Guest Author - Beverly Patchell
Much of adolescence is spent by the adolescent finding out who they are as a person, the “truth” about themselves. In that search, it can appear to the adults in their lives that they are either exaggerating or minimizing themselves in their efforts to establish this truth. Sometimes this truth is seen as identity formation, which is surely a part of it. Most parents have objected to particular attire or hairstyle, to be met with raised voices about “this is just who I am and I don’t care what you think”. Other adolescents might withdraw and become very introverted and they “think through” rather than “act out” these processes of forming an “I” and a “me”.
Another way adolescents find out about truth is by avoiding it or stretching it. They look for all of the gray areas, places that offer excuses for behavior or a way to get what they want without bothering with all the details. So when they go to spend the night with a friend, it might not seem important to tell the parents that the friend will be somewhere else and that they are going with them. When parents figure this out and begin to question more or check up on them, then the indignation of not being trusted arises. Playing with the gray areas of truth is the adolescent’s way of figuring out boundaries, determining how far of a stretch they can live with, and seeing if their parents will believe what other parents seem to.
Families with strong religious beliefs and practices around telling the truth can react in predictable ways; they worry for the soul and salvation of the adolescent and react from the black and white perspective, that the truth is the truth and nothing but the truth. They have long since forgotten the rule of hormones and the rush of adrenaline, the nectar of adolescence. We adults have also long forgotten the rush of power that being able to manipulate adults brings to the adolescent.
Before the alarms go off, what this article is discussing is normal adolescence. All of these behaviors are normal and should bring normal consequences. “Normal” being defined by the context and outcome of the situation and the degree of or lack of harm to self and others. The responses can range from a flat “you are grounded” to a discussion of theological perspectives around truth and what it means to your family. What works for one family, might not work for another. When this occurs, make it a learning opportunity for all and not a point of division. It can be a growth experience for all, and that’s the truth.