News Update

Teenagers as people in Transition: What Parents should know (Part 4)

(continued from last edition)

2.8.2 Common Emotions in Teenagers (contd)
Guilt: Teenagers experience different types of guilt. Real guilt is a situation or condition of fact more than a feeling. It is experienced when a person has actually sinned, committed a crime, or purposefully wronged someone by an act or a consciously neglected act. The guilt here is not always as a result of some sin or crime, but directed towards the self for his or her feelings of inadequacy in certain behaviours like, ”I am not measuring up; “I am not smart enough”; “I am not important”, etc. Teenagers can feel guilt with stabbing intensity even when they intended no pain or harm to anyone. Sometimes this kind of guilt is also experienced along with fears of being ostracised because of one’s mistakes.

Fear, Anxiety, Stress: Fear is strong apprehension or frightened anticipation of a specific object experience or person. Anxiety is the experience of a more generalised fear or agitation and felt toward several experiences, objects or people. Anxiety often causes young persons to feel so much tension that their functioning is severely impaired. There are so many challenges, new experiences and changes that require adjustments during adolescence that anxiety is a very common companion for the teenager. Excessive anxiety reveals an underlying lack of self-confidence. A great deal of encouragement combined with a series of significant successes will help overcome anxiety. Stress is not actually an emotion. Rather, it is the person’s response to emotion. Striving for grades, learning how to relate with the opposite sex, confronting their own sexuality and moving from dependence to independence are only some of the factors that create pressure on teenagers’ lives. Some symptoms of stress in teenagers include nervousness, stomach problems, sleeping problems, social withdrawal, anger, headaches, problems, and even high blood pressure.

Joy, Elation, Love: Teenager are able to feel extremes of joy, elation, and happiness as they get what they just wanted from parents and others .eg. birthday gifts, as well as during certain accomplishments like getting good grades, and winning at games. They are equally spiritually elated after spiritual enrichments as parish youth programmes. Love. It is true that adolescents cannot love as completely as adults can, but that does not limit the sincerity of their love or reduce the meaning that love has in their lives. During adolescence, interpersonal warmth and love are especially directed toward peers. Heterosexual friendship and the development of friendship with members of the same sex proved the most common opportunities for developing love in relationships. These types of relationship are important to growing adolescents. Heterosexual relationship provides opportunities to learn about the opposite sex, to explore their own developing sexuality, to experiment with building relationships that will help prepare them for marriage, and to better define their own emerging identity. Establishment of friendship with the members of the same sex provides experiences that reinforce their masculine or feminine sex roles, encourages movements from dependence on parents toward independence, and supports the exploration of virtually every fact of their developing identity. However, the extremes of their intense loving and anger express the inconsistencies of the age.

Experimentation with New Behaviours: During the early teenage years, childhood interests, activities, and hobbies are gradually dropped. Teenagers have an almost endless supply of energy for experimenting with new behaviours and exploring new boundaries for possible involvement. It is a sort of trying on of new behaviours to see how they feel. The most significant area of experimenting with new behaviour is in developing heterosexual relationships. With sexual maturation comes the ability to establish relationship with the opposite sex that involve romantic attachment, sensual arousal and sexual involvement. These new abilities and the available intense pleasures lead the young person into ongoing heterosexual experimentation. This experimentation helps the growing adolescents to develop their masculine and feminine roles. It is from this process that adult sexuality and the readiness for marital commitment emerges. At this age also, teenagers experiment with alcohol and drugs.

Movement Away from Parents: Successful adolescent growth requires that teenagers move away from childhood dependence upon their parents. This movement involves every area of life, finally enabling them to live a fully adult lifestyle. Parents may find this confusing and threatening but they need to understand the psychological meaning of the movement. 1. Teenagers require a lot time alone and with friends. Time with friends is spent exploring new relationships, learning new interpersonal skills, establishing their masculine and feminine roles, and becoming more comfortable with their new sexuality.

Teenagers may withdraw and may be secretive. Teenagers’ need to pull away from their parents comes with the tendency not to confide in them. Since control is a basic issue during adolescent growth, holding information away from the grasp of parents enhances the sense of control that the teenager feels. Unfortunately, the more desire parents have for their youths to share with them, the more control the teenager experiences by saying “No” to their request.

Teenagers are also very reluctant to accept advice or criticism from parents. Their insecurities are magnified by the suggestion that they might be able to benefit from an adult’s input. Low self-esteem, uncertain identity and feared loss of control are the underlying issues to this extreme sensitivity. Teenagers tend to have a difficult time coping with discipline. They tend to resist discipline for the same reasons they resist advice and criticism. The potential for loss in self-esteem, increased insecurity about their identity and loss of personal control is even greater when faced with being disciplined. Psychologists say that teenage rebellion is normal. Rebellion in some form against authority is an often unpleasant but necessary part of adolescent development. External control must be thrown off enough to allow sufficient place over a period of several years and it usually does not have to cause a great of disruption. The more frustrated the young person feels, the angrier will be the rebellion.

