TWG Hot Topic: Adolescent Growing Pains
A perpetually hot topic in The Women’s Group (TWG) has been effective parenting of adolescents. There are an array of grievances voiced by the women regarding their adolescents, including sudden disobedience, distancing, temperamental behavior, subdued feelings, curiosity about the opposite sex, and secrecy. When considering that adolescent years are years of intense growth it is understandable that there is confusion and disagreement between parent and child. What countless guest speakers from Multi-Purpose Resource Center, Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development, YMCA Nablus, and An-Najah University have clarified to women is that despite parents’ tendency to emphasize negative perceptions of teens, they are often energetic, thoughtful, idealistic, and simply struggling to find their place. Depending on the stance parents choose to take with their adolescent children (authoritarian versus permissive) this can be a period of conflict or one to help children grow into the best version of the individuals they elect to be.
Living under occupation, facing threats, and subconsciously living in fear are often cited as reasons for why parents take on the authoritarian role with adolescents. Authoritative practices towards adolescent girls are more common as compared to boys. In addition, a permissive style of parenting is often equated with a Western individualistic ideal, which is generally resisted due to the collectivist society of Palestinians, as well as their desire to preserve their culture and identity. This leaves adolescents feeling a combination of suffocated, misunderstood and neglected because the opportunity for them to mold their personalities is being stifled. These are the very feelings that drive them to be secretive, moody and so on. By default, the general tactic parents use to discipline adolescents is corporal punishment, as opposed to reward/consequence, compromise, and tenderness –further exacerbating the friction between parent and child.
Communication between parents and adolescents is essential in order to promote a healthier and more supportive relationship between the two. Guest speakers from TWG partner organizations stress to women the importance of stepping back and taking a moment to see situations through children’s eyes. Women are being encouraged to experiment compromising with their children and to be open-minded in their disciplinary guidelines to find what renders the most positive results for the child and their relationship with her/him. Being sensitive to children’s vulnerability in this stage of their lives and keeping an open line of communication both play pivotal roles in determining the character the child develops, as well as the relationship (or lack thereof) between parent and child in the future.
Fortunately, we are seeing encouraging results from the many seminars that have addressed adolescence. Women often express their thanks for helping them foster stronger relationships with their adolescent children. To date it is the second most highly rated topic in TWG, and most consistently requested each session. It is our hope that women learn how to pick their battles with teens, the importance of respecting their privacy, but also setting expectations and appropriate rules. And with TYO’s multi-generational approach we strive to coach and make strides with the teens through their years of growing pains as well.
Samin is The Women’s Group Program Coordinator