Everyone around the world experiences the grueling challenge of adolescence with varying degrees of success. It’s a necessary step before adulthood sets in. No one is exempted from experiencing the roller coaster of changes that adolescence brings. Physical changes occur, side by side with hormonal imbalances that often leave trouble in its wake.
Adolescence: Stepping Stone to Adulthood
At this stage, experiencing trouble in dealing with our children is normal, if not expected. Adolescence changes them, not just physically but also mentally and socially. Sometimes, circumstances like mental disorders (including but not limited to teenage depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, etc.) put extra challenge on parents in dealing with their teenagers. But it is important to remember that childhood is just a few stone throws away from adulthood. This is not the time to treat them as if they are incapable of making decisions for themselves. This is the time to hold back another sharp reprimand, and instead listen to what they really have to say.
Dealing With A Teen Diagnosed With Mental Disorder
The son of my aunt, Ryan was diagnosed with a mental disorder when he was 17 years old. But before that, it was already tough for our family because he became friends with a group of kids from school who were inclined to do unsavory activities outside of school. He started smoking when he was fifteen and developed the habit of cutting classes to smoke at an abandoned lot near his high school. His mother wanted him to take school seriously, but more than that, she just also wanted him to direct his focus to something positive. We tried counselors inside and outside his school, and when that didn’t work for Ryan, we turned to a doctor’s professional advice, and there we discovered that there was a medical reason behind the extreme change in my cousin’s behavior.
Understanding is the Key
Being diagnosed with a mental disorder did not magically solve all of our family problems, nor did it make my aunt’s son eager to go back to school. However, it did give us one thing: understanding. It gave us context, a scientifically-backed reason as to why he started acting like that. Professional help and advice, in turn, encouraged Ryan to eventually open up to my aunt as to what led him to that particular path. He mentioned getting bored with the repetitive motion of going to school, and that he didn’t really enjoy studying history and math. So then my aunt asked him, “What do you want to do?”
And that’s really the most important thing here: to ask children what they really want, no matter how far from our expectations they are. They are at that point in their lives when trying out things might help their growth rather than stunt them, and as parents the role is to provide a listening ear and some friendly advice.
Your Role as A Parent
Troubled teens normally act out because they aren’t heard enough and because adults don’t listen enough. Regardless of whether they are suffering from mental illnesses or they just got mixed in with a “bad crowd”, troubled teens need help and not judgement, certainly not extreme punishment. As parents, you should also ask yourselves, “What should I do?”
Ryan confessed that he enjoyed science a lot, particularly anything related about space, and we spent one afternoon with him talking excitedly about planets and nebulae and space stations. See, we wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t stopped and listened. The professional aid was certainly a boost in our plight to solve our problem, but ultimately it all boiled down to understanding what’s really happening to our children’s bodies and minds, and listening to what they feel and what they actually want to do.