Movement towards Peers: As teenagers develop away from parents, and other traditional sources of authority and support, they strongly gravitate toward peers. This movement is primarily toward the peer group during early and mid-adolescence. During the late teenage years, allegiance and commitment is shifted more to individual peers, of both the opposite and the same sex. Although increased involvement with peers often creates anxiety for parents, but it is a monumental move toward self-reliance for the adolescents. Changes in manner of dress, speech, musical taste, enjoyable activities and general behaviour are usually related to the peer group. As they gain strength in their self-concept, more mature and interdependent relationships are possible, enabling the young persons to form more intimate attachments with their peers.

I purposely left adolescent sexual development until now so as to usher us into the main thrust of this article: raising chaste or pure teens today and the onerous duty of mothers to inculcate this almost forgotten virtue in their teens.

The teenager’s sexual development is initiated and impacted by biological changes, peer pressures, family influences and religious convictions. Girls have to adapt to the onset of menarche. Pain, cramping and discomfort need to be accepted by many as normally occurring events in their lives for many years to come. Body image changes need to be made in order to incorporate sexually maturing form and new body sensations. Girls also must learn to cope with changes in emotions as menstrual cycles become more regular. During the first two weeks of the cycle, estrogen predominates and many females are apt to feel very loving toward others. During the next two weeks, progesterone predominates and they will tend to feel quite insecure, requiring reassurances of others’ love. Then just prior to the start of menses, they are apt to feel depressed, irritable, moody and withdrawn from social contact.

For boys, the onset of puberty rings an intense rise in sensitivity to sexual stimulation. He experiences erections throughout his teenage years in response to very little physical or mental stimulation, and at very inappropriate and embarrassing times. Androgen production reaches its peak level during the late teens and the sex drive will probably never again be as strong as it is at this age for the boy. Some adolescents will experiment with masturbation and homosexual practices as acceptable, and the ability to possess a girl sexually, especially during late adolescence is viewed by some boys as a sign of their manhood. While boys typically view sexual gratification and love as separate experiences, girls tend to see them as meaningfully related. For boys, sex represents sought-after pleasure, experimentation with manhood, affirmation of masculinity. Girls usually associate sexual activity with giving or receiving love, feeling valued or being assured of her attractiveness.

Teenage boys and girls experience tremendous peer pressure to become sexually active during this period. This external pressure mixed with media saturation of sexually focused messages presents a tremendously difficult task for teenagers who seek to keep their sexual expression in line with their Christian values and moral code. Because peer group influence is so great it is advantageous for young people to be involved with groups that reinforce the values of reserving genital sexual involvement for the marriage relationship.

Parental and Church influence can sometimes be best exerted by encouraging participation in such groups. Experts say that when people attain psychosocial maturity, they are able to make adequate heterosexual adjustments, possess healthy attitudes toward sex, form appropriate relations with members of their own sex, and have healthy identification with their own sex role. This is also what Ashley Montagu calls “sexual responsibility” – that is, a moral involvement in the life of the other person who is a possible sexual partner. With the adolescent sexual development just explored, it is obvious that they need a sense of direction, especially in today’s society bombarded with destructive sexual messages.

It is important that parents also acquaint themselves with different types of teenage personalities so as to help them to find out which of the personality or personalities their teens have. According to the Barna Research Group, teenagers can be divided into four overlapping personalities, namely,

Interactives, which include almost half the teenage population, are highly personable (pleasant and polite), focused on relationships, and sensitive to others. They live with a relaxed approach to problem solving and tend to be hospitable and minimally influenced by stress.

Dynamos represent one-quarter of the teen world. They are aggressive, focused, driven, above average in productivity, and effective problem solvers. They also can irritate others with their high energy, competitiveness, and self-assurance.

Stabilisers describe about one-fifth of adolescents. They are marked by consistency, loyalty, thoroughness, and predictability, but they also can be rigid and lacking in creativity.

Evaluators are the smallest group. They like details and insist on accuracy and completeness. They tend to be perfectionists who put high demands on themselves and others.

What has chaste living got to do with the foregoing exploration of teenagers in transition and the common characteristics of the teen years? A lot. A promiscuous lifestyle is a destructive lifestyle and can militate against achievement of future goals or one’s dreams. It is therefore necessary that adolescents develop authentic human sexuality as it spans throughout their lives. When parents understand adequately what goes on inside their teens, they will make some positive adjustments in the formation and education of these young people, especially in the area of proper understanding of human life and human sexuality.

Our follow-up article will focus on raising chaste (pure) teens and the indispensable role of mothers in achieving this.