Understanding my teen child through the Five Dimensions
They used to hug us tight, plant their warm, wet kisses on our cheeks (or lips!), and declare that they loved us to the moon and back. Was it so long ago?
Today, we seem to be talking to the wall a lot more. Our same lovely kids, now much taller & heavier, are disagreeing with us even before we can complete our sentences! Or raising their voices at us for no apparent reason. Whatever happened to our wonderful little children?
To better understand this mystery, I attended the above talk on teens organized by the Family Enrichment Society.
Speakers Ms Sonia Aboud and Dr Audrey Tan did not disappoint. They took the audience through a very entertaining and enriching morning of reflection & discovery. With some help from Jeremy Duncan of the comic strip “Zits”, and a few short engaging videos, both speakers took turns to deliver nuggets of great advice which the audience devoured hungrily.
First, they urged us to consider a new perspective on parenting our teens. Adolescence is not just about our kids growing up, it’s also about US PARENTS growing and maturing together with them!
Research has shown that parents play a crucial role in the successful transition of young children into well-balanced and confident young adults. Adolescence is a challenging journey not only for the young person but also for the accompanying parents, who must adapt their parenting styles to the maturing teen.
The most effective parents have close and caring relationships with their adolescents where communication, help and support are key. Parental supervision and awareness of the young person’s activities and friends is very important. Also crucial is parental involvement in the child’s life – social and academic aspects, important matters and planning for the future. But the toughest call of all is to be good role models to our children, not preaching but practising the virtues we hope for them to develop.
In many circles, parents get overly fixated on the physical and social aspects of their adolescent’s growth. The speakers helped us to see that there is much more than meets the eye.
Our child is like a 5-pointed star, with 5 equally important and interdependent dimensions (points): physical, social, emotional, rational and spiritual.
With great insight and a palpable love for young people, the speakers worked through each of the five dimensions in detail, defining what they each are, explaining what are normal changes parents can anticipate in each of these dimensions as a child goes through adolescence, why they occur and how we can best support our young ones through them all.
Let me share just one example in some detail, about how to help our children develop their concept of physical beauty…
All of us are to some extent influenced by what the media defines as beauty. Our teens are at that stage of life when they are most self-conscious about their changing bodies and are hence at especially high-risk of becoming fixated with certain ideas of what constitutes attractiveness.
We can help our teens break away from stereotypes of beauty by limiting their exposure to print and electronic media which perpetuate such stereotypes. Without appearing judgemental or excessively critical, we can talk to them about our views on such matters and our reasons. Let us remind our children that they have infinite value and dignity as persons which is not in any way tied up to their looks or their bodies.
The session ended with a brief introduction to sexuality, an often misunderstood subject. Sexuality is not just about sex. It is about what makes us male or female, and all of us manifest this male or femaleness in all 5 dimensions from birth. Differences between men and women as sexual beings are to be understood and celebrated. Sexuality is a great blessing because it allows us to experience love in its many forms. It is a powerful gift as it allows us to beget new life through love.
Sonia and Audrey had the audience hanging on their every word. The session had been packed with ideas and actionable steps. No one minded that it had ended a little late. In fact, our only regret was not having enough time for Q&A.
I can hardly wait for the next instalment on talking to the kids about the birds and the bees. It will no doubt be another very fruitful and enlightening session!
Sonia is a lawyer by training, and has a Masters in Family & Marriage Studies from the University of Navarre. She is a mother of 2 teens and 2 “tweens” and is currently the Faith Formation Coordinator and Counsellor at St Joseph’s Institution International Elementary.
Audrey, an ophthalmologist by training and with a Masters in Marriage & Family Studies from the International University of Catalunya is currently the head coordinator of the HEART program. She has a teenage son.
Frances is a mother of 3 children, aged 11, 9 and 7 years. She divides her time between her kids, managing her husband’s dental practice and practising paediatrics.