How parents survive the tenacious teen years

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Raising a teen can certainly be challenging at times. Why is it they suddenly seem moody, hysterical, throw dreadful tantrums, start being sneaky around us and exclude us from their lives? Is this the beautiful child I raised and what happened?

How can I speak with or treat my teen so they stay calm, focused and friendly?

How can I spend time with them so they don’t feel I am intruding in their life and why am I unable to obtain any information about what they are doing, who they are spending time with or what their life dream or goal is?

Any question I seem to ask or any discussion I want to have is so often met with a view of vicious intrusion into their life. Are hormones always to blame, after all, we adults have hormones too, we go through our ups and downs, our monthly cycle and yet we don’t exclude the family, stop communicating or behave so dreadful to those people that love and care for us – or do we?

If we sit quietly and really look at the way we as parents and adults behave, what message do we put out, how do we speak or act towards others, do we see a similarity?

I find many parents display their behaviour for the children to emulate. Not always using the same content, words or actions, but often the similarities are astonishing. Parents must look at the way they speak not only to their teen but their partner and family, as this is the way our children learn to communicate.

Trust that you have hopefully raised a child that has good ethics, morals, standards, knows right from wrong and will do their best to be the best they can be. Trust this, believe in them and if or when they make a mistake, pick them up, discuss other ways they could have or should in future, manage that situation. This is parenting and this is part of growing as a child into an adult.

Many parents are at their wits end trying to manage or deal with their teen’s behaviours and mood swings. They often bring them into my therapy room so I can speak some sense into them, show them how unreasonable they are and pressure them to act and do as their parent’s request – to be human. Once I speak with their teen I start to discover these amazing young people who have been hiding behind a façade of anger or despair.

The pressure on a teen to ‘fit in’ and to do their best, to accomplish the remarkable, to know where their life will go, what career to choose and while all the time being amenable, friendly, balanced and happy. What the?? You must be kidding, no one can achieve this, especially not a child developing an adult body.

What we so often forget is our teen is still a child in mind and emotion. Sure their body due to hormones is developing to look like an adult, yet they remain a child. The biggest problem teens speak to me about is the lack of trust a parent has in them. We discuss the reasons for this and they usually understand the reason why their parent is so scared and protective of them. I then speak to the parent, give advice to them as to

  • how to speak with and address their teen
  • the sort of things to say to remove the conflictual conversations
  • the trust that is imperative to show
  • the choices to offer instead of demands made
  • the questions, that are not questions, to discover what your teen is thinking and doing so they can open up and share

Once these things are in place the relationship between teen and parent is often redeveloped. An important thing to consider when raising a teen is to keep the issues between yourselves and not share with family and friends. If the problems you are experiencing with your teen is made more public, comments are often thrown or implied, they feel under microscope and the teen will often act in the way expected just to make a point even though they may not believe it is right. They will say to me ‘if they expect me to do it this way – what the hell, I will’. Tips to safeguard your parent / teen relationship include:

  • don’t always jump to conclusions that your teen is doing something wrong
  • ensure you provide a safe non judgmental place for them to open up and discuss problems
  • always remember they are their own person, not you, so whatever you think, they may not
  • remember they are a child, not an adult, they think and act as a child and this may remain until their early 20’s
  • you are the grown up and should be setting a firm example of how to communicate on an adult level
  • never shut them out and understand often their poor reaction could be due to self-esteem issues, a failure they experienced or feel, pressure from being a teen, so many emotions on such young shoulders

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