27 Feb The Tasks of Adolescence
Most parents think the main task of dealing with an adolescent child’s anger is to just to get through it. While there is some truth to this, parents should use this time to help their kids negotiate this developmental period so they can mature into responsible adults.
The overarching goal of adolescence is to enable children to develop independent thought and independent action. In order to accomplish this goal, adolescents need to complete four major tasks. These tasks are (1) individuation, (2) separation, (3) autonomy, and (4) cooperation. The basic features of these tasks are as follows:
(1) Individuation: This is the process by which teenagers develop their own unique identity. Up until around 18 years of age, teenagers are defining themselves by their peers and the world around them. They have no or precious little identity of their own. Parents can help their children develop their identities by encouraging and supporting them in non judgmental ways to experiment with their likes and dislikes, values and personality traits.
(2) Separation: In this task, teenagers begin to break away from their parents’ control and domination. Challenges arise when teenagers do this ungracefully and impulsively. Parents need to remember not to take their teenager’s rejection personally and understand that it’s a normal part of a teenager’s growth.
(3) Autonomy: In this stage, teenagers begin to assert control over their lives and learn to govern themselves. They should be encouraged and supported in making important decisions for themselves. For parents, this is difficult because teenagers are not particularly adept at making the best decisions and will make mistakes.
(4) Cooperation: Teenagers must learn that in order to be successful in the world they must learn to cooperate with others. As a result, they must learn the skills necessary to relate to other human beings and let go of their own narcissistic needs. Again, teenagers will be imperfect and ungraceful in negotiating this task.