The fragility of adolescence

Although I’ve been through tough times as an adult, it’s nothing compared to the growing pains of adolescence. I find myself immersed now in the world of 5 teens who are going through their most fragile time. I’m not a parent, but an aunt, and try to be as actively involved in their lives as time allows. It’s now that I look back often at my teen years, trying to understand my “kids” to better help them. And in trying to do so I get flashbacks from my adolescence, which fortunately give me not only insights about what they may be feeling and going through but of myself at their age and how much my father suffered because of me.

Parenting must be the hardest job on earth. Trying to keep teens alive, guiding them at a time when they have so many battles to fight; self-awareness, their sexuality, self-confidence, relationships, body image, insecurities, and the most bitter for all, that time when they think they are all grown up yet still are under their parents´ wings. And of course, they believe, like we all did, that our parents were a killjoy and our enemies who didn’t allow us to be happy and do our thing. It’s a right of passage we all go through.

Adolescence is a fragile time also because of all the new emotions and circumstances that are so new and confusing to them. Kids are faced with decisions but don’t have the tools experience grants to help make sound judgments and decisions. At this time they don’t usually reach out to parents for advice but their peers, which are stuck in the same rut. However normal all this is, it’s a dangerous time.

Just as I did back then, teens start to question life and its meaning, the quest for answers, which as we all know, they may never get begins and kids start realizing that life is not easy, that there are consequences to their actions and find that life is not always fair. This is often heartbreaking.

The need to belong, fit in, is the hardest, and here lies the most difficult task, realizing that fitting in is not all that important.  But it´s hard to realize as a kid, when you are perhaps dealing with humiliation from your peers and not living up to others´expectations.

When I was a kid, I had a hard time fitting in and this caused me a lot of pain and sadness, to the point that I wanted to disappear and was on the brink of it. As much as my father tried to understand, I didn’t have the words or the will to tell him. I was very shy, I felt like an outcast and although I finally grew out of all that, I did extremely stupid things. I drank with my friends at 13 to feel more confident, and although it worked as this medicine always does, it almost killed me later in life.

As I look back at my adolescence I’m saddened and wish I had been stronger. But it’s life, and we all have our paths to follow, making us unique. All we can do with our adolescents who are close to us is to try to guide them, maybe tell them our stories and hopefully, they will understand they are not alone, that it’s the circle of life and that going through this fragile period is necessary and that it does get better, and we become stronger.

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