The Challenging Yet Lovely Transition from Childhood to Adolescence

The Challenging Yet Lovely Transition from Childhood to Adolescence

By Lucimey Lima

Although the adjectives of this title seem to be contradictory, as ‘lovely’ and ‘challenging’ can be hard to imagine when describing a single phase of life. However, these two words and the feelings they represent co-exist in how a family can experience a child’s transition to adolescence; a transition that includes cognitive, emotional, sexual, psychological and moral growth. Because of the complexity of this transition, involving all the different facets of being, parents may struggle with how and when to approach their changing children.

The question most parents have is the balance between encouraging and sustaining open communication and the risks of stepping into what is potentially an unknown area. Here are a few ideas that can help foster that open communication:

  1. Read your child. If your child is communicative, allow yourself to be a good listener. On the other hand, if he/she is rather shy and reserved, then make incentive comments for stimulating conversations.
  2. Do not be excessively inquisitive. Asking constantly and insisting on talking about the same subject could be annoying for a growing child and might block channels of communication in other areas and on other topics.
  3. Build trust. Parents must be the living examples for fidelity, consistency, respect and honesty. Fundamentally, (and surprisingly, this is often forgotten) trust needs to be mutual.
  4. Increase confidence. Also related to trust, confidentiality is a very delicate value. In the context of parenting of adolescents, the fact that one of them has communicated a private issue concerning feelings, thinking or behavior needs to be treated as confidential and not to be revealed to others, including siblings. Confidentiality should be binding across both parents, as a unit, as well; there can be no ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ in this!
  5. Do not overwhelm with evident and excessive worries. Sometimes during the transition between childhood to adolescence, youthful behavior can arouse suspicion, especially if trust is affected or the environment is not considered safe (emotionally and/or physically) by the child. Parents need to consider the reality that their growing children need privacy and an age-appropriate preoccupation for their own lives and identity-development through social interaction (parties, excursions, or simply ‘going out’) could make them less focused on consistent communication. It is natural to be concerned, but important to stay within the margin of support and not extend into interrogation.
  6. Highlight and praise positive performance and behaviors. Celebrate the desired behavior as well as attempt to achieve the desired behavior and be realistic. An adolescent might offer to cook a family meal, and even if the result is not the best, the fact of their desire to contribute should be celebrated.
  7. Take the transition as normal as opposed to problematic and lift blame from the evolving youth.
  8. Parents should be an intellectual and an emotional unit. Although both parents are individuals, with regard tom parenting values they should present as a unit. Any bias toward one or the other may unbalance the family system and result in splitting, relationship triangulation and therefore inconsistent messaging and communication. Instead, as parents, discuss your values systems (and the ways you present these to your child) together, away from your child, before presenting them to the child.

There are times, however, when your child’s behavior might ring alarm bells, such as if your child becomes uncommunicative or withdrawn. This would be the time you start opening proper channels of communication, taking into account the above comments. In addition, considering family therapy may also be helpful, as it has been successful in contributing to the well-being of the whole and of each member.

Is any of this easy? Unfortunately, not always. Is there any manual? I am afraid not! Is there plenty of quality support? Thankfully, yes!

Trust yourself and seek professional help if you feel you need extra support or even for reassuring your capacity to be an invaluable guide for your child’s journey to adolescence.


This blog was written by Lucimey Lima. To learn more about Lucimey’s experience, click here. Or to book an appointment to see her, or one of the other Psychologists at Vida click here.

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