Understanding Teenagers: What's the Best Way to Work with Them?
What are the best tools to work with an adolescent? Are there specific techniques for dealing with this age group? What personal characteristics can we use to improve results when working with adolescents? Understanding teenagers is vital if we want to help them. In this article, we’ll address all of these questions.
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “teenager”? For many people, it brings daunting thoughts and a lack of understanding. For a lot of people, adolescence is a dark period and some people view it rather negatively.
However, there’s another way of looking at it, one that envisages it as a world of new possibilities. Understanding teenagers is paramount before getting to know how to work and deal with them. You need to understand what’s happening to them and the real changes that occur in their lives and bodies in this stage of their lives.
Understanding teenagers: physical changes
Adolescence begins with puberty and is the passage from childhood to adulthood. The beginning of adolescence is marked by anatomical and physiological changes that occur in the body and which are usually progressive. These occur at between 10 and 11 years of age girls, and between 12 and 13 in boys.
Puberty is the name given to the stage when the body experiences many changes, mainly due to the sex hormones (testosterone, progesterone, and estrogens). However, there are also changes in different individual genetic aspects.
During adolescence, many changes occur in a very short period of time. It’s a psychological process linked to each child’s social and emotional growth.
It’s quite true, that, even in adulthood, each person continues to mature emotionally and sexually. Throughout their lives, they improve their personal knowledge and refine their individual desires and needs. However, it’s in adolescence when people begin to become aware of the decisions they have to make in order to transform their projected image and self-concept.
During this period, bio-physiological, psychological, intellectual, and social changes take place. These will put the young person in the position of having to understand these two new worlds – the internal and the external – and to accept the challenges that these will bring to them, with their often contradicting messages.
Taking into account an adolescent’s physiological, psychological, intellectual, and social changes is fundamental when it comes to understanding teenagers.
How can you work with all these changes?
Understanding teenagers isn’t an easy task. Young people at this stage in their lives are building a definition of who they are. They’re facing a changing and growing body and experiencing emotions that test their capacity for self-control. During the first 10 or 12 years of their life, the child makes a superficial analysis of their behavior with respect to a social context that, to them, is quite simple.
However, in their teenage years, they start to make a deep analysis of their behavior and are able to perceive the complex nuances that can occur in a social environment.
In order to work with an adolescent and, above all, not to cut off that communication with them, the best thing is to understand what stage they’re at and give them more wriggle room as they age. People who live with adolescents have to take on this challenge of growing up with them, and of communicating and negotiating in accord with these changes.
We need to realize that they’re beginning to become aware of their own individuality. In many cases, this can make them feel very uneasy as they discover more about life. It’s very difficult for anyone to truly understand how they’re really feeling.
When they see that there’s an adult figure who they can talk to and express all their concerns and questions, without the adult dismissing their thoughts as unimportant or easy to solve, then it’s easier for that transition to take place without any barriers. This job is considerably easier when you carry it out from an empathetic stance, offering help and not imposing it.
Empathy is a powerful tool when working with a teenager.
How can you enhance their characteristics?
During this period of their lives, it’s important to work on their self-esteem. They need to get to know themselves, search for themselves, discover their path in life, and feel good about the discoveries and decisions they make.
Another important aspect is communication. How can you work with this area in teenagers? In general, this age group looks for specific ideas, reasoned and understandable instructions, and, above all, they need to learn to be assertive.
Many young people are driven by impulses and influenced by emotions that seem to get out of control. Training them on how to put into practice assertive communication skills will allow them to express themselves in an appropriate way. As a result, they’ll improve their social skills, and, indirectly, their self-esteem.
During these years, there are opportunities to try and experiment. As an adult, you’ll need to realize your responsibility to provide accurate information and education. You’ll need to offer alternatives and support, and let the teen make the final decision, with all the consequences of their actions.
Teenagers will often distance themselves from the family somewhat, in order to devote more effort to their social lives. They do this to be able to feel accepted or to maintain their position in their groups of friends.
However, despite this, adolescents still need to feel that home is a refuge that they can go to. They may not like many things about their home, and may even criticize things openly, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need it. The same thing goes with those that surround them. We’d all do well to remember that!