Perkins states that adolescence is the period in which a person’s thinking changes from ‘concrete’ (seeing the world as black and white) to ‘abstract’ (questioning the world around them). Teenagers begin to consider their relationship to the world and ask themselves four basic abstract questions:
- Who am I? (Relates to social roles and sexuality.)
- Am I normal? (Do I fit in with a certain crowd?)
- Am I competent? (Am I good at something that is valued by peers and parents?)
- Am I lovable and loving? (Can those outside my immediate family love me?)
Those who work with young people should recognise these anxieties and provide them with the opportunity to explore their own values and beliefs. Guidelines for doing so can be found in the table below:
|Question||Guidelines for Working with Adolescents|
|Who am I?||Give them the freedom to explore their world. Only then can teenagers begin to answer this question.|
|Am I normal?||Give them room to be like their peers. ‘Fitting in’ with their peers can help teenagers feel accepted and valued.Provide reasonable supervision by using the four “W” questions:
1. Where are you going?
2. With whom are you going?
3. What are you doing?
4. When will you be back?
|Am I competent?||Assist young people with their problems and challenges but do not solve them.Ask questions instead of giving instructions e.g. “What are some things you could do?”
Guide but do not direct.
|Am I lovable and loving?||Young people develop best when they have supportive families and community lives that include:
· Warmth and mutual respect.
· Serious and lasting interest of parents and other adults.
· Adult attention to the changes they are experiencing.
· Clear boundaries and supervision.
· Communication of high expectations for achievement and ethical behaviour.
· Democratic ways of dealing with conflict.