Let's care about rebelling teenagers!
Do you think there are any differences between this generation and the one 10 years before?
Definitely. Nowadays, the overpowering penetration of consumer society, the presence of the virtual world and the changed communication culture have a significant effect on the current generation and their values. The young people of nowadays have a lot more opportunities, programmes, to-dos than teenagers 10 years ago. At the same time, parental control is decreasing more and more.
What difficulties are young people facing today?
In my work, I come across problems in the search for identity more and more often amongst teenagers. They are concerned with questions that everybody has to face in the process of growing up. The difficulties arise from the handling of the process: they try to understand who they are, where they came from and where their own personality originates from. In the search for their identities, they are trying to figure out what they want to do in life. They have to make a lot of decisions that will affect their lives and this puts a huge amount of mental burden on them.
Identity in relationships is also causing a great difficulty for them. Many times they ask themselves who they belong to, if they can find their perfect match, if they are going to have a family. They try to define themselves in a relationship, which is not always easy.
In your opinion, how can they deal with their bodily changes?
Being a teenager is a stormy period in every aspect, since a lot of significant physical, mental and value changes are taking place in them. Sometimes girls cannot accept their femininity and they deny it. At the same time, it is important that the parents should be there with them and help them. They should follow the changes taking place in their kids with attention and talk as much as possible. If this does not happen, body-consciousness or eating disorders can develop.
Boys can also develop similar problems: their voice starts changing, their body hair starts growing. Often, they are not aware of their own power, which makes them agree to things which were not typical of them before.
What is the role of peer relationships in the life of teenagers?
If we take the normal developmental stages into account, we can say that it is not the family that serves as the primary reference group for primary socialisation for the child. It is important for every healthy teenager to create bonds with others, open up to people and belong somewhere besides their families. They can express their belonging through their clothes and behaviour. The most important task of parents is to watch their kids’ habits with open eyes, but not to interfere with their choices and let them open to the world, create their social environment and find their place. Peers play an important role in this.
Can the parental example influence the kind of peer relationships that the teenager is going to create?
The values conveyed by the family can influence these processes.
We must understand that a lot of times, teenagers' behaviours are rooted in rebellion, especially against the usual boundaries. If there are no boundaries in a family, then it will be directed at a social norm, like the drug-abusers or those girls who act similarly to prostitutes when stretching these boundaries. If there is a loving but limiting family background, that can limit these processes and consequently, the teenager will become member of a peer group where they can be together with people of the same or similar values.
There are more and more news talking about the fact that teenagers go to parties all the time, behave in a careless way, take drugs and drink. What can the reason be for them being exposed to such dangers?
The teenagers of nowadays are looking for more and more intensive experiences and impulses than those ten years ago. They would like to try everything, because they do not want to miss out on anything. The drug market is spreading the diverse substances on a wider scale and serves young people, unfortunately, at a very low price. Because of the lack of legal regulations, the loopholes can always be found in the system, which makes the consumption of alcohol and other pleasurable substances possible. We live in an ever-speeding world, the victims of which are the children.
Do you know anything about the ways in which Hungarian young people are different from foreign ones?
There was a research that carried out with the help of the European Union under the name of SEYLE (Saving and Empowering Young Lives in Europe). The investigation focused on 12 European countries (Austria, Estonia, France, Ireland, Israel, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and Spain). Teenagers between the ages of 14-16 were involved. The goal was to promote a healthier lifestyle through the reduction of higher risk behaviour. They primarily focused on suicide rates, but they observed other harmful addictions, too. Furthermore, various efficient programmes were tested that were found relevant.
Can anything be known about the results?
For example, analysing the statistics of suicide, Hungary is at the second place in the European Union if all age groups are taken into consideration. In Europe, amongst young people, suicide is the second most common cause of death after traffic accidents. As for alcohol consumption, amongst Hungarian teenagers, risky alcohol consumption is relevant in 31, 5 % of the cases. Concerning this amount, the behaviour of Hungarian youth is somewhat less risky than others’, but the proportion is still outstanding. I cannot mention any exact data, because the analyses are still being done, and the examination of the efficiency of the programmes is still being carried out.
What can the parents do?
John Bowbly psychiatrist once said that "the task of the parent is to provide a safe environment for their child in getting to know the world".
They cannot stop certain things from happening, but if they turn to their child with loving communication, several problems can be avoided. This can help a teenager identify dangerous situations and arms them with a healthy level of self-esteem.
The research was looking for answers to the question of how teenagers evaluate their relationship with their parents. 42% of teenagers feel that they only rarely receive help from their parents in making decisions or they do not receive any help at all. One third of them complained about the fact that their parents do not talk to them enough and they do not take their opinion into account and almost 20% of them think that their parents cannot understand their problems. In spite of this, compared to the European average, we are amongst the three nations with the most caring parents. Within Europe, Hungarian kids are at the second place at feeling that their parents take time to talk to them and share the important moments of their lives. In my experience, however, there is still much to be improved.
I had a 16-year old drug-addict patient who told me that he was longing to get a phone call from his mum at 10 at night to ask him where he was and what he was doing, but she never called him. From this story, it can be seen that even if teenagers rebel against boundaries, they still require some kind of control, attention, and most of all, care.
Written by Zsófia Tupi
Translated by Judit Molnár