I feel different than other teenagers Why

Teenagers - upheaval, crises and the search for meaning

The teenage years are a time of upheaval in all areas of life: physically, mentally, mentally, socially and religiously. It is therefore not surprising when crises arise. The parents' love and firmness are particularly important at this time. Their overall behavior and their set of values ​​continue to offer the “rebellious” child orientation, support and security. It is therefore of great importance to pay attention to the common family life and to endeavor to have open and honest conversations in which problems can be discussed and joint solutions sought. For parents in particular, it is extremely important to listen to their child without immediately evaluating what has been said or even freaking out when they experience contradictions. A sensible culture of argument is of particular importance for the togetherness in this phase. Wherever there is a dispute, there are injuries, which is why forgiveness (please excuse!) And reconciliation (everything is fine again!) Are an integral part of family life.

What are the characteristics of teenagers?

In their teenage years, girls and boys experience developmental changes that need to be managed. Many opportunities and possibilities are opened up, but this time also brings burdens and excessive demands. That is why this phase is often associated with psychological abnormalities and disorders. (Lohaus; Vielhaus, 22013)

It is a tremendous phase of upheaval in the life of the young person. How this upheaval is dealt with depends on various factors: the personality structure of the teenager, the parenting style of the parents and the environmental conditions. Parents usually find it difficult to understand their child's changes. The same goes for the growing child. It feels like my parents don't understand me. The 14-year-old Hannah writes: “You (parents) no longer deal with the real problems of children, but put forward flimsy reasons: ´You sit too much in front of the computer! ´, 'You are just lovesick!', 'If you have nothing to do, then help me! '. The fact that idleness, loneliness and hanging out are an integral part of everyday youth, in particular, simply does not seem to find a place in the parental convolutions. In truth, we just need someone to listen ”(family, 2004). Neurologists have since discovered that puberty is the time for a profound transformation of the brain. Neuroscientists speak of a "pubescent brain". What you're saying is that the brain is in a state of transformation. The brain is reorganized. Unused synapses (contact cells between the nerve cells) are excreted, used synapses develop. So it is not a matter of indifference what the young people do and what experiences they gain. During puberty, the regions of the brain (e.g. planning, thinking, feeling, understanding, etc.) lose their balance. The consequence is that the teenagers cannot control their planlessness and emotional breakdowns (Crone, 2011). The networking of the brain regions has to be established first. Depending on how the brain is used, the neural patterns are formed. Neither a cuddle pedagogy (everything is allowed and excused) nor a teaching pedagogy (constant admonitions) are helpful, but encouraging the young person's own activity and enthusiasm so that a positive emotional, social and cognitive network can form. (Hüther, 2011) Sexual maturity also brings with it a hormonal (estrogen, testosterone, pituitary) change in the body, which affects the psycho-emotional area.

This makes a lot more understandable, but also more normal when it comes to the behavior of teenagers.

Opportunities: Be positive about the changes in your growing child. Take the associated challenges as an opportunity. Be prepared for conflict. Look for possibilities and ways to make this time as creative as possible. Try to get your child excited about something and encourage this enthusiasm.

What are the hallmarks of teenage and what should parents look out for in order to better understand the process of change and maturation?

Changes in the physical and mental area

With the onset of puberty, there is an increased self-awareness. The physical appearance is carefully observed and every pimple and pustule is registered. Bathroom, mirror and shower are confiscated for hours, to the annoyance of other family members. The figure plays a particularly important role. Advertising and the environment exert a pressure on growing children that should not be underestimated when it comes to physical appearance. The physical dimensions of famous models largely determine the ideal image of growing girls. In addition, there are often thoughtless remarks from parents: “Don't eat too much, otherwise you will become too fat. “This paves the way for incorrect eating behavior with later eating disorders, which in turn are the cornerstone of mental illness in adulthood. As an EU study of "around 4400 schoolgirls in Western Europe shows, almost 50 percent of the girls surveyed between the ages of 11 and 13 have already been on a diet." (Krumpholz-Reichel, 2004, p. 62) This study also showed that 40 percent of the schoolgirls surveyed were dissatisfied with their figure and 28.5 percent were disturbed in their eating behavior. (The 2007 Child and Adolescent Health Survey comes to similar conclusions). That has to make parents prick up their ears. Parents should convey a healthy self-esteem to their child, which is not measured by the beautiful, attractive body of the media and advertising world, but by the person of the child himself.

