Parenting teens is an advice given by Prof. (Mrs.) Mopelola Omoegun, the school counsellor for University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria. She is a mother, a grandmother, a professor in developmental psychology for the past 23years and a counsellor for the 28years.

RT: Who is a teenager?
Prof: A teenager is a younger person whose age falls within the range of 13-19years; it comes in a period of growth and development knows as the adolescence period; this period is a bit elastic as it encompasses and for this jet age we are in, we have: the preteen period (ages 9 – 12), the teenage period (13 -19) and goes a bit into early adulthood (20 – 23). It covers the onset of puberty to early adulthood. Some psychologists have referred to this period as the most critical stage of development, some have referred to it as a period of “storm and stress” and some even refer to them as ‘terrible teens’ as it is a period of changes, changes that transform a child into an adult. It is a period of dilemma as they are no longer kids, yet not adults, hence, a confusion stage that brings along natural challenges as to how to behave and where they belong. Hence, anyone who does not accept them as an adult is an enemy.
The psychologist development stages are as follows:
  • Neonate period: birth – 2weeks
  • Infancy: 2weeks – 2years
  • Early childhood: 2 – 6years
  • Late childhood: 6 – 11years
  • Puberty (Adolescence): 11 – 21years.
The above goes to show that psychologically, a teenager is correctly no longer a child, but carefully, not yet an adult. Hence, their confusion leads them to throwing tantrum as to where they belong, how they should behave and how they expect to be treated. This period is an era of “independence”, they want to set themselves free from the adult society, hence, the defiant behaviour they put up a times which translates to being rude to an adult. This makes this period the era of peer group, whatever their mates do is the right thing as that is where they find acceptance; with their peers, they can do things their own way and everyone else is archaic (old school).
Teenagers face challenges during this period because they grow both physically and psychologically from childhood to adulthood and these changes are gradual and not overnight. If these two changes are not well managed, the teenager might grow into a wrongly formed adult. The physical changes are the changes as a result of puberty, e.g. a girl child goes from figure 1 to figure 8, her breasts develop, her hips grow roundish, she starts her menstrual period and get self-conscious of herself as a beautiful lady and no longer a girl, just like her mum and aunties and starts to dress, walk and act to draw attention to herself. The boys grow from lean shoulders to wide set shoulders, deeper voice and some boys grow facial hair early, they begin to see
themselves as young strong men and no longer the boy you knew. Both sexes at this stage try to draw attention to themselves, hence, breaking of school rules is in order, as long as the get the attention they want as a lot of them are deprived of this attention at home. The girls want to be appreciated, hence from boys are highly welcomed, this serves as an ego boaster for both genders.
The physiological changes have to the with hormonal changes, this leads to girls starting their menstrual cycle and the boys start having wet dreams, leading to both of them having natural sexual urges. This leads to the need of sex education for both sexes, else they take might become slaves of their sexual urges and never know how to control it. This is one of the reasons why there are so many young adults with lack of sexual control and might drive some to being suicidal.
A teenager wants love, attention and trust. They want an adult they can trust especially their parents to love them and have faith in them. The last thing a teenager wants is a harsh treatment; it makes them feel ridiculed and pushes them to the limits. The best way to correct a teenager is to show them love, patiently help them reason out their action as they can reason and ration out their thoughts and philosophy and not wanting anyone to order them around on anything. So, enforcing them to do things they do not understand brings out the defiant nature in them. This is why a lot of teenagers challenge authority. They need to see that your correction is in
their interest, because all they see is you living your life and they want to life their own life.
Teenagers know they need help and they want people who can help them, not people who just can to control them( which they interpret as cheating them and preventing them from living their own live), else, they will want to challenge authority and remind you they are no longer babies.

RT: A major challenge teenagers have is the problem of Identity, how can parents help with this?
Prof: Yes, Psychologists call the teenage period “the era of identity crisis”. Teenagers at want to carve out their own image, they want to answer the questions “who am I”, “what am I” and not what anyone sees them to be. At this stage, they need help, they need people who can understand them, they need understanding adults who can manage them. Feed teenagers adequate information about the stage they are in, preparing them for the new challenges, this builds their self-confidence and their confidence in you. Give them chance to talk to you, build their confidence in you, so that in the times of troubles and confusion, they can talk to you as their confidant and feel relieved and helped. Never shut them up or ignore them when they talk, so that when they are in a dilemma, they can talk to you, else, they go out and talk to the wrong person, get the wrong information and cause trouble for themselves and you their parent.

RT: Should a parent have a defiant, aggressive or argumentative teenager, what do you advice they do?
Prof: Such a parent should be patient and engage such a teenager in a dialogue as they are no longer children. The teenagers have a high level of intellect and can reason, so during the dialogue, the teen can let the parent know the reason for his/her actions, especially when the teenager is 15 and above. Harsh treatment at this stage leads to teens beings embarrassed and the best behaviours cannot be gotten this way.

