Rights of passage
Growing up is a transitional time for both parent and child with worries over the rights and wrongs of the first phone or laptop, the request to wear make-up and especially the first boyfriend or girlfriend, writes Marie Boran
How young is too young? WHEN your child begins to show interest in grown-up things such as fashion, jewellery and makeup it can be diffi cult for parents to make a call on whether their adolescent or pre-teen is ready for this.
" Parents and young people may differ sharply on the appropriate age for granting certain rights, such as age appropriateness of clothing, going out with friends and dating," says Dr Liz McLoughlin, lecturer at the School of Nursing, Dublin City University.
" Having clear, open channels of communication and boundaries with young people, where they feel enabled to disclose information, will enhance the likelihood of more successful and positive outcomes for both young people and parents."
This will often come down to personal preference, says performance psychologist Dr Arlene Egan, as parents themselves will draw on their own childhood such as when they were allowed to go their fi rst disco or when they got their ears pierced.
There is, however, a change in the status quo and each succeeding generation of parent tends to feel as though their child is growing up faster than they did and so rules can be more diffi cult to establish.
" Statistically young people are beginning to have sex earlier than they were a decade ago. The thing for parents is to educate and protect their children as much as possible," says Egan.
There is an association between things like cosmetics and high-street fashion and expressing sexuality as well as adulthood. Egan says that parents should look at the reasons behind why their daughter might want to wear full make-up or revealing clothing at a younger age.
" Sometimes the root cause of this is low selfesteem issues – a child might think that grown-up clothing will make them feel pretty. " Teenagers won't tell their parents everything, so it is a good idea to step back
and gauge what is going on. The teens are incredibly selfconscious years and children can easily feel outclassed or outperformed in comparison to their peers."
The best thing to do, says Egan, is not to take the emergence of make-up or grown-up clothes at face value but rather to look at the underlying reasons because, psychologically, the teenage years are a time of great change and confusion.
" They are changing, their friends are changing and their attitudes are changing: things that they would have done before now seem immature to them," explains Egan.
This is not to say that some parents will not sail through the teenage years. Often all of the firsts will happen naturally and fall into place.
" Most children are content to be children. They know they're growing up but they're not going to rush it."
It is a really complex issue because peer groups are very influential, she explains. Your child is more likely to want to go to the local disco if their friends are, or get a mobile phone if their friends have one.
" Peer pressure comes into play when you're a teenager and parents need to be aware of their child's personality and how likely they are to be compliant and possibly conform to this pressure.
There is no single way to manage rites of passage but helping your child's transition towards independence is important, as is connecting with your child.
"A key developmental task as children move towards autonomy is learning to relate to others outside of the family context on a much more regular basis, and parents are important fi gures in this process," explains McLoughlin.
" Relationships between young people and parents where individuality and connectedness are promoted have been shown to enhance positive self-identity in adolescence. In short, individuality encourages adolescents to develop their own point of view, while connectedness provides a secure base from which they can explore their changing and widening social worlds," she adds.
Mother & Babies