In boys, the physical change is particularly evident in the increase in strength. These erupting physical forces are looking for activity. Housing conditions, leisure activities and everyday school life hardly offer enough space for this. The consequences are often aggressive and raw behavior. These breaking energies in boys need channels into which they can flow and be shaped. In addition to sport, especially youth groups (e.g. in parishes) offer a field of activity that helps the young “man” to use his strength. The father is particularly in demand at this age. (See W. Faix 2003) Struggle is the order of the day, or activities such as mountaineering, canoeing and the like. Father-son weekends have also proven their worth (Bäuerle, 2013).

Since physical maturity begins earlier and earlier (for girls at 11.5 years of age, for boys at 12.5 years, see Hurrelmann; Quenzel, 2012), there is a divergence in physical and mental development, which causes young people considerable problems can bring. Parents and adults start from the physical appearance and overwhelm the adolescent. You expect behaviors that he is not yet able to cope with.

In addition, there is the erupting sexuality, which is a complicated interplay between the physical-biological (especially hormonal) development, emotional and cognitive requirements and various psychosocial conditions. The sexualization of social life does not make it easy for young people to find their own sexual orientation in the field of tension between different attitudes. The ethical attitude of the parents plays a decisive role in how you deal with and evaluate sexuality. Entering into early friendships and sexual relationships is largely related to a lack of love, security and closeness in the parent-child relationship. The young person tries to improve his self-esteem through friendship. But studies have shown that adolescents who do not make friends have the highest gains in self-esteem. Getting through lovesickness is worthwhile because it is associated with a psychological maturation process.

During this time there is often a school crisis associated with fears (fear of failure, fear of achievement, fear of exams, etc.). There is a drop in school performance. The low grade is therefore a perfectly normal situation at this age (between around 12 and 15 years of age). The reasons for this are complex. The most common, however, is that the teen in question cannot cope with the tension between parents, siblings and school. The family situation (such as the parents' lack of interest, the parents' marital problems, the parents' discipline problems, the lack of a father, separation and divorce), the sibling constellation and the school burden (which is highest at this time, Flammer / Alsaker, 2002) play an essential role in this.

There is Timm, his father travels a lot for work, his two older siblings learn easily and therefore don't have to do much for school. Timm hardly does any schoolwork and refuses to work at school. The mother tries to make up for Timm's withdrawal by taking care of whatever Timm neglects, but the situation worsens. Only when a school psychologist is called in and the mother no longer “mothers” the son, but makes her own responsibility, does Timm's behavior slowly change. We are dealing here with typical behavior in a crisis situation. Timm reacts with passivity and withdrawal, another common reaction is aggressiveness and outburst.

Opportunities: Teenagers need a lot of praise and approval, so it is important that you take time for them, be interested in their interests and hobbies, listen to them, look for things in common (e.g. meal, things to do) with them about everyday problems speak (including your own and family), take your emotional fluctuations seriously, promote and use your skills (e.g. PC skills), etc.

Changes in the social field

The upheaval in the social field is characterized by two characteristics: the search for independence and the group of peers. The young person gets into a tension that is not easy to resolve: the search for a path between individuation and community. Individuation is primarily about maturing into the self and the perception of responsibility. Since the ego can only mature through the you, the young person needs the community as a counterpart with guidelines and rules that he can grow and rub against. This means that teenagers are faced with a difficult task. A pluralistic society does not offer uniform guidelines, it has to be chosen from the diversity of the offer. To do this, young people need an environment that helps them do this. He usually looks for this environment in his peers. The connection to such a group or clique is therefore of the utmost importance for social development. It is not indifferent to which group he adheres to. Groups that develop a life of their own and are ideologically bound (e.g. right-wing radicals) or develop their own set of norms and understand values ​​(e.g. drug scene, rocker groups) or exert strong pressure to conform (group pressure to peer pressure) exert a negative influence ).

