21 July 2017 - 12:00pm

Adolescents are emerging from childhood and preparing themselves for their adult role.  The period of adolescence, like the period of infancy, is characterised by significant physical, intellectual and social change.  Parents who have become used to their primary-aged child may suddenly find their emerging adolescent has a new set of needs.  Approaching adolescence, children who were socially confident may suddenly appear awkward.  Children in good health may suddenly appear vulnerable in body and mind.  Adolescent changes can be intense and accompanied by strong emotions.

One of the ways in which parents can help the emerging adolescent through this delicate period is by respecting the transformation process.  In order to become a robust capable adult, the adolescent needs to explore questions of identity – Who am I? Where do I fit in? What am I good at? What contribution can I make to the world?  Parents can support this exploration in many ways by offering meaningful opportunities.  

Offer meaningful opportunities to serve

Adolescents are looking for a part to play.  They wonder about their role and place in society and seek ways in which they might contribute.  Emerging adolescents may suddenly become interested in a new hobby, or may express a strong interest in helping those less fortunate.  When we provide meaningful opportunities for adolescents to serve society and the world at large, we provide reassurance and enable them to strengthen their self-confidence.  

Offer meaningful opportunities for participation in adult endeavours

The emerging adolescent is still a child, but gradually becoming more adult-like.  Adolescents strive for a higher stage of independence and are attracted to adult life.  Enabling them to interact or work side-by-side with strong role-modeling adults helps them develop a moral code to keep freedom and responsibility in balance.  Observing or hearing about adult work is not enough.  The adolescent must experience the possibilities of life that are beyond the home and classroom.  

Offer meaningful opportunities for self-expression

Emerging adolescents crave freedom of expression and may develop a strong self-focus.  They may seek to express their individuality through avenues such as new hair or dress styling, through using language in a different way, or through engagement in artistic pursuits such as dance, music or painting.  These pursuits may offer adolescents much-needed new challenges at a time when their capacity for some types of intellectual work has temporarily decreased.


Adolescents still need to know that they are loved and that people have faith in them. Offering meaningful opportunities is a way in which parents can express unconditional love for their emerging adolescents during a stage when the adolescents may seek to be more physically distant.