Parents worry more about their child in adolescence for the fact that this is a period of his sudden metamorphosis in life. Small children do normally mirror what parents have taught them. But in adolescence things could go different and parents need to consider their child as an individual in his own right. This difference from the parents should not only be tolerated but encouraged. Conscientious parents adjust to this reality and behave in a reassuring manner towards their child.
Adolescence is a stage that has its unique features. It is not a period of pinpoint accuracy for an individual. It can start from the age of ten or even sixteen. Generally, it is treated as the teen-age period. So, what happens at this stage?
Adolescence is a period of great change. There are the physical changes, called puberty, which include the body changes to make a child physically capable of reproduction. Then there is social change when an adolescent changes from being a child, dependent on his family, towards being independent adult. There are also the emotional changes which comes as a result of the chemical changes in the body and from coping with more and changing responsibilities.
These changes are obviously a natural progression in the human lifecycle. As boys and girls grow in distinct ways, fathers and mothers respectively should take responsibility of sailing this through without much commotion.
An adolescent suddenly becomes conscious about himself, especially about his body. He needs privacy and often times to reflect. If parents can afford, he should be provided his own room. In any case, there should be separate rooms for brothers and sisters. Islamic adab (etiquette) of knocking at the door before entering should be applied more rigorously at this stage.
Every Child is different
Not every child grows in the same way. Some pass it through peacefully and in a smooth manner, others have turbulent time. Parents must not overreact with a child who is having a difficult time during adolescence. Any change in human phase is delicate and should be treated accordingly. After all, it is a life experience and man cannot recreate life for another experiment.
Moderation in Dealing with Adolescents
Authoritarian parents make things worse for their child. It kills off dynamism and creativity and creates simmering discontent that, most often, gives rise to rebellion at later stage. On the contrary, easy going parents are those who are either too liberal or indifferent to their child to the extent that they consider him as an adult. Guiding a child to them is patronising! This leads the young person to lose the essence of discipline in life. This could prove deadly in a society ridden with laissez faire (individualism) moral values.
The best way is the moderation, especially in dealing with an adolescent. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) always adopted moderation and opted for easy path in doing something. Parents have to be firm, fair and just in order not only to lead a happy family, but to prepare the future generation with these fundamental social qualities.
Sibling rivalry is common in a family and it is part of their development. Parents should not over involve in this, or else they can occasionally be outplayed by the children. However, when involved, they should not be biased or look biased. They should not automatically blame the elder one for any quarrel, although it is natural to show sympathy with the little one. Sibling rivalry phases out with time.
Tools of the Trade!
Experienced and conscientious parents are aware that there are positive techniques to manage their teenaged child. The widely accepted policy of reward and sanction, if used in proper context and with honesty, lead to a successful upbringing of a child and also solve many problems. There are no rule of thumbs in family affairs. However, the following guidelines are proven to be fruitful in dealing with a teen:
- Share decision-making: Teens often come up with clever ideas that could help in decision making. At the same time, inclusion in decision-making helps them feel part of the decision.
- Be consistent: Parents should not go into frequent mood swings or bouts of unpleasantness for any reason. Teenagers may start to feel confused, or else they might start thinking that these are part of normal life.
- Confess mistakes: It needs courage and parents should show this if they make any mistake at any time with their child.
- Be principled: Success in coping with adolescence depends on the family environment based on flexibility and freedom. However, Muslim life is guided by principle and fundamental tenets of Islam.
- Talk and explain: Parents must not be bossy, especially with their teens. If necessary, they should take extra pain in talking to them and explaining things. If children feel they are pushed hard there will be a distance between the parents and the children. This can prove disastrous in future.
- Negotiate and bargain: There might arise some situation when parents have to negotiate with their teens for a better outcome. Just because parents are parents, does not mean that they are always right.
- Ignore and give them space: Adolescents often need space to get rid of their anger, depression and frustration. Parents must not always bother them and leave them alone for some time.
- Supplication: A Muslim always relies on Allah for his action and outcome.
- Guidance is from Allah alone. Al-Qur'aan has recorded that even Prophet Nuh's (peace be upon him) son became one of the transgressors. Continuous supplication for the guidance of children is thus essential for a believing parent.
