Michelangelo said that when he set out to sculpt a statue from a formless block of marble, he sought only to remove the excess marble from the statue that already existed inside the block. This is what Aristotle called accidental change. Aristotle believed that when change occured, something new came to be, something old passed away, and something stayed the same throughout.
While we constantly watch our children change, the teen years are some of the most pronounced. Your teen will go through pubertal changes, as well as changes in brain structure, cognitive capabilities, and sexual interest. They will also experience changes in the roles they assume in their family, community, and school. Outside of their own development, teens must adjust to the changing world around them. For example, teens have experienced the rapid growth in technology, changing views in politics, and emerging styles in music and clothing.
Whether we are talking about normal development or changes in the world around us, some will be easier than others. People often respond to change with phrases like, “Come what may”, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, and “What we resist persists.” When people really don’t want to deal with change, they often look for proof to justify that it isn’t really happening or necessary.
One thing to consider is how Aristotle’s description of change fits your teen. Try taking a day or two to live in wonder of who your teen really is right now. Have a good look at what has emerged, passed away, or been the same for as long as you can remember. This can happen in a variety of areas such as personality traits, tastes in food, interests, styles, and levels independence. Why do this? Because, change happens so quickly we can miss it if we don’t pay attention.
Another thing to consider is how you deal with your teen changing. Do you avoid it or embrace it? Do you prepare for it or deal with it as it comes? Do you accept it or wish things would just stay the same. It is important to consider how you deal with change because your response can actually have an impact on your teen’s experience of him/herself. For example, let’s say your teen’s interest switches from playing football to guitar. Embracing this change may open up opportunities for your teen to feel excited, proud, and adventurous. However, responding with criticism may generate feelings of hesitation, sadness, and guilt.
Finally, consider that you can have an impact on how your child changes by what you expose them to, and how you embrace what they choose to explore. Teens often take your openness and interest in them as a pure expression of love. One time, I heard a teen tell his mom, “It means so much to me that you are open to me trying on different nutritional diets. It means even more that you will do them with me. It says that you care about what matters to me and I love you for it.”
While change looks different for every teen, it is inevitable. Regardless of how you feel about it, change helps to shape the adult your teen becomes. Challenge yourself to be a positive contribution and enjoy it along the way.