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Rebellious Teens

Adolescent Quarrels

I am Shirish Raval, a 46 year old chartered accountant. My wife Reshma, 43 years old works as a bank manager in a multinational bank. My son Rhythm, 16 years old, studies in 12th standard commerce. Since the past 3 years, the relations between us have been spoilt to a great extent. I am under the constant anxiety that every time we interact, there will be a showdown. I understand that he may be passing through the adolescent growth phase; however, I do not understand what our interactions should be and how I should handle him. What are the normal and abnormal changes that take place in an adolescent? What should I be careful about and what can I do to help him? Please advise.

The parents also go through a tumultuous phase when the child is an adolescent. His heightened physical power, strength and co-ordination; maturing sex characteristics and proclivities; reviewal and resolution of his oedipal conflicts’ inconsistent, unpredictable and paradoxical behavior; exploration and experimentation with the self and the world; eagerness for peer approval and relationships; strong moral and ethical perceptions; accelerated, deductive and inductive reasoning, competitiveness and erratic work-play patterns; use of language; criticisms of self and others; anxiety over loss of parental nurturing, hostility and verbal aggressiveness, intense and self-absorbing fantasy life, short-lived and self-centered relationships, jokes and snickers about the sexual development, the burgeoning sexual development and secondary sex characteristics, free-flowing vitality, beginning of masturbatory practices, decrease in hygienic care, scant empathy for or no tolerance of those whose views or backgrounds are different from their own are all in the acceptable range of adolescent growth. If Rhythm becomes very apprehensive, fearful, guilty and anxious about sex, health and education, you may be having a sense of failure. His defiant, negative, impulsive or depressed behavior may cause more disappointment than joy of the child growing up. His frequent physical complaints can lead you to ignore him causing further apathy. His irregularities in learning and education can cause a persistent intolerance. His sexual preoccupation may cause you to take a limited interest in him. His poor or absent personal relationships can lead to a loss of perspective about his capacities. His immaturity or precocious behavior, his temperament can lead you to a direct or vicarious reversion to your adolescent impulses. He would have an unwillingness to assume the responsibility of greater autonomy and inability to substitute or postpone gratifications which would lead you to be uncertain about his standards and deviant social activity. All these behaviors are on the border of acceptable characteristics. However they can exaggerate and that is when you must be more careful. Rhythm can go into a complete withdrawal into his self and have extreme depression causing you to be more depressed and withdrawn. His acts of opposition, delinquency, asceticism, ritualism and obsessions can cause a complete rejection. He may have an inhibitory behavior leading to his inability to function in the family. You may then tend to get rivalrous, competitive, destructive and abusive to your child. There may be a tendency to perpetuate an incapacitating infantilism in the child to help him tide over this issue. You may panic even to the acceptable standards of sexual behavior, social activity and assertiveness. The resolution of this phase is when Rhythm is able to separate from you commensurate with being able to decide the course of his own life. He would need assistance to complete his emancipation. Provide help in the form of limits and set standards. Offer favorable and appropriate environment for healthy development. Recall your own adolescent difficulties and accept and respect his differences and similarities to you. The best help is in the form of a constructive sense of humor. You should have other interests besides your child. Your own marital life should be fulfilling apart from the child. There should be an occasional expression of intolerance. Allow and encourage reasonable independence. Set fair but consistent rules. Be compassionate and understanding; firm but not punitive or derogatory. Occasional expression of resentment, envy or anxiety about his development is acceptable. All these interventions help him to attain a personal value system that respects both his needs as well the needs of others. This will lead him to attain a stable sexual identity, form a long-term relationship, attain a steady job or prepare for a career and henceforth fulfill his individual potential.