Understanding Adolescence

What is adolescence? Why adolescence is so significant to a growing person? Why it is labelled as
a problematic stage of development? It is a transitional period of growth between puberty/late
childhood and adult stage of a human personality, the former as we know, is characterised by
parental protection, care and dependence, while the latter is more an autonomous stage of self-
determination and life achievements. The stage in between is in some sense precarious as it can
lead many astray if certain precautions are not taken. The significance of this stage for all boys and
girls is that during this stage they learn to affirm themselves, their freedom, their opinions, their
capacities, their creative thinking and most important their own future.

This is a stage to wean away from parental protection and move towards socialization, peer group
formation, independent locomotion by taking up programmes and projects that highlight their
creativity which should manifest their potentialities, whether through success or failures. This is a
stage of planning their future, learning to choose among innumerable options available to build up
the future, thus giving a definite orientation towards their future career.

Recent psychological research has highlighted this stage as ‘formative period of life’, during which
noteworthy changes take place in the parts of brain that deal with social situations both structurally
and functionally, which manifests in the behaviour of adolescents in a myriad ways. Secondly, they
affirm that adolescence is a stage of developing identities through new awareness of self-
consciousness of how they should appear before others. This can become a paramount factor for
them. Hence comparison with others regarding performance, attire, looks, and bodily features
become matters of special attention. All this is a process of exploration and expression among the

Vicissitudes of Adolescence

Generally, parents can be assured of a smooth sailing during adolescence if proper environment is
created for their life activities. If the peer group with whom they react is well mannered, if the
school ambiance is excellent, and if there is peace and mutual understanding in the domestic life
and abode. Given these safeguards, why the parents should be insecure regarding the growth of
their teenager? If one of the factors above provide vicious ambiance, there is every reason for the
adolescent to go astray. Depending on the circumstances the teenage can get into extreme bad
habits like addiction to drugs, smoking alcohol. Besides, there could be minor turmoil for a
teenager like emotional imbalance, occasional depression and a gap between his own self-
consciousness and self-control – all these can lead them to behavioural imbalances like anger,
arrogance, violent outbursts and the like.

The Parental Support

The parents should deal with their teenagers wisely, knowing well that they are undergoing
physical, psychological and social transitions. They should desist from taking a judgmental
attitude but be with them to support them in their struggle. They should keep an eye on their
friendship circle and provide space to interact with them. The best way they can guide them is not
by intervening in their day to day programmes and activities, but cooperate with them to plan their
schedule in the school, in the Church and holiday programmes like vacation camps, as these are
organised under proper supervision and planning by higher ups.

Parents should maintain distance from their teenagers so that they can experience freedom and they
should never preach doctrines of good conduct and exhortations. Rather, dialogue with them, get
their feed back of activities and programmes now and then and encourage them by arranging some
common programmes like family picnic or be punctually present whenever your child has a role in
any activity.

The Role of the Counsellor

Does the counsellor have any role to play during the adolescence? Without any ambiguity we can
say that he is indispensable whenever a teenager gets into any addiction. ‘Stitch in time saves nine’.
Immediate intervention of a counsellor in such cases is a must to save the future of the adolescent.
In the School, regular periodic counselling can immensely guide the growth and development of
the adolescent in the proper path.

But one special point we can highlight. This is the period of making choices for the future; every
adolescent is faced with his own future and the choice of a career is a big question mark to all who
wish to become achievers. Sometime they may dream of sublime professional vocations but they
may fail to analyse their own capacities and make a wrong choice with long term or lifelong
negative repercussions. So I can recommend an aptitude test to all our adolescents during this stage
as an indispensable tool of right choice of a career. The psychologists have developed very
meticulous aptitude tests which give excellent results exactly pointing the career a person can and
should opt.

Fr. Michael Dias