OVERCOMING FEARS OF ADOLESCENCE An Optimistic Approach to Families in Crisis Thomas W. Blume, Ph.D. Oakland University
CONCEPTUALFRAMEWORKS • Lifespan Family Development • Ecological Theory • Symbolic Interaction/Role Theory • Existentialism • Social Constructionism • Identity Renegotiation Counseling
ADOLESCENCE AS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION (19th Century) • Child labor laws, end of apprenticeships • Expansion of formal education • Delayed access to adult roles, extended period of dependency • Reduced authority at all levels • Juvenile delinquency
ADOLESCENCE AS A PROCESS(FAMILY and COMMUNITY) • Shifting reference groups (authority, lifestyle, values) • Shifting power -- strength, skills, sexuality, economic position • Shifting responsibilities--sex, driving, job duties, economic survival • Reduced supervision
SOME POPULAR VIEWS OF ADOLESCENCE • Biological—puberty, rapid change in size and appearance, “storm and stress” • Social—access to new roles and responsibilities • Educational—transition from mandatory to optional • Economic—large, naïve consumer group
ADOLESCENT SEXUALITY • Adolescents’ emerging sexuality is possibly their most frightening characteristic • Parents are often both attracted to young bodies and upset at those feelings • Labeling the discomfort of adults seems to validate everyone’s experience and take away the power of this “secret”
PARENTS DURING THE YEARS OF ADOLESCENCE • Declining influence over children • Declining physical and social power • Heightened awareness of death • Challenges in long-term relationships • Existential issues of meaning • “Negative support group”
COMMON PARENTAL VIEWS OF ADOLESCENTS • Greedy, hedonistic, and self-centered • Impulsive and self-destructive • Driven by hormonal imbalances and peer pressure • Unaware of future
COMMON ADOLESCENT VIEWS OF PARENTS • Angry, resentful, and punitive • Concerned primarily with status • Out of touch with feelings and behavior • Out of touch with their own past • Greedy, obsessed with the future • Paranoid, focused only on negatives
COGWHEELING BETWEEN THE GENERATIONS • Adolescents need support, guidance, strength during a time of intense decision-making • Adolescents idealize parents, find that their values and decisions fall short • Parents are uncertain and fearful, critical of their own values and decisions • Parents feel personally attacked, criticize adolescents
DISCUSSION Which perspective—the adolescent’s or the parent’s—is easier for you to comprehend?
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF NEGATIVE IDENTITIES • Berger & Luckmann said that groups and societies “create” reality when they label some events and ignore others • Once objects and people are labeled the labels become reality • Negative identities are “totalizing discourses” that limit what can be seen
ADOLESCENCE AS A PROCESS(THE ADOLESCENT) • Loss of childhood identity • Increased awareness (self and context) • Contrasting physical and social realities • Waiting for satisfactions of adulthood • Idealism, disappointment, impatience • Limited opportunities to earn respect
IDENTITY PROCESSES IN ADOLESCENCE (family & school) • Changing expectations, responsibilities, power • New options, loss of old options • Changing meanings and narratives: • Ambiguous identity • Negative identity • Conflicted identity
IDENTITY PROCESSES IN ADOLESCENCE (peer group) • Changing expectations, group memberships, statuses • New choices, increasing urgency • Changing meanings and narratives: • Ambiguous identity • Negative identity • Conflicted identity
DISCUSSION Where and when do you think you first heard that adolescence is a problematic time of life?
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION AS A COUNSELING FRAMEWORK • Identities are reciprocally formed as groups agree on “who we will let you be” • A counseling relationship is a group • Relational identities are in constant flux. By changing descriptions and validating them interpersonally, a negative identity can be replaced with a positive one
INTERPERSONAL NEGOTIATION UNDERSTANDINGS AND SKILLS • Childhood: Win or lose, power and manipulation in service of goal • Adolescence and adulthood: Developing ability to take a relationship perspective • Stress response: Cognitive complexity drops • Social support: Cognitive complexity increases
NEGATIVE BEHAVIOR AS A TOOL FOR IDENTITY NEGOTIATION • Mood management • Punishment of enemies (circularity) • Affiliation with others – easy access • Symbolic management of identity • Avoidance and denial of expectations
SUCCESSFUL IDENTITY NEGOTIATIONS IN ADOLESCENCE • Rebalanced expectations, responsibilities, power • Increased options, reduced stress • Revised meanings and narratives: • Ambiguous identity • Negative identity • Conflicted identity
FACILITATING THE IDENTITY SHIFT(S) OF ADOLESCENCE • Raise awareness of change, choice • Acknowledge ambiguity and conflict in identity narratives • Challenge negative identity narratives • Recommit to values and goals • Experiment with alternative identities
FACILITATING YOUNG ADULT RESPONSIBILITY • Develop mood management skills • Explore forgiveness of self and others • Address existential problems of choice and responsibility • Find developmentally appropriate satisfactions
FACILITATING EXPRESSIVE, SUPPORTIVE PARENTING • Update mood management skills • Encourage forgiveness of self and others • Face existential realities of choice, responsibility, failure, and loss • Revise life plans to be more developmentally appropriate
DISCUSSION Have there been times in your life when you, or someone you loved, successfully renegotiated an identity?
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION TECHNIQUES WITH FAMILIES • Critique family/community narratives of adolescence • Ask, “where did you get your (negative) views of adolescence?” • Ask, “when did you start thinking that things would become bad during (this child’s) adolescence?
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION TECHNIQUES WITH FAMILIES • Critique family/community narratives about the parents of adolescents • Ask, “where did you get your (negative) views of parents?” • Ask, “when did you start thinking that (you, he, she, they) might handle adolescence badly?
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION TECHNIQUES WITH FAMILIES • Recall/retell negative identity stories • Both sides have negative stories to tell. • Rather than discourage the telling, work with the stories to open up possible new interpretations
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION TECHNIQUES WITH FAMILIES • Explore and validate core values • Both parent and child positions are value-driven. Find the values. • Validate a sincere attempt, even if it turned out badly • Work toward intergenerational empathy
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION TECHNIQUES WITH FAMILIES • Explore possible/ideal selves • Introduce the idea that everyone is moving toward something • Encourage hopes and dreams, and block any ridicule or negative expectation • Work toward mutual validation
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION TECHNIQUES WITH FAMILIES • Try out new behavior • New behavior will require multiple, interlocking changes • Parents MUST allow mistakes while they can still help recover from the mistakes • Slips into old behavior should be predicted and normalized
IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION WITH GROUPS AND ORGANIZATIONS • Critique negative identities • Recall/retell negative identity stories • Explore and validate core values • Explore possible/ideal selves • Try out new behavior