The task of parents and adults is to create a balance between family and peers, to keep the coexistence within reasonable limits and to mark out space for independent action. The parents take a supportive, encouraging and at the same time corrective attitude (in the case of undesirable developments). (Hamann, 2000)

The value of the peer group:

  1. It can help orient and stabilize personality development and provide emotional security that young people need so much at this time.
  2. It offers social freedom to try out new possibilities in social behavior and allows forms of activities that are not possible or not perceived outside the group.
  3. It has an important function in separating from parents. Through the group of like-minded people, she offers support in this process of detachment with all ups and downs in life. At the same time, the group relativizes its own point of view in assessing the discussion with the parents.
  4. It makes a decisive contribution to the establishment of identity by offering opportunities for identification through the group, helping to build an authentic lifestyle and offering confirmation for the shaping of faith.

“In the time of puberty as a transitional period, it is not only necessary to have a group of peers, but also to have older friends and 'secondary' or adoptive parents'." (Klosinski, 2004, p. 72) These can be different people: the grandmother, the grandfather, a teacher, an uncle, an aunt, the youth group leader, trainer and others. Teens need a “mentor”, as there are hardly any socially anchored traditions left. "A mentoring relationship can run unconsciously, but it can also be entered into consciously in order to develop further in various points." (Faix, 2008, p. 14)

Opportunities: Look out for a sports or youth group in which your child can go and in which they “feel good” and are supported, as well as a mentor. (Are there about school projects such as)

Get to know your child's friends, show interest in them without constricting or controlling them. If possible, give the “clique” (group) a room in which they can hang out: chill, hang out, etc. In this way, you have a better overview of what is preoccupying the young people and they don't have to retreat to “uncontrolled” outdoor spaces .


Changes in the spiritual and spiritual realm

Mental (cognitive) development, like physical, psychological and social development, takes place in processes. The capacity of the short-term as well as the long-term memory increases and the recorded content is processed differently than in childhood. The Swiss psychologist Piaget called this phase of cognitive development formal-operational (structural genetic model), which means: The young person now begins to perform formal thinking operations and uses them to solve individual problems as well as complex issues. This advance in thinking includes the ability to think systematically and logically, to abstract, to combine and to come up with alternative solutions to a problem as well as to think hypothetically, i. H. to accept and assert theoretical possibilities that are not tied to reality. (Fend, 2000)

This upheaval in thinking, combined with the separation from parents, has the consequence that the previous norms, values ​​and rules are called into question. But not only the previous is questioned, the young person also questions himself. The most common questions teenagers ask themselves are:

  • Who am I?
  • How do i want to be
  • Who do the others think I am?

It is the question of one's own identity. Finding one's identity in an open society has become more difficult than in earlier times (closed society). With the deinstitutionalization of the curriculum vitae and the de-traditionalization of social life, young people are being thrown more and more onto themselves. If the young person remains on his own, there is a risk that he will develop a negative self-esteem with various behavioral problems (e.g. depressive or aggressive behavior, persistent school problems, alcohol and drug abuse). If we define identity with E. H. Erikson as a match between self-image (how I see myself) and the image of others (how others see me), then it becomes understandable why young people in today's society find it difficult to find their own identity. The discrepancy between self-image and the image of others is increasing. Since the identity crisis and the search for meaning are directly related, the answer to the question of meaning is of far-reaching importance. The question of meaning, however, is answered in an ideological or religious way. The offer is diverse, especially in the religious field. The answer to the question of meaning is therefore not unimportant at this age. It is “above all the religious conviction of the parents” that shapes the beliefs of teenagers. (Fend 2000, p. 386; W. Faix 2000). Teens seek a personal belief and not an ecclesiastical institution in which belief is administered. “The desire to experience a personal relationship with God, to experience God, to feel him, is often present in young people.” (Klosinski, 2004, p. 109; Shell Jugendstudie 2010, p. 204 - 207; Busemann; Faix; Gütlich (ed.), 2013) Spirituality and religion are resources that help young people to develop positively. (Silbereisen; Weichold, 2012, p. 256f.)

