development of life
long friendships with very special people --- your own children". I still agree!
ęCopyright, 1993, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,