Explosive Adolescence

Adolescence can at times be an uncomfortable place to be. Here, Pat Jewell, Manager of the Foundation's Parenting and Early Years Program, explores how the tensions and explosions experienced in Adolescence can also be found in nature.

This blog is written by Pat Jewell, Manager of Parenting and the Early Years Program at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

When there is an adolescent in the house there is often tension as the parents and the adolescent try to work out how to relate to each other in this new and different landscape. During this period of sometimes explosive adolescence, our young people are starting on a journey of incredible brain growth that affects both how they see the world, how the world sees them as well as their reactions to the changes within and around them.

The Bringing Up Great Kids: Parenting Adolescents program has found the metaphor of a volcano helpful to understand what is going on for the adolescents and how parents can support them through their adolescence journey.

Types of volcanoes matching types of adolescent behaviour

There are four main types of volcanoes, Cinder Cone, Composite, Shield and Lava.  And whilst it might be said that all types of volcano can be particularly helpful in understanding adolescent behaviour, there are two that we wish to highlight in today’s blog; the Shield and the Composite.

Shield VolcanoShield Volcano

The shield volcano has a low profile and can be quite wide. Shield Volcano’s simmer away offering a series of “gushings” but no explosive eruptions. To us, this might represent the non-communicative, grunting adolescents who see parents as an embarrassment who don’t understand them. 

We recommend keeping communication open and caring. Be positive and reassuring. Support a positive self-identity in the adolescent, be nurturing and supportive. Parental support enables the adolescent to have their periodic “gushings” in a safe environment and to keep the relationship open and safe.

The role of the parent towards the “shield” adolescent is to be supportive of the adolescent so that the behaviour does not “erupt” into a damaging confrontation between the adolescent and parents. Keep communication open and accessible.

Composite Volcanoexplosive adolscence

In contrast to the Shield Volcano, The Composite Volcano erupts explosively from a central summit vent or side vents. This might represent the adolescent who erupts into a violent outburst that may cause a lot of damage to the relationship making it difficult for either the adolescent or parent to reconnect.

The parental role here is to keep communication open despite how hurtful the adolescent behaviour has been. These adolescents desperately need parents who are sensible, caring, kind and forgiving.

Post Eruption Responses

Anak Krakatau Eruption - Image shows the volcano in August 2018 and in January 2019 (either side of eruption) and reveals the landscape has changed significantly.
Image source Reddit user J Kirsch

After a volcano erupts and releases all its larva, flame, and ash it creates a new landscape, often looking quite different to the original volcano.  You can find an example of this in the images of Anak Krakatau to the left or above.

Similarly, after the period of intense neurobiological change our adolescents have travelled through, we also find that significant change has occurred. When the brain development is complete in the adolescent the adult emerges.  Our young people then begin to look and behave differently as they explore the new landscape called adulthood.

The Australian Childhood Foundation offers training to professionals to enable them to support parents to support adolescents through their journey and to be able to arrive exhausted but relieved into the new landscape of their adolescent becoming an adult.

You can find out more about our training  here: https://professionals.childhood.org.au/course/bugk-parenting-adolescents/