EDITORIAL 10 : Adolescences

Octubre de 2011

Adolescence is probably the stage of life where people´s development can cause more conflicts, so much to the particular adolescent as to his relationship with the others. Some of the adolescent´s behaviours are disconcerting, rebellious, unstable… in general inexplicable for the adults which live with him, and in most cases it is not due to any clinical disorder, but to the “obstacles characteristic of its path”, which once overcome, permit one to be more conscious of effort and personal growth capacities.

That way, this stage transforms itself into an opportunity for the adolescent to value himself more, reinforcing his way of being, as long as he overcomes it in a successful direction. We could say that an adolescent who does not go through the characteristic obstacles of this convulsive stage, can come out of it with a weaker vision of himself and of his capacity to overcome adversities. Given this, the adolescent should reach this stage prepared to face new situations, to adapt himself to deep changes and to come out with his head up from conflicts which can appear unexpectedly, in this way preparing himself for the next stage which will be the longest of his life, adulthood.

Many of the adolescent´s behaviours, though bothersome for those who live with him, they are necessary for the child´s suitable development in maturity and personality.

Adolescence can be a difficult stage as it constitutes the TRANSITION between childhood and adulthood in a short period of time, with multiple changes occurring at all levels (physical, emotional, social), which in many cases those experimenting it cannot understand or control it. In addition and which can be even worse, is that those who live with him understand it even less, aggravating further the situation when they do not show an attitude which promotes understanding. In many cases, the referred attitude is that of rejection through the bothersome they cause or through the bad memories they generate to the person who lives with the adolescent, based on his own adolescent experiences, which perhaps were negative.

Adolescence´s ambiguity sometimes causes to be treat as a child without taking him into consideration in family or friends groups, whilst at the same time he is required as much as an adult (education, responsibility, balance..).

One of adolescences´ main goals by those living with him, is to be generating in the individual what will be finally his personality, that is to say, a pattern of coherent and predictable conducts, thoughts and feelings. The first step to reach this unique and non-transferable profile that will be his personality, starts by trying to understand concepts as that of personal identity, with his limits and his interaction with others´ limits. At this point the adolescent starts asking himself questions such as: Who am I?, Where do I come from? What for?... and perhaps the most important of all: Will I be able to?

Normally this personality building process tends to start with a rejection to everything associated to his childhood and sometimes in a more advance stage, as a way of reinforcing, an absurd exaggeration of behaviours that they consider typical of adults (smoke, drink, swear, criticise the younger…).

Curiously enough, this necessity to break off with the past is not well taken by the parents, which tend to feel their authority threatened, and they perceive that family ties are in danger (with the inclusion of new individuals: friends, partners.. who pass on to be the most important in the adolescent´s live), as well as values that they tried to instil in previous stages… which now appear in the background against the popularity between his peers or the necessity to reinforce his strength or beauty.

Those who are around an adolescent can also perceive as an exaggeration that need for intimacy (of recent appearance: they already have secrets), autonomy (they do not want you to go with them everywhere anymore), and originality (they still need to feel special), which mixed with the normal insecurity of adolescents, generates a fantastic breeding ground for the conflicts between themselves or between them and their families.

As they discover their own intimacy, shame could appear and this why they sometimes act in such chaste form which can even lead them to isolate themselves. Adults who live with him do not always take into consideration this need for intimacy … and here is where the problems begin. It is important to understand that there exists one´s own physical space, a security space existent in all species, which as they get older, grows in accordance. The presence in his circle of an intimate person who treats his feelings with respect, without criticism or rejections, is crucial to overcome this stage as best as possible. Perhaps this is why for an adolescent his intimate friends, his secrets, his music, his writs, etc… are fundamental.

In order for a being to be able to grow up into a self-confident adult, who was completely dependant on his guardians when he was born, and who in his childhood had problems to detach himself from those important adults in his life, the adolescent needs to take his own decisions, fall on his own mistakes and assume the responsibilities of his decisions and mistakes, as well as knowing how to measure the celebrations of his good decisions. Some parents, the least confident, are opposed to this need of autonomy being frightened they will lose with it the bond that united them to their children.

Within the most important difficulties we encounter in the adolescence period are the adultmorphia and the infantilization, that is to say, the excess and the lack in the process of autonomy. There is an expression said between the professionals in the mental health area, which comes to highlight that, “An adultmorphia child will be an infatilized adult”. At the same time, an infantilized adolescent is at risk of perpetuating the characteristic unstable traits from the adolescence period throughout his life. The more inflexible and ridge the family is, the more radical tends to be the adolescent´s search for autonomy.

As to the child´s need for originality, some parents insist in repeating previous models (from themselves, from older brothers, neighbours…), which can be lived by the adolescent as a rejection to his own essence. And if the person cannot develop his essence at home, he could try to do it, sometimes in an exaggerated manner, outside the family. Other times, as a form of opposition to the family´s position, they choose the contrary to what they are imposed.

All these difficulties are further increased the more insecure the individual is and more difficulties exist, so much inside as outside of him, to develop in a natural way towards that transition which will take him to the adult stage. In between the intrinsic difficulties an adolescent can encounter, they are the disorders they suffer and which undermine the confidence on oneself. In these cases, being understood by those who live with him, having the charismatic lead of the significant adults in his life, the establishment of clear limits which respect their differences, the emotional warmth of a family and an efficient communication atmosphere where it is not difficult to express what one feels, are even more important. One must not forget to respect each one´s maturing rhythm and allow physical spaces where the adolescent can preserve his intimacy, prepare him to accept the changes and show him how to control his most intense feelings which can take him to act impulsively, especially in beings which have still not developed the brain system´s inhibition of inappropriate behaviour.

The adolescents, though more autonomous than children, they keep on needing TIME, DEDICATION and INTEREST, and above all, the recognition by their closest adults, as unique and unrepeatable beings.

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