Opportunities: Talk to your teen openly about ideological and religious issues and discuss them with them. Support him in finding his own answers to the question of meaning in life. Fathers are particularly in demand here because they have a different way of discussing such questions.As far as the question of faith is concerned, youth groups of the various denominations are a proven help.

Changes in the parent-child relationship

In the teenage years, the togetherness in the parent-child relationship also changes. Young people break away from family ties more and more and look for their own and independent contacts outside of the family. For some parents, this is a painful process that leads to conflict because the young person no longer takes part in familiar family life. Parents react differently to this process of detachment. Some try to hold on to the child, others release the child and no longer care about what it is doing and where it is going. Both attitudes have negative effects on the development process. It is better if parents continue to remain caregivers and authority (which the teenagers also want), even if they are no longer the only point of contact when it comes to life orientation, career choice, choice of friends, leisure activities, clothing, hairstyle, taste in music, choice of books, choice of friends, Room design, among other things m. goes.

The parenting behavior of the parents has to change because the growing child strives for more autonomy. Parents should support this pursuit without losing "parental control". (Lohaus; Vierhaus, 2012, p. 205) Parents who manage to adopt a supportive and controlling stance can expect their positive parent-child relationship to continue and the adolescent to experience this relationship as help and orientation. Therefore, these teenagers do not need to choose the “risky” way of an enforcement strategy in order to break away from their parents. If the parent-child relationship is positive, the parents will remain the most important reference persons in many life issues, such as ethical decisions and religious attitudes. (Flammer, A./Alsaker, F. D., 2002) The quality of the family climate is decisive for a positive progression of separation from parents.

The young person seeks and needs stable and reliable connections. The art of the parents is to make him feel that he is available when he needs the parents. This means that the parents have to develop a high level of sensitivity in order to recognize when the child wants a conversation, seeks emotional attention and needs physical contact. Parents and adults often find it difficult to give these "scratchy beings" emotional attention. A lack of emotional support can easily lead to emotional disturbances (e.g. anxiety, shyness, feelings of inferiority, depression) or antisocial behavior (e.g. aggression, lying, stealing, disobedience, violence). A solid, strong and trusting relationship with the parents is the best prerequisite for the young person to get through the crisis of puberty and adolescence.

Marital crises, divorces and single-parent families are a particular challenge for teenagers because the primary caregivers are lost. "Especially with separated and divorced families, however, the remaining members have an overly great need for harmony, so that problems of separation that cannot be suppressed must remain subliminal, cannot be dealt with openly and are acted out in other 'theaters of war', ie extrafamilial, e.g. at school. " (Klosinski, 2004, p. 78) In such situations, the mentoring relationships mentioned above (grandparents, youth leaders, mentors as 'secondary parents') gain in importance.
Opportunities: Allow points of friction and conflicts of interest in family life and use them to get into conversation (e.g. family conference) and to look for solutions.
Seek out exchanges with other parents who are in a similar position. If you have the impression that you need professional advice, you can get advice from advice centers or similar institutions.

Changes in personality development

The personal development during this time takes place between attachment and separation. This process necessarily leads to conflicts which take place in a special way inside the young person and which are often not perceived as such by parents or adults. Outwardly, the conflict takes place in the process of autonomy with the parents. The teenagers vehemently oppose the limits set by their parents, but feel neglected when there are no longer any limits. This conflict with parents is a necessary process in personal development. Parents who do not realize this or who seek harmony at all costs are not doing the child a good service. On the contrary: the child lacks a counterpart, against whom it can rub and educate itself. The young person develops into a personality with the help of conflicts within the family. Conflict management requires open communicative behavior on the part of the parents who seek dialogue with their children and can articulate, justify and substantiate their opinion without rejecting the child's opinion. Only in this way does the young person gain not only his “physical autonomy” but also the “ social autonomy ”.

