Why Are Some Parents Afraid of Adolescence?

Being afraid of adolescence goes hand in hand with some of the changes inherent to this stage, such as going out along or sexual relations.
Why Are Some Parents Afraid of Adolescence?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 11 January, 2023

Adolescence sounds like a nightmare for many parents. The search for independence, the greater closeness with their peers, and a certain challenge to authority cause parents to feel a certain sense of anxiety regarding this evolutionary stage. But why are parents afraid of adolescence? We’ll tell you about it in the following article.

The characteristics of adolescence

Adolescence isn’t unique, nor is it experienced in the same way by every individual. It’s influenced by different factors and, among them, sociocultural factors have great weight. It even has its own differences with respect to the same stage in other generations.

However, we can affirm that there are a series of characteristics common to this time. Many authors even group them under the label of normal adolescence syndrome. In this way, they try to show how some new behaviors, even disruptive ones, are part of what’s to be expected.

To summarize, we can mention the following:

  • The search for identity: They have a particular intention to differentiate themselves, explore who they are, and make their own decisions. This goes hand in hand with the loss of idealization and the first criticisms of parents.
  • Importance of the peer group: Sometimes this includes a distancing from and some opposition to parents. Adolescents want to begin to see themselves more as themselves and less as the children they were.
  • Mood swings: From one moment to the next, young people may go from being happy to being irritated, sad, or feeling that it’s the end of the world. Thus, intense and extreme emotions appear.

Find out why parents are afraid of adolescence

Beyond the characteristics mentioned above, adolescence is also a gateway to new experiences. Among the situations that most cause parents to be afraid of adolescence are the following:

Young people dancing and drinking at an outdoor party.
In the search for new experiences, adolescents often begin to consume alcohol and try other substances. This can sometimes lead to conflict with their parents.

Alcohol and substance use

Adolescents may be tempted to use alcohol in a quest for new experiences. They may also come into contact with other substances, such as marijuana.

First nights out

Also, at this stage, plans change. Getting together to play ball may turn into going out to a party, where there are also older young people and where other dynamics emerge. These outings often go hand in hand with alcohol.

Exploration of sexuality

This is a stage where interests in others also involve new and different feelings and approaches. Consequently, falling in love, initiating sexual relations, and experiencing sexuality in other ways, such as masturbation, may appear. With this, there’s concern about sexually transmitted infections, unintentional teenage pregnancy, or pornography. This is one of the most common fears of adolescence because adults don’t know how to approach the subject.

Low perception of risk and difficulty with controlling impulses

Adolescents believe they can do anything. This often leads them to expose themselves to dangerous situations. In addition, this is enhanced by the fact that they seek the acceptance of their peers, so they become unable to set limits and say no.

Body changes

This isn’t about the body changes themselves, but the way in which the adolescent experiences them. At this stage, the concern about one’s figure and the pressures regarding beauty ideals begin to be felt.

This is detrimental to the self-esteem and health of young people. For example, girls are tempted to maintain a slim but curvy figure. As a result, they end up dabbling in impossible diets and tight sizes. In the case of boys, they’re challenged by their musculature or the desire to have facial hair in order to look a little older. In addition, eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are more frequent at this age.

A teenage girl looking using her cell phone in the dark and looking overwhelmed.
The dangers of social networks are one of the main concerns of parents regarding their teenagers. Therefore, a paradigm arises between protection and respect for their privacy.

The danger of social networks

With adolescents increasingly connected to the digital world, the dangers are also increasing. Cyberbullying, pornography, cheating, and viral nudity are some examples. Therefore, many parents find it a real challenge to respect the privacy of young people on social networks while at the same time seeking to protect them.

You may be interested in: 6 Keys to Setting Limits for Teenagers

More dialogue is needed in order not to be afraid of adolescence

As adults, it’s important to work a little on this fear of adolescence and connect with that time in our lives. Allow yourself to be guided by questions such as what was I like as a teenager? Or what did I need from my parents?

Often, the generation gap places adults in a moralistic and somewhat derogatory position where young people are accused of being immature, of not thinking, and of not knowing. As a result, the possibility of talking, listening, understanding, and connecting with others, with their new codes and interests, is lost. This is what makes adolescence ungraspable, distant, and difficult. It’s not only the adolescent changes but also the way in which adults decide to approach and accompany them.

That’s why it’s best to talk to adolescents and act as their first filters of information, instead of trusting that they’ll learn things on their own. It’s important to open opportunities for them to get their doubts out and talk about their emotions. Also, in order to reinforce boundaries and explain why certain decisions are made. This way, it will be easier for both parties to live and enjoy adolescence.

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  • Vargas, E., & Barrera, F. (2002). Adolescencia, relaciones románticas y actividad sexual: una revisión. Revista colombiana de psicología, (11), 115-134.
  • Griffin, K. W., Botvin, G. J., Espada, J. P., & Méndez, X. (2003). Adolescencia: consumo de alcoholy otras drogas. Papeles del Psicólogo, 23(84),9-17.[fecha de Consulta 8 de Diciembre de 2022]. ISSN: 0214-7823. Recuperado de: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=77808402

The contents of You Are Mom is for educational and informational purposes only. At no time do they replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. If in doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.