The Turmoil of being a Teenager

The teenage years is a time of stress conflict and inner turmoil. A time of searching exploring “Who am I ?” What am I meant to become and who will help me unravel all the developmental traumas along the way? There are two main forces of adolescence the onset of sexuality and the mandate that teenagers will move away from their parents gradually and from being an infant to childhood and on to adolescence and move further away from their parents. Developmentally the pathways during adolescence is pretty similar for both sexes but there are some differences. It’s also psychologically normal for teenagers to go through a pathway of unexplainable and often unpredictable social behaviours leaving parents confused and anxious.This leads to parental misperceptions and gross misunderstandings as their beloved children begin to explore their personal and group Identities. We know form adolescent research findings that innocuous events such as a mum or dad going into a teenagers room when they are listening to music or chatting to their friends causes deep anxiety in the teenagers Its frustrating invasive and frequently unwanted by the children. They become virtually allergic to the parents almost reducing parents to tears. There is a full scale enigma here as the feelings which pull kids towards parents during teenage years also becomes repulsive to the teenagers. Gender differences become apparent in scenarios where touch is appropriate in the context of the parent – teenagers context. Teenagers often become highly embarrassed when parents kiss or hug them. But it’s usually acceptable from grandparents. Teenage boys will become covert and hide away from parents whilst girls will challenge and become motivated by pushing the parent’s buttons to test the stress threshold. Guys will normally agree to parents request to do the vacuming and others simple household chores but then deliberately go missing by going out of the house and off to town with their mates. The young male species are motivated towards privacy not allowing their parents access to their most private and intimate thoughts, that is the No Go area. Their teenage sisters have better success by taking mum or dad into their confidence and sharing some portion of their private lives online or offline.

The area of human sexuality is intricate and walking on eggshells as the young adolescent males is still grappling with his or her own sexual competences and awareness.The ubiquitous mobile phone and tablets serves to intensify the privacy of their developing lives and with it becomes higher levels of stress on top of academic work assignments and sexual relationships. They refuse to use the landline and will go to extremes to keep their world ultimately private and inaccessible .It is the immeasurable power of social media that shapes who they are and what they were previously and what they will become. It is to them the ultimate source of reality define their entirety and emotional networks. The laws and rules of human sexuality prescribes the male teenagers attraction to the mother as his parent and also his mentor but herein lies the conflict. He’s attracted to young women in his peers group as he works out his sexuality and emotional regulation. The physiological attraction to his mother also triggers off a gradual moving further away from her in his teenage mind. He wants to demonstrate his autonomy , as does his sisters , but he may feel that he is dishonourable towards her and she feels rejected. He will struggle with his father son relationship as he becomes fully aware of same sex feelings and tries to negotiate this developmental pathway he has to work hard to refine the emotional closeness and affection showed by his father , or in many cases nowadays none at all. As the stress levels rise in the male and female teenagers, the males who have much less verbal reasoning skills will avoid any attempt to negotiate with parents preferring to demonstrate their Fight- Flight competences.

The testosterone levels predominate over verbal skills and so he gets ready for acts of aggression They will smash a few glasses cups or saucers to demonstrate their anger and frustration. They really can’t handle confrontation and this is the release valve blowing off emotional steam. There is also at this stage a moving away from the previous state of selves and emotional attachment towards an adolescent battlefield where daily battles are fought with both parents. Neither side have the psychological skills mandatory to resolve and make sense out of the situation. Boys will always prefer to go into “Flight mode” as a coping mechanism moving out of the home for a few days with his mates “somewhere”. The retaliatory spirit motivates him to leave no trace as to where he is, no texts no phone calls to parents but his inner self will motivate him to return like the prodigal son without judgment . Girls will do the opposite by engaging in mini-battles with both parents going into playing mind games and stretching their parents psychologically with no outward displays of respect or affection.

The teenage males and females have little control over brain activity and day by day they have to be mindful of the surrounding pressures on them to develop a smooth level of physical emotional and cognitions. Whilst the males wish to rise early and go to the gym…. their teenage brain will not allow it and they will laze around in bed most of the day engaging in listening to music fiddling with their smartphones and texting sexting and listening to their favourite music.Their lives become rapidly passive on every dimension and they are not bothered. The teenage girl is different in that she will try to deal with the psychological dilemma in a more sensible way. They feel it’s unacceptable to be now attached to parents as that’s for childhood , nor do they wish to be dependent on them. Furthermore, thy see themselves as an adult deluding themselves as they are a child by law until they are eighteen years old, in the eyes of the law. Here comes more confusion as they become engrossed in teenage behaviours of sexting texting and transmitting inappropriate photographs across Facebook Twitter Instagram Snapchat and other social media platforms.  Their perception of being seen by society as a “child” is abhorrent to them and this triggers of more high risque behaviours online and offline.  The nice charming and conforming daughter now acts and behaves like a little monster untameable and sometimes innately more challenging emotionally. They know the strategy to break the parents emotional resilience and win the day. The motivational states of teenage daughters is to get the message across to parent’s that “I am not dependent on you and don’t try to love me, it doesn’t work “

Inwardly they do in fact feel a sense of confusion between attachment and dis attachment a genuine dilemma. Because their sexuality is not such a big issue in their relationship with their parents some teenage girls can build up a strong relationship with the dad, only if the father can grapple with his daughters tantrums and displays of anger resentment frustration and confusion. The mother daughter attachment will always be stronger than that to the father. Research shows that the challenging difficult teenage girl can be certainly more psychologically destructive to parents than their son who simply vanishes off the scene for two or three days at a time. Interestingly even though the son goes off court, the teenage girl will wish to stay on centre court preserving the attachment to both parents.

Arthur Cassidy Ph.D