RT: How can a parent help a teenager that is already sexual active as this is considered as sexual problem?
Prof: The root of the problem is the difficulty/confusion in handling heterosexual relationships. This comes as
early as age 11 – 13. They do not know the difference between friendship and lovers. A lot of erroneous love affairs between teenagers that are meant to be friends exist and they belief having sex is a proof of their love. Hence, parents are meant to educate their teens before they get involved in unnecessary relationships that are sources of distractions and might alter the course of their lives. Sexual urges are natural with teenagers as it comes with hormonal secretions in their bodies, testosterone in the males and oestrogen in the female which comes with puberty; hence awareness of the teens as to what is going on in their bodies and how they can manage the accompanying feelings prepares them in advance. These hormones in teenagers cause them to have tender feeling towards the opposite sex as a result of the body getting prepared for adulthood. The solution to the urges is for the teens to have self-control as the urges are natural and the push to experiment accompanies it. Teenagers should help themselves by staying away from pornographic pictures and movies as
these set the body on the roller coaster of sexual urges. Sex education should be given to children as early as they can recognise their private organs, with the level of education depending on the age of the child.

RT: How can a parent make themselves a confidant to their teens?
Prof: Never deny your kids love and attention. If your teenager knows you love him or her, he/she would not want to disappoint you. You have to be diplomatic with them, because naturally, they would want to do
things you would disapprove of, your diplomacy would help you talk to them in a way that would not reveal this to them, but would encourage them to tell you more about their wrong intentions. The knowledge of this would enable you talk to them and help them at that time. If you are harsh and rigid as a parent, your teenager would withdraw from you and do things that would break your heart.

TT: How can parents help their teens not to form substance abuse as an habit, i.e. smoking, drinking and drug abuse.
Prof: Parents should know teenagers would want to experiment, but a major determinant as to whether or not they would experiment with drugs, alcohol and smoking is the influence around them. If you are a parent that does any of these, there is a probability of your teenager experimenting with your left over; the next influence are the friends your teenager keeps.

TT: How can parents help their teenagers curb the urge to get rich quick, a socio-economic problem teenagers face?
Prof: Parents should trust their children with some money and monitor how they manage it. This way, they can teach their children to be prudent and have value for money. It would help the parents to teach their teens not to live like the Joneses, but a basic foundation is the parents having values for money too. As a parent, how do you live, if you live an extravagant life, you teen would also want to follow suit and would want to do better than you, hence, the sourcing of funds in his/her own way.

RT: How can parents curb ego centrism in their teenagers?
Prof: Ego centrism comes with the teenager feeling like an adult and above control. The teen wants to be reckoned with, at this stage, you need not to argue with them, their sense of argumentation at this stage is very high, so do not argue with them and allow them to talk, but make your point and allow them to express themselves. Do not argue with them as this makes them feel beyond control and you will always loose, because they will always be on the lead. Make your point and let them know you understand what they are saying and their angle they are coming from.

RT: How can parents help delinquent children?
Prof: Delinquency means doing something that is not allowed and that is the way some teenagers want
to vent his/her anger, it is not always a deliberate action done with proper understanding of the action, but their way of reacting to treatments they dispute, the teen needs attention and someone to listen. Hence, this kind
of a teen needs the ears and attention of every adult around to help break free from delinquency. Being harsh would not solve anything; it would only fuel the anger of such a child and can lead to his/her eventual destruction. To save such a child, a lot of patience and dialogue is needed. They need someone to show them they understand and love them.

RT: Teenagers tend to fantasise a lot, how can parents help this so that the teenager does not live in the future and leave the present badly attended to?
Prof: day dreaming is natural, every teenager dreams big of his/her future, the problem is that this is building castle in the air, it can actually rub them of their future as they might just not be doing anything in the directions of their dreams. So, parents need to talk to their teens, it is in the course of conversation that teenagers tell them these dreams and the parents can help to direct them according and even help them to pattern their future realistically.

RT: How can parents detect that their teenager is suffering from depression and how can they help?
Prof: Depression results when teenagers are not allowed to have their way, when you deprive them of your love and attention, you hinder them from mixing with their friend, when they are not allowed to coordinate their own affairs (as they no longer see themselves as children) and they seem not to have anyone that understands them. It results from too much of control and they cannot express themselves, the teenager then decides to
withdraw into his/her own shelf. At this point they need so much understanding, allow them to express themselves and tell you how they feel.

TT: What general do advice do you have for parents concerning how to deal with their teenagers?
Prof: Parents should remember they are the first role model their kids have, the kids would always emulate them, anything they would not like to see their kids do, they should not do. As teenagers, the kids need to be treated with some respect, show them attention, else, they will get it from the wrong avenues and go astray; listen to them, they need your attention, by so doing, you will be able to detect areas where they need help and you would be able to proffer solution to their problem and they will make you their confidant. Do not be too strict, harsh or rigid, but be gently assertive, open to dialogue and teach them sex education in the house, so that they do not get wrong education that would land them into trouble. Above all, never underestimate the efficacy of prayers, it helps when you are not there to help.