Adults and those growing into some form of adulthood, however pubescent, are known to clash—and titanic these struggles can be. The scary thing is how quickly situations reach flashpoint. But the craziness of adolescence can be resolved.
Most mature adults, who have been that way for many years, may have long forgotten the tests apportioned to the growing psyche in a scary-world context.
There is a need for empathy; adults are in the best position to provide support.
What Happens in the Adolescent Brain?
Sharp and sudden changes occur within the adolescent brain as it prepares its person for adult life: the salience of adroit thinking, with the capability for measured thought.
Boys are particularly vulnerable, probably due to biological and cultural norms they may be exposed to—but girls are not unexposed to these challenges.
We might all relate in that we said, at times, things that were opposed to our thoughts—and, confused, we wondered why. This is typical of teenage thinking, as the biological process of development prunes away whole chunks of thought, even indiscriminately.
The adolescent has no control over this. The adolescent, just like hurt adults, can say things they don’t even mean. This may well be foreign to them. And it’s scary.
What Adults Have – Control
As adults we have a special portion of control that the adolescent just does not have.
Firstly, we have the position of control as the parent or grandparent; secondly, we have the capacity for control—our minds have matured through our own long forgotten adolescence and through adulthood, too. Thirdly, and most importantly, we have the motive for control. We want, no need, things to work positively.
We adults are in a unique position. Despite the baggage that we carry, including previous barriers to the relationship with the adolescent, we are geographically and prophetically placed to work in this young person’s life.
We have a certain level of control they don’t have; we’re there, perhaps placed like no other; indeed, we must feel God has purposed us for this role in their life.
What Always Pays – To Empathise
If we, in full adult form, will be perplexed in our thoughts, and our non-corresponding actions, how might our 15-year-old sons and grandsons, nephews and grand-nephews, and daughters feel when the same thing occurs—without warning?
If we, in adult form, find frustration and anger bristling from within, even at the slightest thing, and in the most unpredictable circumstances, how might the young person in our life deal with that same sense of inner conflict: the adult mind battling with the child heart?
The child within never diminishes; he or she neither withers nor dies. Nor would we want them to. The whole point of genteel adulthood is cherishing the child within.
And this is where empathy is the role for us, in the lives of all those around us; not just the adolescent, but poignantly so in this case.
Adolescence carries an insidious curse for the unprepared; well-adjusted adults developed with safety and poise through adolescence, from empathetic adults as role models.
The greatest gift an adult can give an adolescent is the support and space of an unreasonable love, with unconditional understanding and empathy that carries them through the arduous years.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.