When the teenagers break away from their parents, they usually take on an opposing position to the norms, values ​​and moral ideas of their parents. But that does not mean that they fundamentally break away from the values ​​of their parents. Values ​​and morals that have been lived in the family since childhood are internalized and also carry through the crisis of puberty. The contradiction to the parents is a sign of detachment. Inwardly, the teenagers continue to align themselves with the values ​​of their parents, outwardly, however, with the peer group. “The rules of conduct for this should be clear. Your own role model, the social model of personal behavior (...), works wonders. If the relationship is right, then there is a good chance of building a good relationship with the weaker and insecure young people who are essentially willing to perform. "(Hurrelmann, 2/2013, p. 47)

In addition to peers, the media have a strong influence on personal development. Many young people now have technical equipment from which their parents are far removed. As the media landscape is constantly changing, parents find it difficult to know which media influences their child and how. Many parents have given up worrying about their child's media use or “controlling” them, but this is not recommended. In this area in particular, parents have to take responsibility and show. (JIM study 2012) Because media not only offer advantages for schools, education, communication, etc., but also involve risks (e.g. computer, console and online games with the risk of addiction). Media are gaining more and more influence on the everyday life of young people and have an influence on the social, cultural and economic way of life. The public and private sphere are becoming more and more blurred (e.g. by online communities). Those who are not involved in the media network cannot participate in communication and are easily excluded. (14th Children and Youth Report 2013, p. 176ff.) Young people move around in the virtual network as a matter of course. You use the opportunities that are associated with it, but you can hardly assess the risks and dangers. That is why parents need to be “controlled” and openly discussing the advantages and disadvantages of using the media.
Opportunities: Strive for media skills, contact experts or take tips from friends, acquaintances and advice centers. Do not be afraid to use media-pedagogical aids to enable you to find a sensible way of working with your growing child in the jungle of the media world. Conflicts can hardly be avoided. You can find help here, for example.

Some practical tips

  1. Be patient with your pubescent child. Do not take his behavior personally or react hurt or offended. Try to understand the situation. Tell your child where you feel personally attacked and misunderstood, but don't hit back with hurtful words.
  2. Love is the only language teenagers understand. Love shows in listening, taking time and caring. It's not always easy and quite a challenge for parents, but your child will understand and appreciate this language. Love, time and attention give your child the feeling of security and security.
  3. Agreements (rules) and consequences are still part of being together in teenagers. It is important to ensure that the rules are not rigid and unreasonable. With increasing age, the rules also change and negotiating is part of it without the parents relinquishing responsibility. In the event of a conflict of interest, a compromise must be found that is acceptable to all parties involved. As a parent (or one-parent) you should be careful to encourage the child to take responsibility, but adopt a controlling and supportive behavior.
  4. In conflicts and quarrels, bad words are often used that hurt and spoil the climate. Once the anger has subsided, you as mother and father should seek conversation again and strive for forgiveness and reconciliation. It is important to bear in mind that not every teenager is equally ready for reconciliation. It depends on the personality type. Give each other time to overcome grudges and then come back together and purify the air.
  5. Trust is the best prerequisite for getting through times of crisis. Trust has to do with trust. When you have agreed something with each other, trust your child that they will stick to it. This gives your teenager a sense of security and security. This gives it appreciation and recognition. If the relationship of trust is disturbed, distrust returns to one another, which leads to increased conflicts and disputes. Try to restore the relationship of trust.


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Wilhelm Faix is ​​a lecturer in education and psychology at the Adelshofen Theological Seminary. Various publications and extensive lecturing.


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Created on September 17th, 2004, last changed on July 15th, 2013