As so many of us will remember, the teen years were a time fraught with angst, as the hormones of puberty surged through the body, bringing abrupt and sometimes unwelcome changes, along with challenging emotional shifts that often wreaked havoc within our family circle.
It can difficult to watch our teens transit those years, without wishing we could put our ‘wise head of their young shoulders’. One of the difficulties is that we rarely stop to remember our own transition, after the event and in the flurry of ‘the now’, and how ‘florid’ it was.
In the intervening time period, between our own passage to adulthood and that of our own children (or grandchildren), thanks to studies in brain changes and neurochemistry, the rocky pathway from childhood to young adulthood has been elucidated and explained.
Recent research reveals that one of the most disturbing elements during this transition time is that the hormonally driven change does not occur simultaneously through all levels of being: physical, emotional and mental. Whether the child (or the family) is ready or not, at a certain age (2 x seven year cycles for girls, 2 x eight year cycles for boys) hormones start to circulate through the body bringing swift and unrelenting body changes, with a cascade of accompanying emotional swings that often feel like a roller coaster gone berserk (to both the teen and the family). The most disturbing element is that the developing brain has not yet made the transition (it comes later in teenage-hood) and is way out of sync with the body. So, for a number of years, it is as if our children are in a vehicle designed for speed and dexterity, but do not know how to drive!
Surges of sexual hormones not only initiate the rapid installation of sexual equipment in your darling boy or girl, but also the compelling drives to go with them!
So now, the tender embraces of your little boy are replaced with withdrawal, long awkward silences, and a deep reluctance to attend any family function. You may even find a certain stiffness to his under-sheet when you change the bed, as your sweet darling becomes obsessed with a masturbatory frenzy that he can’t seem to control, but from which he suffers a deep sense of guilt that won’t allow him to look you in the eye like he used to.
Or you may find that your little girl no longer wants you to play dolls with her, but rather, abruptly shuts you out of her room with a ‘Private…Keep Out’ notice screaming at you from her bedroom door, as she ties the phone up for hours talking to her new ‘doll set’, those girls at school whose backgrounds may even seem slightly dubious, considering the influence they seem to have over her!
Each of the genders will come to the height of the hormonal influx at different ages – for girls it is roughly fourteen, although many these days are sprouting their indicators of premature onset as early as ten! Urban myths may lay the blame at a variety of causes, including eating chicken laced with hormones to excess pineal gland stimulation from living with electrical lighting, but the outcome is the same – a screaming, opinioned banshee that always knows better than you do, disguised as what was once – your darling little girl!
Boys are scheduled to kick in at sixteen, so the dissociation that always occurs, happens later than for girls. But the shock is more often startling, because we seem to lose our boys, rather than experience them emotionally going ape in our face, as they slide rapidly into keeping as low a profile as they can get away with. This allows them to engage in their nefarious activities of perving at breasts, (even their sisters have a new fascination, and especially their friends!), surreptitiously handling their rapidly growing and highly responsive member and competing with their former same-gender friends, as arch enemies to be beaten at every turn, whether peeing up against a wall or coming first in a bike-race to the death!
The problem is, as research reveals, teen brains don’t mature at the same time as their bodies. The ultimate brain change that signals passage into adulthood and is often known as the development of the ‘angel lobes’ doesn’t occur until the late teens/ early twenties. This stage sees the development of ‘wisdom’ accompanied by an ability to recognize the consequences of one’s actions on others. No wonder it is not until we are 21 that we are considered old enough to be given the ‘key to the door’ – prior to that we don’t have the sense of responsibility required to honour that ritual privilege.
So for roughly seven years, our children are in a sort of private hell of chaos, caused by emotions running out of control and body functions characterized by spurts of excess and deficiency as hormones kick in, running ‘rough’ until they settle over time into some sort of balanced functioning.
Added to the trauma of learning the ropes of a newly functioning body, are the sudden and passionate crushes on members of the opposite sex (or in some cases, the same sex), the jealousy, covert or blatant girl politics, the stressful male competition with former friends and the alienation from the family as the hormones of individualism take precedence in our children’s bodies.
This teen transition rightfully creates the bridge from the family of origin to the family of humanity, as our children cross from the security of the intimate family zone where they are mostly unconditionally loved to the world stage where they have to find their place in a less accepting, more hostile environment with a panoply of different values to the ones they hold dear.
While we may understand the difficult crossing our children are making, it is not always as easy to make the transition ourselves as we face the onslaught of alienating behaviour from the children we have given so much to and born so many sacrifices for.
Teenage transition is difficult for all involved and requires understanding, patience and a deep ability to keep communication lines open through all the tumultuous years. Our children do come through and reconnect later with a renewed and revitalized bond that can last for the remainder of a lifetime, provided we cross the bridge together. While their focus is different to yours, yours is about letting go gracefully and theirs is about reaching out to the wider world, so long as you can move and flex through all the behaviour changes and still remain friends, the ride is worth every bump!
Our new retail blend is called Teen Transit and is designed to facilitate this roughest of rough passages, and can be taken with equal effect for both teenager and family members – parents and siblings. It smoothes tumultuous emotions, balances hormones and assists in adapting to the flurry of change that accompanies these trying years. Available in some retail outlets, it will be ready for purchase online within the next week….watch this space!!!!!!