Description: No doubt you have heard about the stresses being experienced by parents as they isolate at home with their children and try to manage, entertain, and perhaps educate them until schools and other places children can go re-open. Which parents would you predict are experiencing the hardest stress hit, based on the age of their at home all the time children? We do not have direct data on the current situation but if you said “parents of early teens” there is supporting data suggesting that the frequency and intensity of “disagreements” between parents and their offspring peak at around 13 years of age. For many this also speaks developmentally to why junior high schools are described by some who teach there and some who attend there in very negative terms. However, some additional developmental reflection could shift your thinking on this matter. Consider that we have been noting a HUGE rise in levels of anxiety among high school and early college/university students. Such jumps over just one or two generational cohorts cannot, at their roots, be the fault the students, their parents, or even their schools. There has been some very large shifts, globally, in the levels of scarcity and uncertainty in many things and areas that, in the recent past, played large and important roles in how young people (emerging adults) envisions, plotted out, and worked towards their futures. Anxieties spike when the pathways and signposts one has been led to believe will appear and guide you into your future are not there, are obscured by fogs of uncertainty or just seem wrong. Developmentally, 13-year-olds are just starting to get glimpses of the life tasks that await them and the self-reflection and analytic skills they will need to take those tasks on are just starting to emerge. In that developmental space, one’s parents can look pretty unreasonable and pretty stupid. With all that in mind have a read through the article linked below which suggests that the current situation may be a huge developmental opportunity for early teens.
Source: The War Between Middle Schoolers and Their Parents Ends Now, Judith Warner, The Sunday Review, The New York Times.
Date: May 3, 2020
OK so saying this Covid-moment might be good for early teens does not necessarily make it so for them and for their closely sequestered families. On the other hand, though, having a break from the academic and social worlds of the junior high school might provide them with the very space they need to start to get their newly emerging development “feel” under them without the usual demands and distractions and anxieties. A consistent piece of Life Design advice for people of any age is particularly relevant and useful for young teens, older teens and emerging adults is quite simple: Find out what you are curious about…. Find out what you are interested in … and explore those things. If you do that you will, along the way, find out about yourself and you will begin to develop a sense of purpose and direction that does not require the sorts of pathways and sign posts to the future you may be anxiously look for in the world around you. So, for developmental novices of any age but particularly for young teens this current socially isolated state may be a wonderful opportunity for self-discovery and future possibilities.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some of the stereotypical reasons given for what parents find their young teenaged children so hard to get along with?
- What are some of the mor developmentally informed, not so negative, reasons why young teens might be hard to get along with?
- What sorts of things could/should parents of young teens do to encourage a more positive isolation experience for their young teens?
References (Read Further):
Renk, K., Liljequist, L., Simpson, J. E., & Phares, V. (2005). Gender and age differences in the topics of parent-adolescent conflict. The Family Journal, 13(2), 139-149. Link
Beevi, A., & Fasna, L. Relations between Parent-Teen Conflict and Emotional Intelligence of Adolescents. IJPEN, 11. Link
Smetana, J. G., Yau, J., Restrepo, A., & Braeges, J. L. (1991). Adolescent-parent conflict in married and divorced families. Developmental Psychology, 27(6), 1000. Link
Smetana, J. G. (1989). Adolescents’ and parents’ reasoning about actual family conflict. Child development, 1052-1067. Link
Arnone, M. P., Small, R. V., Chauncey, S. A., & McKenna, H. P. (2011). Curiosity, interest and engagement in technology-pervasive learning environments: a new research agenda. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(2), 181-198. Link
Schwartz, S. J., Zamboanga, B. L., Luyckx, K., Meca, A., & Ritchie, R. A. (2013). Identity in emerging adulthood: Reviewing the field and looking forward. Emerging Adulthood, 1(2), 96-113. Link