There's a Child Inside Every Teenager

As your child reaches puberty, they'll begin to demand independence. But remember that there's still a child inside every teenager.
There's a Child Inside Every Teenager
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When your child reaches puberty, you’ll probably enter one of the most confusing and complicated stages of their growth. As they move into adolescence, you’ll feel that they’re transforming and that the little one who needed you so much no longer exists. However, no matter how much independence they claim, no matter how much they declare their maturity, you have to remember that there’s still a child inside every teenager.

This is something that young people often deny and many times remind us adults of, as a protest to our requests for them to behave in a more responsible way.

There are days when they seem to know everything and have completely clear ideas and others when they may collapse or come to us for guidance, shelter, or comfort. This seesawing back and forth between their more adult and more childlike personalities will be frequent over the next few years.

A teen boy looking away as his father lectures him.

Sometimes they may try to take advantage of this intermediate state in which they find themselves. For example, calling themselves adults when it comes to deciding to dye their hair or get a tattoo, but not wanting to take out the garbage or do the household chores that are theirs to do. Beyond that, however, the transition is real, and for a while, they’ll navigate the middle ground between childhood and adulthood.

Teens walk into adulthood

Teens are no longer children, and this is something that many parents struggle to come to terms with. Beginning to see their children as autonomous, responsible, and independent (at least to some degree) is difficult for them. For the same reason, and even if they don’t realize it, they can limit their development.

This is the case of those parents who prevent young people from starting to go out with their friends, make decisions, or take on responsibilities progressively. Many parents continue to control their adolescents as they did when they were children, reminding them when they have to do their homework or telling them how to dress. In short, they’re constantly on their case.

This not only leads to the violation of their privacy (so important during these years) but also prevents children from developing at an adequate pace. That is, if they’re not allowed to experiment, fail, and learn from mistakes when they can still be guided, the day will come when they will have to face the adult world alone and they won’t know how to do it.

There’s still a child inside every teenager

Undoubtedly, it’s important to give more freedom to young people so that they begin to take charge of certain aspects of their lives. But we can’t forget that there’s still a child inside every teenager who needs guidance and protection. And this translates, mainly, in the following aspects:

  • They need limits. Although young people often complain and resist the limits set by their parents, these limits are extremely beneficial and necessary on an emotional level. They help them feel safe and cared for by their parents and set an appropriate path for them to follow.
A mother and her teenage daughter having a pleasant conversation on the couch.
  • They need guidance. Although they may seem to have very clear ideas, they may also fear uncertainty or making an inappropriate decision. At such times, an adult’s advice based on experience can be a great help. Try to maintain a relationship of respect and trust with them so that they feel free to come to you with any doubts.
  • They seek refuge. Being a teenager isn’t easy, and on many occasions, they may feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities or experiences of their age. For the same reason, many times, they’ll need a listening ear and some arms to welcome them in order to feel like children again. And it’s important that they find that safe place in you.

Find the balance

Possibly one of the most difficult tasks facing parents of a teenager is to find the right balance between limits and freedom when it comes to educating. Parents and children will have to go through this transition together, giving space to both the young person who’s beginning to live their life and the child who’s still dependent on their parents. This won’t be easy for either party, but with dialogue, respect, and love, reaching a successful conclusion will be possible.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.