By Megan de Beyer
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Adolescence often brings bad moods and sometimes alarming, experimental behaviours. There is a reason behind it: your teen is discovering his identity.
Why is my teen acting so weird?
One day your teen son might like steak and the next day turn vegetarian. One week he hates cigarettes, the next he is smoking like a chimney. You think, “What the heck is going on?” Adolescence is exciting as your child transforms into an adult. Yet, many parents are frustrated and hurt when their teens display surliness, criticism, and monosyllabic communication. Relax, your teen boy is normal!
Adolescence has been described as that hideous period when children undergo personality changes and do everything to rebel against their parents. The conflicts that accompany the onset of adolescence are an essential and normal part of your son’s development as he grows from a boy into a man.
How can I support my teen boy to establish his autonomy?
For your teen to establish his identity, he must carry out two main developmental tasks:
- Exploration, and
Exploration involves trying out different roles, activities, and opinions. Commitment – to specific roles and activities – helps him gain a sense of independence. Teens who handle both exploration and commitment have more self-esteem and life satisfaction and show fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety.
It is better that your teen is free to explore, rather than always doing what others ask of them.
Where before you were in control and he was following your rules, now he is exercising his own control and applying his own rules. As parents, we must allow space for that, and even nudge him towards commitment.
What does my son really need from me?
Your son needs to:
- Find his autonomy;
- Separate from the family;
- Explore intimacy, sexuality, and relationships;
- Explore identity, and
- find his “tribe” (group or clan)
Try to help your teen learn the skills he needs to regulate his reactions and impulses. He needs your approval, love and support, no matter what he says.
Your son needs to enter adulthood with confidence and awareness of his strengths, weaknesses, values, goals and beliefs. He needs to position himself as a unique and valuable member of his community.
Your son may challenge the things you say and the values you hold. Yet, this is not a rejection of you as the parent. A grounded identity requires that he stand on his own two feet and finds his voice. Do not expect him to share your dreams, ambitions, and values; he has his own.
Understand that your teenager is not going against you. Rather, he is undergoing a natural process of maturity through self-discovery.