My son Karan is 14 years old, studying in the 10th standard. Since the past 1 year, I have noted that there are a lot of changes in him. He has become more vocal than before, more oppositional and more stubborn than before. He is trying to reason out everything, mocks at my explanations of issues and is contemptuous of our practices of life. He does not wish to accompany us in any family functions or meeting friends. He has also become more curious than before especially about what is in my drawers and cupboards. His school teacher says that this is a part of normal adolescence and Karan has no problem. What should I be expecting? Please advise.
Karan is in the phase of early adolescence. Adolescents have always been a bafflement for parents and a bother for societies. The following are the roles in the phase of adolescence – to come to terms with body changes, to cope with sexual development and psychosocial drives, to establish and confirm sense of identity, to learn more about sex role, to synthesize personality, to struggle for independence and emancipation form family and to incorporate learning in the gestalt of living. Early adolescents are usually ambivalent about distancing themselves from the family psychologically. They wish to have autonomy and to have the parents there for emotional and financial support. At the same time they do not want to conform. They are often loud in their protestations about being required to participate in family functions. The young adolescent may often feel embarrassed to be seen with the rest of the family and hence will sit on the side in a movie theater or walk ahead or behind the family on the street. It is common for the adolescent to call the family practices old-fashioned even though the society considers them to be avant-garde. This is just a reaction to call anything associated with their childhood as old fashioned as that phase is passé. Karan may be curious because of his burgeoning sexuality. His interest in parental sexuality is not absent, only denied publicly. He may be rummaging in your drawers to find pornography or contraceptive materials. When found, those things usually both excite and disgust him. Adolescents often believe that, if their parents’ sex life is over, their own is easier to begin. Just as sexual capacity develops before an ability to control it responsibly, the same is true for aggression. A wish to prove adult competence or manliness and an inability to fully understand the risks inherent in dangerous acts lead to astounding levels of aggression and foolish indulgences. The non-fatal ways of expressing aggression are rebelliousness through verbal attacks. Profanity is developed as an attack mechanism, even when one does not know the meaning of words. Adolescence is a major time for lawless behavior. Teenagers who believe that their future is bad try to take what they can immediately and give little thought to the consequences. Inaccurate beliefs that they are smarter than adults and invulnerable and that they require money to gain respect combine to encourage risk taking. These are also the most tumultuous school years as rebelliousness is high, attention span is low, and students have little conceptualization of how present schooling will aid their future life status. By the end of adolescence, teenagers usually realize that much can be learned from their parents. With enough emotional separation, the youth can accept advice and help from parents and decide which parental attitudes are best kept and which are best discarded. Young adults find that their parents’ life-styles are not as bad as they had thought and are actually worthy of emulation. Well-adjusted young persons no longer believe it is necessary to attack or distance themselves from adults. They are willing to abide by adult conventions in order to join its ranks. This means turning sexual interest towards finding a spouse, forming a long-standing relationship with the family and directing aggressive tendencies towards finding the best possible employment and earning a living. Idealism remains a strong influence but it usually becomes more practical and less doctrinaire. Parental values may be challenged but this is less likely to be done automatically, solely to feel separate and autonomous. You can do best by allowing and encouraging reasonable independence, setting fair and consistent rules, be compassionate and understanding, firm but not punitive or derogatory. You may have to feel pleasure and pain with occasional guilt and disappointment.