With whom and with what should adolescents have conflicts? And in what way? Laura Petrini, trainer and pedagogical counselor of the CPP, helps us to understand this.
Adolescents: the conflicts needed to grow
The body and the voice that change, the bedroom doors slammed, the music blaring, the endless negotiation on how much time can be spent attached to the smartphone: welcome toadolescence of your children. It is an age of discovery and transformation but also of conflicts that often put a strain on parents, educators and teachers. Comparisons that speak of the growing need of the adolescent to free himself from parental control to build his own individuality and conquer his own autonomy. But what are the “evolutionary” conflicts, those really necessary for the growth of an adolescent? We talked about it with Laura Petrini, trainer and pedagogical counselor of the CPP.
In this article
How are today’s teenagers
To understand how to conflict in a healthy and constructive way with these children, we must first understand how they are made. “They are very different from the teenagers of yesterday” explains Laura Petrini. “These are boys and girls who are often cared for and overprotected well beyond childhood, very poorly trained to live and know how to manage frustrations, who have been given few limits and few limits. In many cases we see young people chasing narcissistic need (typically childish) to be considered and loved, always and in any case, by their parents, teachers, peer groups as well as the social world. The authoritarian families of the past (where the figure of the master father) have now given way to emotional families (where children often decide and choose everything from what to eat to where to go on vacation). In this new family scenario, the interest is to protect the bond at all costs rather than to push towards autonomy “.
Conflicts that are important for teenagers
Why is conflict important for adolescents as an opportunity for growth (and why parents should not experience it as a drama)?
“Conflict is part of the relationship: every healthy relationship is also made up of conflicts! The issue is not to avoid them, to escape or to repress them, but to start recognizing them as possibilities for learning and change. This is what our institute has always proposed and supported. If we assume that conflict is something healthy, something that makes the relationship alive and authentic, we can only hope that these adolescents also learn in conflicts and conflicts. This is the key to access the adult world: it serves for break with childhood, to “betray” the bond that keeps them nailed to their childhood and allow them to “be reborn” as new individuals. Parents therefore do not have to fear this breaking movement because it is a healthy, vital tension that leads to autonomy. Instead, they should worry about the opposite: that is, when this movement is slowed down or completely prevented by an excess of care that goes on well beyond what is due. Let them find their way, with courage and determination “.
With whom the conflict must be in adolescence
With whom and how should adolescents conflict? “In general with the adult world.
With their parents, of course, as a model to say goodbye to but with which to continue to deal with. It is an evolutionary conflict, which allows the distancing and development of one’s personality. It must not suggest a bond that is broken forever but to a strong relationship that transforms and changes. If kids can do this, we need to recognize them as “healthy” teenagers.
Also conflicts with institutions (which were once more present) are evolutionary. Just think of all the guys who were literally ignored during the 2020 lockdown and who finally had the courage to make themselves heard in recent months, demanding a return to face-to-face teaching. Those protests spoke of the desire to regain possession of their sociality and their world. Teenagers need to live socially, to confront peers, to learn from the group. It is paradoxical that we ask ourselves how harmful the social and digital world are and that we cannot offer these adolescents valid alternatives to support them in their development tasks, so that they can gain experience in the real world. There school first of all, but also volunteer experiences, meeting spaces, sports centers. We must support and encourage these realities, we must make visible the initiatives of all those who in various ways work in the area with and for adolescents. As soon as it will be possible to use them again, it is essential that these spaces are protected and loudly supported by the adult world, because they are training centers for conflict! “.
The difference between conflict and violence
A premise that may be obvious but which is always good to do: the conflict we are talking about has nothing to do with violence, both physical and verbal. “When we talk about conflicts we are talking about a healthy rebellion that allows the adolescent to detach himself from his parents and start making his own choices, which may differ from those proposed by the parents. Conflicts are a training ground for life. The more they learn to manage. conflicts and knowing how to stay inside them, the more they will be able to use them even as adults with a view to growth and evolution and will instead avoid resorting to violence as a last resort to affirm their needs or their individuality. propose on the theme of violence between adolescents is to be traced back to a deficit of conflicting competence, an inability to stay in the conflict, to manage it in a competent way “.
As parents and educators they can stand in this conflict
Courage. “There …