Making Sense of Adolescence (or anyone who acts like one)

ring of female friends outdoors, (portrait)3 Thursday evenings: September 15, 22 and 29

6:30 to 9:00 pm

Location: Westside Family Place @ Macdonald + W. 11th, 2819 West 11th Ave, Vancouver

$150 per person

Please register by email –

Certificates will be provided for professional development hours


This course is based on developmental science and the relational approach of Dr. Gordon Neufeld.

 Course Information

Adolescence literally means ‘growing into maturity’. An adolescent is neither child nor adult and therein lies much of the difficulty, the turbulence, the confusion and the challenge. They need us, yet need to not need us. We are their best bet, yet their instincts are to resist us. Unlike primitive cultures, our highly complex society requires a lengthy adolescence with very few rites of passage. The task of turning children into adults has never been more daunting!

Nature’s part in creating grown-ups is to equip them for adult functioning around the time of puberty, ready or not. These changes create their own rites of passage that the adolescent must negotiate to truly mature. Unfortunately, growing up is not a given; not all adolescents embrace their developmental destiny. The most common temptation of adolescence is to replace parents with peers instead of becoming one’s own person. The most common mistake of adults is to back off prematurely. As long as an adolescent is not yet viable as a separate being, he or she is meant to be attached to those responsible for him or her.

These rites of passage create challenges for parents and teachers as well: the adolescent’s new found idealism makes them critical of us; their developmental self-absorption makes them deaf to our perspective; their acute allergy to coercion makes them rather difficult to direct.

Our challenge as adults is to help our teens cross the bridge from childhood to adulthood, to encourage them to embrace their developmental destiny and to ultimately shoehorn them into adult society. Meanwhile, we have the day-to-day challenge of parenting and teaching them, of guiding and directing them, of shielding them from stress.

Adolescence is truly the womb of adulthood and those enveloped in supportive adult relationships have the greatest chance of successfully negotiating this tumultuous time. The challenge is not to treat them as if they were children nor to retreat from them as if they were adults. Learning to ‘dance’ with an adolescent commands the very best in us.

Themes and Structure

The course material is organized around three psychological changes that occur during adolescence, the seven rites of passage that these changes create, the resulting temptations for the teen, and the corresponding challenges for those who parent, teach or work with adolescents. Complicating adolescence is the fact that there is not one, but rather two developmental pathways to adulthood. Knowing which track the adolescent is on is key to knowing how to help facilitate his or her passage into adulthood.


This material is relevant to anyone who is involved or will be involved with teenagers: parents, grandparents, teachers, counsellors, youth workers, family workers, therapists, social workers, psychologists. This course can be used for professional development for teachers, continuing education for helping professionals, and staff training for youth programs. This course is also appropriate for parents of preteens to prepare them for the transition.


The objective of this course is to make sense of adolescents from inside out. Every adolescent is an individual of course, but there are some common dynamics that affect all adolescents. Understanding what these dynamics are can provide the keys for knowing how to deal with the problems that may arise.

Some of the topics addressed include:

  • the psychological changes at puberty that impact adolescents and those that parent and work with them
  • how to deal with the premature loss of power and influence with an adolescent
  • the rites of passage that must be endured for the adolescent to mature
  • how to recognize when rebellion is healthy or a result of adults being replaced by peers
  • the psychological temptations faced by adolescents on their journey to maturity
  • how parents and teachers can avoid premature or forced retirement
  • the two alternate paths to adulthood and societal integration
  • how to preserve or restore one’s rightful place in an adolescent’s life
  • the dangers of peer-orientation in the life of an adolescent
  • how to differentiate between relationship problems and behaviour problems in the adolescent
  • the role of dissonance and internal conflict in the life of an adolescent
  • how to hold on without holding them back

Dr. Deborah MacNamara is the founder of Kid’s Best Bet, Counselling and Family Resource Centre, is on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute, and the author of Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one).

Deborah presents, teaches, and writes on all facets of child and adolescent development based on the relational-developmental approach of Gordon Neufeld. She is in private practice where she offers counselling services to parents and professionals in making sense of learning, behavioural, and developmental issues in children and adolescents. Deborah is a dynamic teacher and experienced counsellor who takes developmental science and makes it come to life in the everyday context of home and classroom.

Deborah presents regularly to audiences including parents, educators, child care professionals, social workers, counsellors, foster and adopt community, and health care professionals. Her particular passions include providing insight into preschooler behaviour, helping adolescent’s transition into adulthood, and walking people through the journey of parenthood. She is a developmentalist at heart who is continually fascinated by the mysteries and beauty inherent to human maturation.

Deborah has over 20 years experience as a counsellor and teacher working in educational and community mental health settings. She writes for a number of newsletters, parenting magazines, blogs, and is interviewed for radio talk shows.

For more information please contact or (604) 802-1377.

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