75 Old Main Road, Kloof

3610, South Africa

debbiejameson@onpsych.co.za

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Created by Leyland Media. 2017

Onpsych Blog

The Adolescent in Crisis

March 22, 2017

What is the Adolescent in Crisis?

 

  • First assess whether it is a serious crisis

  • Most adolescents go through periods of experimentation and risk taking but when the dangerous behaviour becomes frequent or life threatening then it is a problem

  • Possible causes of adolescent crisis:

    • stage of development where they do not perceive themselves to be at risk:  personal fable (I’m unique; I can handle anything; that won’t happen to me; I can never be hurt; false sense of power)

    • drugs

    • alcohol

    • risky sexual behaviour

    • stress at school eg negative peer group and social pressure

    • stress at home eg family conflict and discord, parental separation or divorce, parental alcoholism, drug abuse or untreated mental disorder

    • parental failure to provide rules, discipline and bonded relationships

    • a traumatic experience

    • unresolved childhood trauma that is not dealt with often resurfaces during adolescence and the maladaptive behaviour may mask the symptoms

    • fragile emotional state

  • An adolescent crisis becomes a family crisis

  • Needs of the others in the family may be put aside

  • Everyday life clouds over with constant fear that it may end in tragedy

  • When life is overwhelming the adolescent may build up defences and become egotistical

 

 

Positive ways of dealing with adolescent crisis:

 

  • Understanding this phase of development:

    • adolescent phase is about establishing a separate identity with degrees of separation

    • note the difference between independence and interdependence. He/She needs others and others need him/her. Independence is a myth, we all need one another.

    • understand that it may not mean craving for independence but acknowledgement of his/her individuality.  Cherish the uniqueness, even if his/her attitude does not reflect yours

    • they may engage in risky behaviour, extending themselves to increase excitement and thrills

    • society puts on more pressures at a very young age

  • At this stage the adolescent needs to feel loved, valued and understood

  • In a crisis situation be a positive role model so that the adolescent can see how you handle stress and how you deal with problems

  • Do not define the adolescent with problematic behaviour eg value the person not the behaviour

  • Do not let it absorb all your energy and put strain on your other relationships eg with spouse

  • Take a big step back occasionally, relax and refuel eg hobbies, leisure

  • When life is seen as chaotic for the adolescent they need to see that you are the one constant thing in their life

  • Continue to engage them in family rituals, celebrations, cultural traditions

  • Have zero tolerance for certain behaviours

  • Learn about drugs and their effects – keep one step ahead

  • Speak openly about puberty, early to mature and excessive responsibility.

  • Discuss other topics other than negative behaviour – separate to the behaviour

  • Let the adolescent know you value him/her as a member of the family

  • State in clear calm voice you care about them and are concerned

  • Learn new communication skills, coping skills

  • Knowing that unconditional love does not mean “anything goes” or that would be parental neglect. It means guidance, being tough when necessary, allowing the adolescent to be responsible for their own actions which includes not covering up for them from the consequences of their own behaviour or constantly rescuing them, encouraging and setting up limits

  • Authoritative parenting style: more democratic, fair, accepting, guidelines, hands on parenting

  • Assertiveness (stating your needs positively and respectfully) vs Aggression (yelling, shouting, swearing, insulting)

  • Make the consequences of a wrong doing a way of teaching a lesson rather than a punishment

  • Negotiation of behaviour that is negotiable and what is nonnegotiable

  • Be flexible and willing to compromise when the adolescent gets older

  • Being able to disagree without fear of abandonment

  • Remain constant

  • Seek help from a mental health professional if assessed to be a serious crisis

 

Negative ways of dealing with adolescent crisis:

 

  • Interrogating builds up defences, rather start listening

  • Blaming “you are messing up this family!”

  • Denying the importance of feelings “don’t feel angry, depressed etc”

  • Sarcasm

  • Focusing on the negative

  • Criticism is not helpful, they will get defensive and reject

  • Indifference is also not helpful as it implies you have given up

  • Neither complete independence nor complete control, rather a balance

  • Authoritarian parenting style: boundaries/rule setting without consultation, which invites noncompliance eg  “Do as I tell you or else”

  • Permissive parenting style: little or no rules, demand little, no discipline, being more of a friend than a parent

  • Indifferent/Uninvolved parenting style:  no interest in their adolescent, make few demands, are not sensitive to their needs, have little or no communication, neglect

  • Ignoring a serious crisis as “just a phase he/she will grow out of”

 

“ You never want to subtract from your children, you always want to add”

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