Adolescence is a major milestone in the physical and emotional development of our lives. It is regarded as the most turbulent stage in emotional development. The upsurge of sex hormones changes the body and the mind of adolescent remarkably and rapidly. Emotional development in adolescence is driven by a growing sense of independence, experimentation, peers and psycho-sexual growth. Emotional development is closely interrelated to physical development and vice versa.

According to the available literature, 85 per cent of children overcome adolescent changes without any problems while 15 per cent of children exhibit problematic behavior. The problem behavior can vary from mild irritability to extreme aggression. During this phase of development mood swings are very common. Aggression becomes a frequent mode of emotional expression. The growing feeling of independence conflicts with the standards set by parents and society. Adolescents start to visualize the world through the eyes of their peers. It is not easy to sustain the peer pressure. For most adolescents, the behavior of their peers becomes the norm.  Children during adolescence are more open for experimentation out of curiosity. This adds to various risky behaviors.

Frequent physical or verbal arguments are not uncommon during adolescence. Adolescents are also vulnerable for relationship issues because of psycho-sexual growth and infatuation related to that. They are also prone to the various antisocial activities and addictions. It is important to know that in many adults with addictions, use of addictive substances begins during adolescence. These growth spurts related behavior and social problems affect the academic growth of the child. It also leads to various medical problems.

Today’s adolescents are also excessively inclined towards the screen use. The digital revolution has changed the life of everyone and adolescents are not exception for it. 60 percent of the world’s population is online at any moment of time. Among various addictions, adolescents are suffering most by screen related addictions or internet addictions.  Online gaming addiction, social media addiction and pornographic addiction are few common internet addictions in this age group. It significantly affects the emotional, physical, academic, personal and social growth of adolescents.

Needless to say that almost all adolescents need guidance during this phase of hormonal ups and downs. As parents and medical professionals, we need to be more alert during this phase of our children. Firm but warm type of parenting, good bidirectional communication with adolescents, listening to their concerns, respecting and valuing their suggestions, explaining them about science behind adolescence, explaining them about impending physical and emotional  changes are few methods to deal with these youngsters.

Channelizing energy of adolescents in socially acceptable activities is an important tool to manage various emotional problems of the adolescents. Sports, music, dance, painting, craft, etc. are the most commonly used activities to sublimate their emotions and also to keep them engage. Among all these activities, sports have a unique place in the life of adolescence.

Sports have been traditionally seen as a part of physical development. But, it is equally important for emotional health. Our objective should be balanced growth of adolescent, physically and emotionally. Digitization and academic pressure have taken away the sports from the life of many adolescents. They are deprived of the specific benefits of sports. There are various psychological advantages of sports.

Sports channelize our aggressive emotions in an acceptable manner. It has a calming down effect. It has been commonly noticed that children and adolescents not involved in physical activities like sport are more irritable.

Sports very often work like group psychotherapy. It improves the confidence of adolescents, who often suffer from the inferiority complex during this phase of development. Positive and unconditional interaction with others during play improves the self esteem. Sports also give them a feeling of well being because of the release of endorphins in the body.

Sports teaches them various emotional aspects which otherwise are difficult to imbibe. Positive competition, sportsman spirit, camaraderie can be learned unknowingly though the sports. Olympics and Paralympics are few examples of how sport connects people.

One of the most difficult emotional problems of adolescent is how to face the failure. Many youths of current generation lack the required resilience and coping skills to fight back the failure. Sports teach them this aspect of life by serial experiments. There is always a next chance, and sport helps to imbibe this quality among adolescents. Failure is a dynamic and not permanent state. Sports make it evident in real life. Sports also make the life of adolescent more meaningful and disciplined.  It also helps us to improve our physical health which in turn adds to our emotional health. It is difficult for physical ill person to feel strong. If we are physically fit, it changes our perspective. We feel more positive and confident.  So let’s play everyday.

By Dr. Sushil Gawande
Professor, Department of Psychiatry, NKPSIMS & RC & LMH, Nagpur
Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Gawande Clinic, Shraddhanandpeth, Nagpur