Adolescence originates from the Latin word ‘adolescere’ meaning ‘to grow up’. A transition period, it marks the metamorphosis of the reckless and naïve child into a mellow and meticulous adult.

Perplexities of adolescence

Every unripe child goes through teenage, not knowing how the world works, but still wanting to seize the sun, the moon, and the entire universe in their little hands. A period when facts seem like fiction and teens want to find answers to newer questions their mind puts forth every day, several times a day: ‘Why is life so hard? Why don’t I have friends? Why do I have to listen to everyone around me? Why does my opinion not count?’ Several of these seem inconsequential but each truly shapes the mind, tunes the intellect and determines the emotional wiring for the onset and remainder of adulthood.  The adolescent journey unravels fears and uncertainties, unmasks insecurities and timidities and shapes the confidence and self-assurance of the near-adult for years to come.

Living and learning

Wisdom is the capacity to exercise appropriate judgment; this gradually advances from the age of fourteen to twenty-five and is impacted by occurrences and the learning derived from them. Adolescent years offer vital learning experiences, initiate long lasting relationships and oversee cognitive-emotional development. No other events in life leave impressions more robust than at this time. The gift of the senses gives humans a cutting edge over other animals. If one can use them to observe, listen, feel, empathize and communicate with those around, it can offer revelatory experiences that every teen will share with their offspring some day. How then can the adolescent mind find its way? Do they tread their innovative path or walk a predetermined track without any novel experiences?

Why ignorance is not bliss

We cannot learn if we don’t live; and yet we cannot live to the optimum unless we learn the rules of life. Life’s lessons cannot be taught to a teenager in school or college, but learning along the way as a passive process can help clear their ignorance and give them better direction. Teens need to hone their thinking skills, build stronger relationships, stay away form negative lifestyles, focus better on their careers, be of service to fellow humankind; and through this process make the world a better place for themselves as well as future generations. Wealth begets wealth; the rich have greater resources to invest and enhance their prosperity. Likewise, richness in experience can direct adolescents in a positive feedback cycle wherein they better themselves. On the other hand, a vicious cycle of derogatory behaviors, truancy, lying, substance use, poor academic performance, inappropriate social connectedness, disrespect for parents; all contribute to negative identity formation which is hard to break and paves disaster into the rest of their lives.

Who, what, when, where, how (can we make a difference)?

The answer to these questions lies with everyone; parents, teachers, family, everybody the teenager interacts with. And mental health professionals have a significant role, not to correct the negative identity but to prevent it. Prevention is the only cure to negative thinking. Empowerment of teens is the need of the hour to inculcate healthy thinking, which generates positive emotions and engenders healthy behaviors. Teens need a better world, and we can guide them to building it for themselves.

Dr Shefali Batra (MD) is a Psychiatrist and debut author of the book ‘Teenage Matters’. She founded MINDFRAMES  (www.mindframes.co.in) with a vision of taking psychological wellness to the common man. She is an expert consultant, avid writer, and innovator for diagnostic as well as therapeutic tools. A decade of clinical experience and keen technological acumen empowers her to modernize the practice of psychological wellness through innovation in counseling and therapy.