Yesterday still playing with dolls and today addicted to drugs? It doesn't have to be so crass. Still, kids don't always develop the way parents want them to. It is important to stay in contact with each other, recommends an education expert.
Parents are stupid, school is a pain, and life is no bed of roses in other respects either. This is how many young people view the period between the ages of eleven and 18 — called puberty. For girls and boys of this age, life is like a construction site: their bodies change a little more each day, their hormones go crazy, and their brains get mixed up. And as if that were not enough, first love plunges most adolescents into a deep emotional chaos. Everything normal, one might think. But what if a pile of serious problems piles up all at once?
"Puberty is when parents become difficult."It's not for nothing that this popular saying is stuck on many a child's bedroom door. From the perspective of young people, this may also be true. Because in this phase, teenagers find their parents increasingly uncool and embarrassing. Previous rules of education are questioned or strictly rejected. Revolt and rebellion are the order of the day. The tone is becoming harsher and everything that was previously taken for granted as a code of conduct is being put to the test. Most of the time, what happens outside of these four walls at home, which are more and more perceived as a "cage", and which does not have to do with stiff regulations and stuffy habits, becomes more attractive. Doing the forbidden increases the thrill, testing the limits acquires an irresistible appeal. In addition, puberty is a time of doubt and insecurity. Between tree and bark — that's how pubescents feel: by no means a child anymore, but also not yet really arrived in the adult world.
Expert tips can be helpful
And there's something else that makes life difficult for them: because the brain is also in a state of upheaval, teenagers are particularly susceptible to outside influences and temptations during puberty. If it then comes to nicotine, alcohol and also harder drugs, false friends or even criminal offenses, it becomes really serious for both sides. In this case, parents and guardians quickly reach their limits when there is friction between the generations and unpredictable dangers sometimes cause the previously familiar communication in the family to break down, because the child's own wishes for isolation and self-determination.
At this point, expert tips can be quite helpful. Josef Zimmermann, head of the Catholic counseling center for parents, children and adolescents in Cologne, advocates this and recommends "ten commandments" for dealing with difficult teenagers, which he wants to be understood as "options for action". Experience shows, he says, that young people can do more with it if — instead of rigid prohibitions — they are given encouraging hints such as "Try it this way" and if parents make their wishes clear. One's own expectations may and must even be clearly expressed — for the orientation of the young people — in order to ultimately negotiate a common path with each other. "Clear rules are then concrete implementations of action," Zimmermann emphasizes.
Finding out: How far can I go?
According to the educational consultant, it is important for adults to behave respectfully toward their children and — despite some anger, indignation or disappointment — not to retaliate on the same level or even humiliate the other person. "One of these commandments can then be that I first start from the first person and emphasize: I am deeply hurt, and I wish myself… That would then be a concrete regulation that I give to myself."Sometimes, however, young people just want to find out with their rebelliousness: What makes adults tick?? How far can I go?
And what if young people simply ignore rules and prohibitions and want to try things out — as in a test of courage — because experiments have the attraction of the unknown?? What to do if something really gets out of hand? "Then there must necessarily be consequences and sanctions, so that young people also feel that it is perceived and evaluated when they risk too much. Because only what really gets attention — and if it is provocative behavior — also has value from their point of view," explains the psychologist. This also applies to the consumption of nicotine and alcohol. Experience shows that overprotected young people, for whom alcohol consumption is forbidden at home, feel the thrill of defying parental instructions more than young people in whose home alcohol is regarded as a normal stimulant. "And then inexperience can quickly turn into excess, and children can slip into a dependency that they won't get out of in a hurry — also because they had no role models, couldn't learn anything from others, and therefore never learned how to deal with it in moderation."
Showing presence, persevering and not giving up
Nevertheless, an addiction problem usually only arises in young people when other factors, such as a lack of social integration, are added and they experience that they cannot vent their frustrations with family or friends, but can only relax with drugs. The expert points out that the decisive factor is how young people deal with states of tension and how they experience emptiness, fullness or a sense of purpose. All forms of addiction — from eating, drinking and drugs to gambling and working — are based on psychological problems, Zimmermann emphasizes. However, this only affects about ten to 20 percent of young people, he says. In their case, socioeconomic difficulties, i.e. a shaky family structure and also the ie of poverty, often play a role. According to surveys, on the other hand, 80 to 90 percent of all young people said that the family was basically the most important thing, and consistently described their relationship with their parents as good. In the case of these young people, it is more likely that they feel annoyed by their parents, but despite an adolescent-related crisis, they are still in stable contact with them.
An important commandment for parents of children in adolescence could also be to rely on their own presence and to make offers again and again — even when adolescents showed themselves moody, demanded more opportunities to withdraw or something had already gone really wrong. In this case, the recommendation of the educational consultant is: Do not give up! In spite of one's own occupation and therefore increasingly little time together, use at least one meal a day to talk and remain persistent, even if the adolescents react to friendly address with monosyllables. And always meet your own child with friendliness and respect — if possible with tolerance and at eye level — even if that is often where the real effort lies.
Do not say goodbye to education too soon
And how to deal with so-called "false friends" — perhaps even from chat rooms — who do not fit into one's own world view?? What can parents do if initial problems — also under bad influence — come to a head, it finally comes to truancy and serious drug use, the connection to each other breaks off and parental overload turns into helplessness?? "First, make it public," Zimmermann advises, "and — instead of giving a telling off — communicate openly to relatives or neighbors: We have a problem. In order to demand support from here at the same time." Such a confession is the first and most important step towards a solution, he said. Also to show and demonstrate sovereignty as an educator: I care. "One of them has to stand at the front door in the evening and prevent the young person from going out, so that he doesn't have a chance to come home drunk again."After all, it is part of the genetic program of parents to want to ward off imminent danger to their child. Basically, the head of the Catholic counseling center recommends all parents not to say goodbye to parenting too early and — especially in a possible dangerous situation — not to ignore their child's "wake-up calls" for attention and care.
Consistency as an expression of steadfast love
If necessary, the use of a counseling center can serve as flanking help. "If parents need support, an initial emergency program is discussed here and they are encouraged to be consistent and yet also to signal to their child. I stand by you."This is about the obligation to exercise parenthood and at the same time to show the necessary consistency — "also because in the end this is an expression of steadfast love. But also parents, who — positively as negatively — are very busy with themselves, could be strengthened with a consultation, in order to be present again in their role for the own child and to be able to exercise care. In this context, "authority without violence" is just as much a desirable goal in dealing with difficult teenagers as the willingness to remain in conversation, then to trust to some extent, and to keep a way back open at all times. "Ultimately, parents must be able to tolerate the fact that young people want to try out their own joie de vivre, even if this means scratching one or the other boundary."