The feeling of family loyalty is important and this can be enhanced in the children when they are involved fully in the family affairs. Family sessions create opportunities for free discussions on any issue under the sun. They create cohesion and homogeneity in the family.
Involve them in Islamic Groups
There are Islamic groups, club and associations everywhere now. The teenagers should be encouraged to actively involve in one of those. Parents can help them in 'shopping around' for this, as there are some groups who are busy presenting partial or extreme view of Islaam. Parents need to educate their teens how to maintain balance in their education, family responsibility, Islamic works and social welfare works. Unbalanced life during this period can hamper their future career. Parents must watch out who their child hangs around with and positively communicate with him to reduce gap, if any. In pleasant home atmosphere, a child would not unnecessarily stay outside.
"Entertain the hearts in between hours, for if the hearts get tired they become blind." (Sunan ad-Daylami)
Horse-riding, archery and swimming were liked by the Prophets. Innocent games and exercises are the means for physical fitness and recommended strongly in Islaam. They give innocent recreation as well. Physical fitness is the source of self-confidence and essential for serving humanity.
Friendship and the Issue of Sex
Puberty changes people's attitude towards opposite sexes, as attraction for them grows stronger. The urge for sex becomes a dominant feature. Love takes a new dimension. This is a time when passion and emotion run high. Many simply give in to their base desires and satisfy their urge in illegal and sinful way. Islaam prohibits free mixing of opposite sexes and as such the teens should be taught how to lower their gaze according to Qur'anic injunction. Overcoming and controlling them needs self-discipline, positive environment and strong family anchor.
Good company can really help an adolescent in this turning point of life. However, finding genuine friends is not always easy. Parents should be alert during this period and lend their support to their child when necessary. Bad company can ruin an adolescent's life.
School and Career
Adolescence period is also extremely important for building future career for a child. Choosing a school is thus very important. It is a basic right of a child to get a good education. Parents must look for the best school they can afford. Mixed schools should be avoided at any cost despite what many people say how important it is to know the opposite gender. If it is not at all possible, parents must be extra careful with their child's Islamic development. They should also avoid a school that has racism, bullying or Islamophobic discrimination.
Parents with gifted, talented or underachieving child should make sure provisions are being made for his needs.
An adolescent gets more and more responsible as he grows. He should gradually be given the opportunity to earn and spend money for himself. This gives him individual choice and freedom. In a family beset with financial difficulties this helps alleviate the situation. Suitable part-time jobs that do not hamper education can be helpful.
Responsible Man and Woman
Adolescence is a ladder to become an adult, even if one does not prepare for it. Positive parents make sure that the transition becomes smooth and Islamically sound. Conscientious parents invest in their child so that one day, when they are not there, their child replace them with full responsibility. As the Muslim world is undergoing a transition period as well, Muslim parents must succeed in bringing out the best in their future generation so that they can genuinely claim to be the 'best of nations' in the real sense of the term.
What if Crisis?
Nothing is problem-free in this world. In spite of continuous effort and supplication for a child since birth, he can have problems and create one for the family, especially in his adolescence. How do the parents tackle it? It is really hard and emotionally disturbing for the parents to deal with their problem child. However, should it unfortunately happen to any parent, professional advice should be sought without delay. Timely, professional and caring intervention inshaa'Allah brings remedy. Procrastination is the enemy. However, there is no hasty solution. In any case, parents should not easily give up.
Most important thing to remember is to control the anger and maintain justice, even in extreme situation. Some years ago an Asian father in Birmingham, England, killed his own daughter out of anger. He is now serving a life term. Anger works like a fire and ignites emotion. The Prophetic traditions on anger are illuminating,
"Anger is from Devil, Devil is created from fire, and fire is extinguished by water. So, if one of you becomes angry let him perform ablution." (Aboo Daawood)
"If one of you gets angry let him be silent." (Ahmad)
"If one of you gets angry while he is standing let him sit down, and if he is still angry let him lie down." (Ahmad)
"The one who swallows up anger will be called out by Allah, the Exalted, to the forefront of the creatures on Resurrection Day and will be offered any pure-eyed virgin he will like." (Aboo Daawud, and at-Tirmidhi)