Adolescence is a special time. It is a time when teens emerge from childhood relationships and passions and find new passions, new interests, and new ways of being.
Adolescents are thirsty for new experiences, curious about the world and needful of opportunities and guidance to shape the person they are discovering themselves to be.
Adolescence is also a time of turmoil, a time when psychotherapy may be helpful as a teen moves along this tumultuous path.
Why is adolescence such a difficult age for parents and teens?
Adolescence involves developmental shifts that prepare the teen for adulthood: sexual maturity, intellectual capacities to think abstractly, and increasing desires for independence. As teens explore their new maturity, they find themselves in a big new world, which they must navigate without as much reliance on parents, and in which they must find an identity separate from their families.
Adolescents may feel confused about who they are and where they fit with peers. Disengaging from childhood dependencies and finding one’s identity can be a tumultuous journey, and communicating with parents—from whom teens are attempting to separate—can become infused with conflicts.
New research on brain development shows that adolescent impulsivity and irrationality may be due in part to immaturity in the frontal lobe areas of the brain. The frontal lobes mediate rational behavior and reasoned weighing of consequences. As a result, we see teens whose emotional self-regulation and judgment don’t keep up with the adult-like freedoms that they seek.
How do I know if my teen needs therapy?
This question isn’t always easy to answer: are mood swings, personality changes, withdrawal or anxiety normal? Try speaking with your son or daughter first. Sometimes adolescents are uncomfortable talking with a parent, but are interested and willing to talk to a therapist. At other times, parents must make the decision to seek help, as the adolescent is too caught up in their present situation to see the need for assistance.
How can therapy help my adolescent?
Adolescents have a great deal going on physically, socially, psychologically, academically, and in relation to their families. Teens may find it difficult to put these sometimes overwhelming struggles into words.
A therapist can help the adolescent to articulate the conflicts and confusions going on inside him or herself, so that these can be thought about and the teen can move toward solutions.
How can I effectively parent my teen?
Parenting an adolescent can be difficult: adolescents need limits but don’t seem to welcome them; adolescents seek greater freedoms, yet at the same time they communicate less with their parents, so how these freedoms are enjoyed can be a scary mystery for parents.
A relationship with your teen that is emotionally tuned in and respectful supports the teen as he/she is navigating adolescence and enhances the likelihood that your teen will talk with you about his or her struggles. It is helpful to teens for parents to listen respectfully, help teens to identify emotions, and help teens to think through solutions for their problems.
Areas of specialization:
- Drug use
- Academic difficulties
- Eating disorders
- Risk-taking behavior
- Identity concerns
- Parent-child conflicts