The teenage years mark a shift in what children emphasize. In late childhood, the emphasis was on having fun, but the teen years are much more serious. This newfound seriousness comes from social issues. Teens, on their way to discovering themselves, must find a place for themselves in society, and that’s not always easy.
Both the fear of and the reality of social exclusion weigh heavily on a teenager. These are huge stressors that encourage a teen to conform to his group’s values to avoid embarrassing himself. The desire not to be embarrassed can go a long way, pushing teens to make poor decisions. An asthmatic teen, for example, for example, he might avoid using his inhaler in front of his friends, despite the potential risks for doing so.
The teenage stage in life is practically a walking advertisement for risk-taking. Especially in social situations, teens are likely to come face-to-face with the temptation to engage in risky decisions. As a good parent, you’ve raised your teen to make smart decisions. However, under social pressure, much of that teaching goes out the window. Only teens can make the choice whether to go against the morals their parents taught them. But parents do have a role: They can strengthen their teens’ decision-making skills by helping them understand and control their impulses by talking about difficult situations.
Parents might feel less important as their children go through the teen years. To the teen, however, parents remain an important issue in their lives. Children’s feelings toward their parents change. While children realize their parents are good for advice and communication, they don’t want to be too close to their parents -- especially in front of their friends. Teens will take large steps to distance themselves from their parents. Much of the rebellious clothing and unintelligible slang characteristic of teens is a way of saying “adults don’t understand me.” Parents should understand that this is part of growing up, and that in some aspects parent’s really cannot understand what a teen is going through.
Much of the experimentation you see in teens is actually a teen's indirect way of asking, “Who am I?” The issue of self-identity is one of the major factors that drive teenage decision-making. Parents, who love their teens, feel compelled to help their kids through this difficult struggle. Indeed, an outside view can be useful. However, involving yourself in your teen’s struggle to find herself might prove counterproductive. As Michael Riera, counseling psychologist and author of “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” states that parents should let children be the leaders of their teenage years. Instead, parents should take a backstage role, as the consultant when teens need advice. After all, the goal of self-discovery is to find oneself, not have others tell you who you are.