This is the second article of two on the essential psychological needs of adolescents. It’s hard for caregivers at times to provide teens with what they need because certainly teens don’t always reciprocate love, affection, and trust. As they move further and further away from being children, they reveal greater, more complex needs. And these needs are essential for growing into adults that lead full and meaningful lives.
The needs presented in this article series are those that all teens need, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. All teens need to feel heard, safe, loved, trusted, and they need to have a sense of meaning in life. The first two needs of feeling heard and feeling safe were described in the first article. The remainder are described below:
A teen needs to be feel loved. When an adolescent feels love from his or her parents, it facilitates with loving him or herself. And this is essential during adolescence. There is an overwhelming amount of teasing, bullying, and pointing out how others are different that it makes being oneself a difficult task as a teen. When teens are faced with knowing that being different could bring consequences, as it often does in junior high and high school, it could squelch their need to find their identity, to play with their own creativity, and to deepen their strong need as a teen to discover the uniqueness of who they are.
In fact, self esteem could be described as having confidence in oneself. It’s having confidence in one’s abilities and having respect for who one is inside and out. Yet, there are so many factors that can contribute to a teen’s low self esteem, especially during adolescence. There are expectations placed upon teens by your parents, teachers, and peers. And when those expectations begin to feel too demanding, it’s hard for adolescents to find themselves and to love who they are.
Furthermore, teens who do not have a high self esteem and who have concerns with loving themselves they may be vulnerable to mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. For young female teens, for instance, having a low self esteem contributes to developing an eating disorder. Yet, parents can ease the pain of a low self-esteem by demonstrating their affection and clearly saying, “I love you,” to their adolescent children.
A teen needs to feel as though he or she can be trusted. Feeling like someone can trust you is a lot like feeling safe in a relationship. When there is trust in a relationship, there’s room for vulnerability, safe expression of feelings, and a basic emotion of feeling “okay” in the relationship. When teens feel as though their parents can trust them, it adds to a mutual respect and supports a teen’s maturity.
A teen needs to feel as though there is purpose in life. Adolescents who are in their early teens might place value on certain parts of life versus teens who are closer to adulthood. Finding meaning in life can come from relationships for younger teens, whereas for older teens, meaning might come from making choices regarding college and vocation. Regarding this, parents can so easily place their own expectations upon a teen who is in the process of discovering what they want to do with their life. Parents might expect their child to go to law school when in fact he or she might want to become an artist. Furthermore, it might be more meaningful for an adolescent to travel after high school rather than head straight to college. To facilitate a sense of meaning in teens, parents can focus on teaching and loving their child rather than choosing for them. It’s important for teens to have the space and autonomy they need to make the choices that are going to be support living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
The needs described here are those that are essential for the psychological well being of adolescents. Parents who help their children meet these needs can facilitate an easy transition into adulthood for their teen as well as living a full and healthy life.