Parents vs. Children: When Teenagers Become Adults!
“I have my own identity! I cannot live after yours!” These are surely painful words for any parent. “Since when did he become so independent?” and “Since when what I say to him no longer matter?” are questions that arise from the mind of any parent, once the total protector of his child, when he sees himself put in the situation on having to let his child take his own first decisions. Can a parent make this step? And if yes, with what sacrifices?
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Family Life, Until Separation
Peter Blas, a psychoanalyst who studied adolescent period, said that “As a teenager, we witness the second step towards individualization”. Of course, as the first step he meant the second year of the child`s life. Then he begins making the difference between his world, viewed from a self-centered perspective until then, and its perception from the point of view of another person as well.
The same happens in adolescence, but at a much more complex and difficult level for parents. Finally, he gets to have his own sense of identity.
However, by then things are relatively simple from the parents` perspective. The child complies with the requirements and wishes of his parents, listens and lives of their ideas, and plays his role of a scenario created by them. In a word, the preadolescent child is a product of his parents, a “fake me.”
Thus, the main problem during adolescence, the one that give parents all the headache, actually means a change from this “fake me” to an authentic one, a standalone product, governed by his own ideas and desires. Sometimes, the transition to this stage of life means contradicting the aspirations of a familiar environment, a decision not exactly welcomed by parents.
You may also want to read 10 Things That Your Child Will Always Want To Hear From You!
Also sometimes, in a first phase this shift is characterized by destructive thoughts and actions. The teenager seems to throw everything away and break any ties cu with family, rebelling and trying to impose their own personality, still found in a fragile state. For a lot of parents, this necessary phase for the mental individualization of the child is the moment when they get scared and feel they can no longer cope with the situation. No reaction could be more wrong than this one. Instead of being scared, fight with the child for his bursts of energy and creativity, they should instead support him and guide him towards constructive ways to help him define his own potential. – More info!
Varying from one culture to another, from one person to another, adolescence extends from puberty until adulthood. Sometimes earlier, other times later, the child decides inevitably to break away from the family and separate from the decisions, dogmas and desires of parents.
The Death of Childhood, Beginning of a New Life
In primitive societies, the transition from childhood to adolescence or young adult stage was marked by rituals. However, today the confirmation of an adult is more a matter of perception than a striking fact that doesn`t let this moment pass by itself. Maybe, the only other ritual of this kind is celebrating graduation, but there are few those parents who are giving this moment the necessary seriousness.
Today, the death of childhood and beginning of the life of a young adult only makes sense in romantic literary works, in which the hero has to take his life into his own hands. There are plenty of reasons, accepted by the entire society, for which is delayed as much as possible the ending of childhood and entry of adulthood. The difficulty of having your own home, finding a new job, the necessity of having a longer schooling, all these contribute to extending of childhood and delaying adulthood. Sometimes, even parents delay this stage, some of them starting this process during adolescence. – Read this!
“At your age I already had a child,” seems to be a reply that today is as ironic as unsuitable. Ironic, because the parent who is saying this cannot break the parental attitude to let his children take their own decisions and endure his own consequences, but who wants to give an example of total responsibility. Incomplete and outdates, because “in their times” young people wanted to leave from under their authoritarian parents, the only way they were able to make this giant step is by starting a new family. However, today the parental control is a lot more permissive. The outside world seems a place full of competition and difficulty, while the idea of family is more of a relaxing and welcoming place. Why should a teenager choose to be responsible and mature, when at home his parents take care of everything?
Statistics show that over 80% of children still live with their parents at 28 years old. Birth and marriages are in a continuous drop, and all these are mainly due to the parents` constant concerns for their children through which deprive them of their own decision-making. – Check this out!
Therefore, is good to let the teenager express himself, even if this means a split of personality between him and his family. And this about it! At birth, the child needs to detach from his mother to avoid dying. While he learns the first steps, the child gets further and further away from his mother, to explore and develop. Along with age, in the end adolescence occurs, and the teenager becomes more and more distant, more capable of living on his own. In a word, yes: separation is a normal process, a natural next step of life.
The Life of Parents after Separation
There`s a period of “mourning” for parents, in which they “mourn” after the separation of their son or daughter. Their child no longer thinks after their own ideas, no longer wants their company so much and no longer needs them. Being a natural process, the “mourning” period is felt most strongly by mothers.
Actually, this period has 3 phases:
- Protest: “You don`t listen to me,” “You think you`re all grown up now” or “You think the world can offer you what I give you.”
- Desperation: “I don`t know what to do with you anymore,” “I don`t understand you anymore” or “I can no longer control you.”
- Separation: represented by accepting that the teenager is now an individual, an adult with his own aspirations and desires: “You are on your own.”
A child who reached this stage leaves in the parent`s soul an emptiness given by the inability of expressing possession, power and protection. Parents identify often through children. Therefore, when they become individuals, they feel obligated to reformulate their concept of self to emptying the gap left by the child. By feeling obligated to accepting this new condition, this moment can affect a parent in many ways: it frightens him or rejuvenates him.
How many parents don’t try to keep their child under their own control, “attached to the nest,” instead of letting him to spread his wings and learn how to fly? How many don`t let nature to take his own course? How many don`t repeat as many times as they can phrases, like: “My child has changed, I almost don`t recognize him anymore?”
A lot of times, the child`s desire for autonomy is seen as abandonment or treason. All that can be contested, it is, from the child`s friends to his clothes, emotions or aspirations. Any new idea is reversed, leading to even more rigidity from parents. If the actions aren`t so and the parent approves his child`s decisions, he`ll want to know everything about what`s happening in his child`s life – his friends, emotions, etc. This is known in psychology as the protest stage.
Victimization is often found in the desperation phase. “Everything I`ve done is for you” becomes a common phrase of those parents who now feel left behind, overwhelmed. However, this emotional stage is an unconscious one, so the teenager shouldn`t overreact to it, the negative intention being nonexistent.
These stages are indispensable for the maturation of the relationship between a parent and a teenager. Just as life has its own stages, so are the moment of separation between children and parents. Finally, the relationship between teenagers and parents will be based on affection, not one of dependency and subordination. Little by little, parents will become children and children parents, the relationship becoming an addictive one again. However, all this take several more years.
Sometimes, parents don`t let their child free from an overly possessive sense of protection. Then we may witness to dramatic manifestations of the teenager, to desperate attempts, violent outbursts or strong rebellion. Other times, we can see on the stress people of 30 – 40 years that still live for their “mommy” and “daddy,” adults – children who weren`t allowed to break away when it was time.
For teenagers, as a physical construction, it`s vital to face the world, build and overcome their own difficulties and problems, develop their own abilities to cope in the world. However, the age`s advantage is the parental reception and love under which they may still hide for a while when they feel they cannot cope with the world yet.
“Your Children Aren`t Our Children”
No one can better say this thing than the poet Kahlil Gibran, in his book The Prophet:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.”
Unfortunately, parental possessiveness is the most common sense of “education,” however, this being a deep non-educational attitude. Although practiced from good intentions, this doesn`t create a world for the child, but rather limits it, seizing the child himself. How do you feel when someone tries to hinder your ideas?
From the “Stop crying!” said to the child when he is little, which is intended to forbidden his own emotions, to “Don`t dress like that!” told to the teenager, these good intentions are nothing more than selfish manifestations of the parent, the strangulation of the inner feelings of another person. – Click here!
It`s easy to overcome the protection, changing to hyper protection, the teenager in a child. Therefore, we risk having an adult-child in the future, incapable of his own autonomy. So, a bit more from The Prophet should be more than obvious:
“You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.”