Dealing with teenage blues
Adults often tell young people that the teenage years are the ‘best years of your life’. Rosy remembrances highlight happy groups of high school students energetically involved in a dance or some sporting event, and all those mushy crushes. This is only a part of the picture. Life for many young people is a painful tug-of-war filled with mixed messages and conflicting demands from parents, teachers, coaches, friends and one’s own self. Growing up — negotiating a path between independence and reliance on others — is a tough business.
“My parents just don’t want to understand me. They are always talking about ‘deadlines’ and ‘restriction’. Last week I went for a party, some of the guys got into a fight. When my mom came to know this, she has started the ‘no more parties’ rule. I am being punished for something I was not involved in. That is so not done,” complains 17-years-old Rahul Shrestha.
This is a normal behaviour many teenagers show towards their parents’ decisions. Teens complain their parents don’t understand them, and parents say their children don’t listen to them. “These are the normal signs that a teenager shows. Disagreements with parents, isolation from elders, identity crisis and the feeling of being misunderstood. This occurs due to hormonal changes in them,” says psychologist Bharat Bikram Thapa.
“An absence of communication and understanding among children and parents leads to the teenagers getting closer to their friends,” he says adding that teens are successful in creating their own identity among friends thus enjoy spending time with friends who give them importance.
It’s not only parties and deadlines that the parents complain about, says 18-year-old Sishma Thapa. She says her parents have complaints about everything she does.
“They don’t approve my choice of clothes, music and even friends. They always nag me about my food habits. Some of my friends complain that their brothers get more freedom than them. Life for a teenage girl is very difficult,” she says.
And Kripa Gauchan feels that life is very unfair. She says her parents do not trust her and often compare her to her cousins and their friends’ children.
These events are centered in the two most important domains of a teenager’s life — home and school. Most teenagers respond to stressful events like break-ups, loss of friends, arguments with parents and siblings, failure in achieving their goals by doing something relaxing, trying something positive and self-reliant problem solving, or seeking friendship and support from others. These are healthy ways to channel one’s stress, but those who are not open about their problems might face even more difficult problems.
Stress and depression are serious problems for many teenagers. Stress is characterised by feelings of tension, frustration, worry, sadness and withdrawal that commonly last from a few hours to a few days. Depression is characterised by more extreme feelings of hopelessness, sadness, isolation, worry, withdrawal and worthlessness that last for two weeks or more. These young people often rely on passive or negative behaviours in their attempts to deal with problems.
“The best way to handle a teen is by listening to him/her rather than talking to them. Youngsters usually have someone they idolise — parents, siblings, friends and even relatives. So the effective way to make the child hear you is by passing the message through these idols whom they will listen to. They should be given a certain amount of freedom to speak their mind and participate in decision-making processes, but should also be given firm limitations that they should not cross,” suggests Thapa.
He also adds that it is important for parents to know their children’s likes and preferences. One should keep an account of what they do and their friend circle, show interest in their hobbies and support their decisions. Spending quality time and lending an ear will make them feel comfortable about talking to you.