Join the transformational journey from childhood to adulthood
Childhood and adolescence are the two stages of life where the individual’s interaction with parents at home and teachers at school is maximum. Therefore, we as a teachers and parents deal with two transitional stages in an individual’s life.
The first transition period is from childhood to adolescence and the second is from adolescence to adulthood. During the adolescence phase they are treated like children and expected to act and behave like an adult. Isn’t it so confusing for them and even for us to understand them?
The adolescent stage is the most significant and dynamic phase which is characterized by a number of physical, psychological, behavioural, emotional, social and mental changes…
- It is a phase of high energy and high metabolic activity in the body.
- It is a phase of disturbance associated with a lot of confusion and new experimentation.
- It is the phase of self-discovery, self-consciousness to create own identity.
- It is the phase to seek out intimate relationships with peers.
- It is the phase of mood swings, expressing talent and skill acquisition.
- It is the phase of feeling intense emotions and developing critical thinking.
- It is the phase where strong sense of responsibility is exhibited.
- It is the phase to test boundaries and push for new freedom associated with aspirations for the future.
- It is the phase associated with the desire to explore the world…
An individual undergoing such transition is actually struggling with a number of changes and is unable to express himself/herself clearly. If we look at the current scenario, it is difficult to draw a line between childhood-adolescence-adulthood. Age is no more a barrier to bracket these phases of life and moreover these vary in different individuals. Under such circumstances the roles of teachers and parents become challenging.
There is no defined strategy that can work for all situations. An approach dealing with mindfulness is required to find out quick solutions to the given situations. For this, it is important for us to understand the reason behind transitional changes. If we are prepared to deal with the transitional changes, we will surely provide a way to a bright future for them.
LET’S UNDERSTAND THE TRANSITION
General perception – As caretakers, we believe that a child must obey his/her parents and teachers. When the child’s opinion differs from us, we are unable to understand that we are still living in the past and the child has entered a phase of transition.
We believe that the child will make use of our experience of life to live his/her life and we set rules and regulations for his/her life. We must understand that today’s generation is highly influenced by technology and believe in logic based on ‘how’ and ‘why’. They learn by doing things.
We live in competitive society, so it is no surprise that we expect excellence by all means. If a child finds things beyond his/her capabilities, he is likely to go back to his old ways and this gives rise to conflict. As a result the child will not listen to you in future so all the scope of suggestion and guidance is blocked.
WHAT MAKES THEM THE WAY THEY ARE
Although the child’s brain develops fully by the age of six but certain areas in the brain need transformation. This is associated with the production of certain chemicals and takes place when the child enters the adolescent stage.
At puberty, the human body secretes the hormone testosterone in males and oestrogen in females which are responsible for aggressive behaviour and physical traits of the body.
Oxytocin also called the ‘bonding hormone’ elevates feelings of attachment and connection, trust and intimacy. It has also been linked to feeling self-consciousness, making an adolescent shy, thus feeling that everyone is watching him or her.
The increased activity of Dopamine, a neurotransmitter increases the activity of neural circuits. This causes adolescents to gravitate toward thrilling experiences and exhilarating sensations. They are ready to take risks.
The limbic system in the brain also known as the ‘emotional brain’ matures before the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The amygdala in limbic system is associated with emotions, impulse, aggression and instinctive behaviour whereas prefrontal cortex is the site of executive functions such as planning, impulse inhibition and decision making. This means the emotions override the rational ways of thinking.
The adolescent brain loses gray matter primarily through the pruning of synapses, and gains white matter primarily through the myelination of axon or nerve fibre. Both the processes contribute to more efficient brain.
The immune system of adolescents is highly active so they don’t face risk of falling sick even after consuming unhealthy diets. Hence, they are least concerned about right eating.
WHAT MATTERS IS US?
Adolescence is a phase of high energy; but if it is not channelized properly, an individual may get into a negative trap which is characterized by following symptoms:
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Extreme fear or wrong thoughts
- Alcohol and drug abuse
HOW CAN YOU HELP OUT
Offering positive support – Spending quality time helps to make them comfortable. Get involved in their routine work, encourage their participation in various activities, ask them to write private diary, praise good things and value their opinions.
Redirecting negative behaviour – Ignore minor annoyances and respond calmly and constructively. Involve them in developing a set of rules and make them aware about the consequences of poor behaviour. Point out wrong behaviour and not the character or personality of the individual.
Be a Role model – Adolescents will sense how you feel about them by how you behave towards them. Therefore, it is very important to work with self-first. Be patient and don’t get into arguments with the adolescent. Don’t give irrelevant punishment or make decisions in anger. If anything goes wrong, have an open conversation with the child which will help to build up efficient communication system between you and the child in future.
Give them responsibility to bear – Respect their judgement and make them learn by involving them in brainstorming and problem solving for the problems they face, instead of providing them direct solutions. Always handle their problems through discussion, negotiation and understanding.
Respect is mutual a occurrence; one cannot expect to receive respect without giving in return.
If you still find it difficult to understand them, give unconditional love without any questioning… this is the simplest way to evolve with them.
Dr Rashmi Prabha is the Vice Pprincipal in St. Kabir’s School, Hisar, Haryana and teaches biology to senior classes. She obtained master degree in biotechnology from M.S University, Baroda. She has great passion for environment and engages in projects and activities on environment awareness and conservation involving students, teachers and parents. She is an online teacher and faculty of Lund University for evaluating Global Young Master’s Programme on Sustainable Development. She conducts classes for adolescent students for awareness about their responsibilities and social challenges. Various organisations have honoured her for making outstanding contributions. She has received the Derozio Award from CISCE, Educationist of the Year Award (twice) by Silver Zone Foundation, Best Teacher Award by Bharat Vikas Parishad, Mahilla Jyoti Award by integrated Council for Socio Economic Progress and Paryavaran Puraskar by Paryavaran Mitra Organisation. She writes on a wide range of topics and her articles are published regularly. She has received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of South America in 2017.