Youth of all ages, but especially younger children, often find it hard to recognize and discuss what’s bothering them. As is often the case, just like with adults, changes in behavior may provide the cues that they’re overwhelmed. Common behavior changes in children and teens can include acting irritable or moody, withdrawing from activities that they usually enjoy, routinely expressing worry about a situation, complaining (more than usual) about school, getting tearful or fearful more easily than usual, or eating and sleeping more or less than they usually do. With teens, spending more time with their friends is normal and healthy. Be attuned to some more overt changes though – like significant parental avoidance, increased isolation, abandoning long-time friendships for new peer groups or expressing hostility towards basic family rules or towards certain family members. While resistance, striving for autonomy, seeking more independence and some of the normal “acting out” we often see with teens is to be expected, negative and sustained changes in behavior is almost always a clear indication that something is wrong.
All living things know what to do with their young—except the parents of today, it seems. The old tradition of raising children, which came from an autocratic society, is no longer working in our democratic setting today. It seems that we have to learn new forms of dealing with each other because our relationships have changed. The adult/child relationships in the past were ones of dominance and submission. Today, equality is the only basis on which we’ll ever be able to effectively solve discipline problems. We are witnessing a rebellion of all those who previously were dominated in an autocratic society and who are no longer blindly accepting the dictates of authorities.
For most kids, height isn’t something they can change, so what do you do if you don’t like how tall or short you are? It might be girls feeling too tall and boys feeling too short. But some really tall boys might not like all that height and some shorter girls might get tired of all the jokes or of feeling like they’re staying little while their friends are growing up.
Parents need to sit down with their children and make group decisions about which activities the children get involved with. If children are involved in too many activities, they end up feeling tired. By cutting back, the children will likely be better rested and less tired. Also, parents won’t feel like the family chauffeur, and they may see an improvement in the activities in which the children do remain involved.