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Colegio El Roble en Interlomas Estado de México.

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Adolescence: opportunity or torment?

The job description of a teenager

Adolescence is a stage that entails unique and unrepeatable emotions, challenges and experiences. We can get nervous, restless and even terrified by what we are experiencing, or even what we think may arise with a young person. In these next lines I will point out what is included in the job description of a teenager and the antidotes, so that at the end of this period our teenager returns home safe and sound. Remember that this stage is special because it joins the vitality and energy of our young people with their idealism. This combination culminates in the construction of a young person who is ready to face life.

To begin with, I will go to the root of the word adolescence, contrary to what many people think, adolescence is not “suffering from”. The word adolescence comes from the Latin prefix ad, which means towards. On the other hand, olescens, olesco, olescentia, etc., all these words mean to grow. In other words, adolescence literally means "growing up." It is a decisive, creative and powerful phase that help us flourish. This stage corresponds to 13 to 17 years, while the transition from adolescence to adulthood is from 17 to 20 years.

So what's in a teen's job description?


They separate from you. . The psychological process involved in adolescence requires getting away from adults, especially mom and dad. It is in this distance that they consolidate their identity, their self-knowledge and their personality. They distance themselves but deep down they continue to preserve the modeling, teachings, experiences, values and the habits that you instilled in them.



Antidote: Respect their distance, don’t be indifferent and stay close to them, but in a different way. Talk but don’t judge and avoid preaching; observe but do not be inquisitive, identify changes that could be dangerous but do not be invasive. Talk about your experiences rather than asking about his. Learn to ask powerful questions*. Listen, listen, listen! Listening without interrupting and with our hearts in our hands helps us to understand. Listening does not imply granting.

  1. They are impulsive.. His brain, especially the frontal lobe is responsible for planning, anticipating, organizing, verifying, reflecting, etc., and it has not finished maturing. The experiences and learning about them promotes their maturity around 20-25 years of age approximately. Due to this physiological mechanism, your adolescent will be impetuous and impulsive.

Antidote: Be empathic with their cerebral immaturity. Help them plan or bring them the tools so they can use them to anticipate, plan, etc. However, your teenager will make mistakes, their impulsiveness will cause them to make mistakes and it will be vital that you help them face the consequence of their actions, that they respond and repair the fault and learn from the process. If you solve everything for them, they’ll never learn to reflect on their actions, nor to face the consequences. Do not make the mistake of punishing your teenager with what hurts the most, that will only distance them emotionally from you and the most serious thing: they will not have learned. The consequence must be linked to the fault. For example, if they failed for not studying and playing video games or going to parties, the consequence is that they will have to allocate additional review and study spaces.

    1. They challenge and resist rules. In that search for autonomy and independence, they challenge the rules, norms and the established authority. They often end up obeying but collaterally respond either with awkward looks or by slamming doors and grumbling.

    Antidote: Keep the structure, establish the agreements with them. They need all of the above, you are like an exoskeleton. Without that support, teenagers are fragile and more vulnerable. Do not make the mistake of wanting to be their friend, your child will have many friends but dad or mom only one, do not give up that role that you had to play and that is essential and irreplaceable. When establishing the structure, do not load the agreement with negative emotion, on the contrary, be empathic. Verbalize that you understand their feelings and that the agreed rule is an element that favors coexistence and security.

  1. They are grieving.   The teenager has many losses in this stage of life. They lose their old body as their physiognomy changes almost daily. They leave their childhood behind and notice that his parents are not the superheroes they previously thought. All these losses, among others, mark a clear stage of mourning.

Antidote: Be empathic again and recognize that you are grieving too. You also lost your little child who was docile, obedient, tender and who wanted to please you in everything. Accepting that the situation is as it is, frees us from expectations or assumptions that should happen, but that do not correspond to reality.

  1. They seek freedom. Freedom is the path that allows your talents, abilities and skills to flow. They generally defend their freedom, but do not link it with responsibility.

Antidote: Always link freedom to responsibility, since the social effect of responsibility will be trust. Give your teenager a role, work or “job” with which they collaborate at home. It is very important that work is NOT paid. If you want to give them an allowance, it is valid but never linked to the job with which they collaborate at home.


Finally, I close this article by inviting you to look your teenager in the eye, to notice in the depths of their being what you’ve built together during all those years; understand in that look that they are transitioning to adulthood, that they will face challenges, that it is important that you be there like that lighthouse that shines on the coast, so that your teenager returns to a safe port in the end of the voyage. They will return with talents, skills, empowered to pursue their life purpose, which involves feeling accepted, being connected with significant people in life and finally being productive. Love and accept your teenager.

*Some powerful questions you can ask your teen:
1. To give reasons:

Why do you say this? What makes you think that...? What are you basing your statement on? Can you provide me with a reason to support what you claim? Could you say something to prove your point of view?

2. To evaluate if the reason they have given is good:

Do you think that's a good reason? Why do you think your point of view is correct?

3. To define the terms they use:

When you use that word what do you mean? If one thing is… What are its main characteristics? How is it different from the others?

4. To find the consequences of what they have said:

From what you've said, what's next? If you do that, what do you think will happen?

5. To take into account the different points of view:

How can what you say agree with what x says? What relationship can there be between what x says and what you say?

6. To find a solution to that divergence:

Is it possible to find another solution? Can both opinions be true? How can we decide who is right? Could it be that it is valid for some cases and not for others?

7. To look for examples that deny what they have said or that confirm it::

Is there any case that allows us to think that what X says is not true? Can you give me an example of what you say?

Eloisa Molina
Directora de Upper School