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Trust in adolescence

Aktualizováno: 22. 8. 2023

"Granting the other person freedom means that you give him / her freedom to act, to choose, to judge and to make decisions: this is an ethical requirement of social recognition" (Ivana Marková: The dialogical mind, 2016)

Adolescence is a mysterious time. It's a bit like a roller coaster, but it never throws you off at the same place you entered it. With some unknown magical power, it takes you to another place that may look similar but may also be very different. And no one knows or can predict where the roller coaster will take our kid. Kind of scary, right?

When we hold 2-day open dialogue introductory courses, we usually offer some kind of "live dialogue" that participants can use to work through some professional or personal issue.

In one of the last courses, my colleague Martina, whom I have known for a long time, volunteered as a "client". My course co-lecturer Katka was a "therapist" who facilitated a dialogue with her and involved one of the other participants as a reflective person.

Martina shared with us her family troubles and, above all, her worries about her 15-year-old son, who is going through a very turbulent adolescence, which is apparently related to the demanding divorce process of Martina and her husband. These turbulences include experimenting with drugs, being around wild guys, mood swings, or lack of communication.

There are not many mothers here in Czech Republic who have more direct experience with these "symptoms". Martina has been involved in drug and addiction services as a professional social worker and psychotherapist for over twenty-five years and currently runs a center that is usually the only safe haven for people struggling with heavy drug use.

In addition, Martina has two older sons who have already successfully passed the challenging period called adolescence. Talking about her experiences, she sounded really confident that she knows the do's and don'ts of being a mother to a teenage boy.

Her skills and wisdom in being a "teenage guide" was clearly shown to me in the way she articulated her greatest concern. As I understood it, she was worried that her son might feel like he was going to lose his father and would have no place to process his emotions.

In other words, her greatest fear was not his consumption of alcohol, smoking or potentially criminal activity, but a lack of emotional support that could lead to isolation.

From a dialogic point of view, life is a never-ending dialogue, and when something stands in its way, it can be potentially life-threatening. There are many things taking place in adolescence that need to be worked through with at least one other person. And not just verbally. As the body changes, it needs other bodies stable enough to lean on.

Martina knew that her husband was a very important person for her youngest son, and now that his father has left home, they spend much less time together. She imagines how it might hurt. Unfortunately, she can't find a way to talk to her son about it. He withdraws from talking to her, perhaps also because he knows how painful the divorce process is for her.

As the conversation progressed, it became clear that there was at least one important person with whom Martina's son could speak with confidence - his friend, a girl his age, who is trusted by both Martina and him. But since Martina can't know the details of their conversations, she can't really know what's going on with her son, and she probably has a very hard time coming to terms with this fact.

At the end of the conversation, Martina said that the consultation was a relief for her. She learned that she couldn't do more at this point, she just had to be there as she was. And in order to do that, she also has to take care of her own emotions, which she started to be more aware of during our morning bodyscan. That's why she also decided to return to her mindfulness practice.

It may sound simple, but it is actually extremely difficult to watch your child engage in risky

practices and do nothing. But, maybe paradoxically, this is the crucial task of parents of teenage children. Taking the stance of "watching" them (meaning being with them, not leaving them, being interested in them) while tolerating the uncertainty of not knowing where the roller coaster will throw them off.

Sometimes it deserves many hours of mindfulness or meditation or therapy for parents.

During the interview, Martina said that she once asked her eldest son how he experienced his adolescent years. He said, "I had a lot of freedom, but I never felt like my mom didn't care about me". I don't think it can be said better.

You may ask: But what if they don't care about us? Well, it's their choice. And it is their right. But never let them feel that you don't care about them!

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