Transition: The Teenage Years

It’s unbelievable how time flies and the little, 3,4,5 year old Twinklers I started to teach 8-10 years ago are now tall lanky and outgoing teenagers. I do not meet their parents as often- the parents who previously came diligently to lessons, took notes and practiced the lesson plan with their children at home. Still parents play an important role in providing a nurturing and positive environment that helps teens weather some of the upheavals of this transitional period.

Physically teenagers experience a tremendous growth surge as their hormones kick in and their bodies develop to adulthood.  They become self conscious of their clothes, appearance and the opinion of their peers. Teens are still children who are dependent on their families yet they would like to be recognised as young adults. As teens they try to establish their own self identity, and this can cause tension in a family as they may resist or rebel against the authority of their parents or other adults. Often their identity is tied to a group of peers rather than the family and they enjoy spending time with their friends and being in close communication.

I find my teenage students have so much going on in their lives- school projects, exams, extra curricular activities, field trips and retreats; it’s hard to keep up! On the positive side, they also are bright and have the intellectual capability to understand what they need to do and how to organise their own schedules.

What advise can we give parents of Suzuki teenagers? Above all else keep a good relationship with the teen.  They need to have parents and teachers who are approachable if they have questions or difficulties. We are still an important part of their lives. Communication should be open but also respectful on both sides. Says parent Caroline: We struggle to find the balance on how to guide our teenage children to make the right choices when freedom is allowed. Often balance is easier to navigate when we have a close relationship with our children. Children are more open to parental guidance and direction when they trust their parents and have close connection with them. The parent-children relationship holds an important key when guiding our children.

Parents and teachers can assist their children by questioning and helping them think for themselves rather than lecturing or ordering the child to do something.  Often at this age ordering a teen to practice will backfire and they won’t practice for the entire day!! However a carefully worded question such as:  ‘What is your most challenging piece this week? How is it going (mention an event)? Can you show me after you have practiced that difficult passage? What time will you start practicing today- remember we have to go to….’ etc.

Caroline continues to share her experience: It is also helpful to let our children know that independence they receive comes in stages. The more they are responsible, the more they receive independence. In the process, instead of controlling their choices, we try to guide or direct our children to make good choices by exploring possible consequences from their choices. In some cases, we realize that children learn from mistakes; often we have to let them make mistakes in order for them learn from consequences. I found that It is better to have our children make mistakes while we are with them because we can be there to guide them going through the consequences and use it as a teachable moment. Guiding our children to grow to be a responsible adult is never a simple thing. It takes time. So the question I always ask myself whether I have the time to give them good guidance. 

Stay engaged, interested and enthusiastic; your teen will appreciate it even if the parent is now at the sidelines! Don’t hesitate to contact your teacher or other parents for support or someone to talk to when you notice changes you see in your child’s motivation and practice habits. Sometimes a new piece, style of music or an event can help spark the interest again. 

Keep enrolling your child in the group lessons, orchestras, camps and other events such as Festivals, Master Classes that allows them to socialize with their peers.  We are so fortunate to have our Suzuki community that fosters good attitudes, healthy activity and a shared culture of discipline, collaboration and celebration through music making.

(Therese Wirakesuma, Caroline Jong)

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