More on Adolescence

I didn’t forget–I’m back, to continue:

The second flaw in the unavoidability misconception is that, after “sowing their wild oats” a teen will settle down and lead a stable, productive adulthood. Much to the contrary, however, the teen years are ones in which patterns of life are chosen and begin to become set. It is believed that personality is established by late adolescence or early adulthood. When it is established it basically does not change. Teens are literally becoming the person they will be for the rest of their lives. Their choices not only determine the path of their lives, but the behavior patterns remain, as well. So there is characterological, spiritual, emotional, physical, and sometimes legal and financial fallout. Yes, a wayward teen can come back. And they may come back all the wiser; unfortunately, it seems as if suffering is the best fertilizer for growth. But again, a well-prepared adolescent need not suffer and learn the hardest way.

We can all think of case after case where lives have been wrecked by unwise, irresponsible, and catastrophic adolescent choices. Even if an individual goes on to recover from an adolescent orgy of experimentation, the consequences often remain to be dealt with throughout the balance of life. Broken or damaged relationships and families; alcoholism, the result of over-indulgent underage drinking; drug overdose and/or death; a legal or criminal history that becomes an impediment to advancement and security; lost years that could have been spent preparing oneself for a career or marriage; lifelong illness through sexually transmitted disease, and children born into less than ideal, if not disastrous, circumstances are only a few of the possible results. Some of these outcomes cannot be reversed, only mitigated, if that.

That’s a gloomy picture, and many people are living it. This is not to point a finger, or to blame parents for their adolescents’ waywardness. Remember, they make their own choices. The point, however, is that we adults do have some power in the direction of our teenagers’ lives. The strongest power to shape an individual’s life is, indeed, during childhood, so we parents need to take advantage of that little window of influence while we can. But, if the opportunity of childhood is past, we can still impact their thinking. We can live a life that intrigues them.

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