Understanding Adolescents-2

by Muriel Larson

Editor's note: The conclusion of Muriel Larson's article on adolescents follows:

Boy/Girl Relationships

"At puberty a strong new sex urge appears," says Dorothy Rogers, "an urge that society decrees must find heterosexual channels for satisfaction. Now boys and girls are expected to establish easy informality with each other in a relatively short period of time. The transition is not always easy"  (The Psychology of Adolescence).

The transition is made even more difficult by shyness and the suddenly acquired embarrassing habit of blushing, as well as the fickle nature of youth.  Teenagers usually engage in a series of boy-and-girl friendships, courtships, quarrels, crushes, engagements, and broken engagements. They encounter many disappointments and difficulties. They may find it difficult to meet and get acquainted with a variety of members of the opposite sex and also in gaining parental acceptance of increased independence as they mature.

Heterosexual relationships present boys and girls with some of their most acute problems. "How can I make boys like me?" and "How should I behave towards boys?" are questions often asked by girls. Boys may feel awkward about asking for dates and may want to know what their attitude toward girls should be. "What if she turns me down?" they may wonder. "What kind of actions or talk will she expect of me on a date?

Dr. Clyde Narramore has some practical advice: "Many are the queries that demand honest answers as young people enter the thrilling world of dating. And these questions can be handled adequately and sincerely by someone who is understanding and sympathetic. The respected Christian counselor can be of inestimable influence in this important and interesting area of a young person's life."

How can we help our young people find sexual discipline in this sexually permissive society in which we live today?  As never before, they are bombarded with promiscuous sex and pornography through television, films, popular singers, and DVDs.

In a series of meetings, discuss the effects of promiscuousness or sexual involvement without marriage. Invite them to share stories of friends who have had abortions and the way they felt afterwards; friends who gave birth to illegitimate babies and how they felt about either giving the babies up or trying to take care of them; friends or acquaintances who acquired sexual diseases, and the effect on their lives.  In case you do not get many illustrations, be ready to give some of your own.

Read aloud and discuss various Scriptures that deal with sexual discipline, such as Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27, 15:19; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 6:9, 13-18; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3, Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 5:22; Jude 7. 

Questionable Activities

Because of the sudden surge of sexual urges, the desire for independence, and the need to be "one of the crowd," adolescents are frequently tempted to engage in questionable activities.

"Questions about morals acquire heightened significance at adolescence," says Ms. Rogers.  "Teenagers are confronted by many new problems for which they are not prepared—for example, those related to drinking, sex, and driving. They are expected to make decisions and to accept the consequence if they make the wrong choice.  Although they sometimes find that allowances are made for their behavior because of their age, they usually find it hard to live down a serious mistake.

Problems such as these can be discussed with your young people, perhaps when they are segregated by age and sex. Opportunities for thoughtful discussion may reveal that our adolescents are actually happier when they exercise self-control. Such discussions can emphasize practical answers to life's problems. For instance, how can a young person relate to a friend or family member who is doing drugs or drinking too much?  (Al-Anon, an organization for relatives of alcoholics, can provide answers for this.)  How can a young person be better able to live a wise, Christian life? (By choosing friends with similar values.)

Your area will have services available to help in providing answers, sources such as National Episcopal Coalition on Alcohol and Drugs; drug prevention education programs; Alcoholics Anonymous; the local commission on alcohol and drug abuse; and the local mental health center.

Applying Our Knowledge
If we recognize the needs and inclinations of adolescents, we can look for ways to use them so that we can help our young people. Socials and games can give them needed opportunities to learn to interrelate. Discussions may provide them with more spiritual fortification than a half-hour lecture on morality. Special speakers who can give your teenagers information on their concerns such as appearance, social skills, and interrelating can help not only the members of your youth group, but also attract new teenagers. Adapting our approach to today's teens can enable us to connect with their world.

When our young people surrender their lives to Jesus Christ, His Spirit transforms their characters. Learning and memorizing God's Word will strengthen them and help to keep them on God's way, thus protecting them from the perils of this present age.                   

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