Teenagers 101

I just finished reading The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. It was a deeply moving story that was told through the eyes of a young girl, as her parents and she try to navigate the rugged unspoiled frontier of Alaska.

Although there were many uncomfortable chapters of domestic violence, what struck me most was the evolving adolescent brain of the narrator.

When the homestead first began, perspective was given through the eyes of a ten year old. Her vision of this move to the frontier was one of excitement and adventure.

As she developed and moved into early adolescence, her point of view turned more onto herself and her personal situation than that of her family. She began to become turned inside, often writing and reading, her material deep and brooding.

This story reminded me of a time in my life. As much as my dad tried to keep abreast of what his kids were doing, it seemed that all of us were pushing the envelope when it came to using good judgement. In fact, I remember a time, in particular, when my dad was calling by name on the beach after dark, and I (knowing there was trouble ahead anyway as I had missed my curfew) defiantly hid in the scrub bushes until he gave up and left.

Don’t get me wrong. I really was a rule follower, for the most part. But when I chose to break the rules, much like Leni in the above book, I found the danger and thrill of doing so, almost too difficult to withstand.

It wasn’t until I headed into college that I got a new respect for my parents, what they were trying to instill in me, and actually matured enough to understand that actions had consequences. I understood the necessary boundaries of family rules. Perhaps to the chagrin of my own daughters.

I am reminded of Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development:

Ages 13-21 Identity vs. ROLE CONFUSION

Ages 21-39 Intimacy vs. ISOLATION

It only makes sense that much of the teenage years are spent in figuring out who you are and what you are supposed to do. Adults in the next phase have experienced enough life lessons in order to know right from wrong.

So, as we think about those crazy teenagers, let’s take a step back to understand that it is only a natural process in development to have this innate struggle. Maturity is often not established until the 21-39 age group.

It is a heartening reminder that we must take the time to understand in order to support these young people in their quest to become.

Thanks for listening.

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