The disappointment at finding out their parents are not god-like can be very disappointing. This, not surprisingly, leads to the question in your teenager's mind –"What else haven't I been told, and why not?". Mistrust and rebellion on the teen's part are too often a response to the disappointment of learning that parents are only human. Rebellion against the established order (parental authority) can be very threatening and disruptive, as rebellions inevitably are. It is easy to find fault with people who are annoying us. So the question for parents becomes,"How do I learn to like the teenager I love?"
Adolescence is a time of hormonal awakening, with changes in body stature, emotions and awakening of basic instincts. It is a powerful force, as it takes teens on a wild ride. Too often, the people best able to help them understand their new emotions are the very people they now seem to mistrust.
“I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again.”
- Bart Simpson
You do not have to agree with everything that is happening to your teen, or with the prevailing attitude. You do owe it to both of you to acknowledge what is happening and try to understand. This is a duty that parents have towards their not yet fully grown child. Teens may look like adults, but there is still some intellectual and emotional maturing that has to occur.
|What Parents Want to Say||What Teens Want to Hear|
There is still a parental duty to protect against the consequences of risk-taking behaviour, be it alcohol and drugs, driving or sex. Some observations based on research of both parents and teens are shown in the adjacent table.
You can see some similarities in the want lists. Is there a way to mesh these, and communicate them to each other? Is there room for compromise? Are there basic common tools we must ensure our children have?
It is never easy to parent teenagers, but there are some necessary skills you need to develop for you and your child to survive the teenage years positively.
James Windell, an American psychologist, has recently published a book that outlines the most important ones.
Just when things may seem most difficult, try to step back and put them in perspective. Your child is not always breaking a curfew, is not always messy, is not always moody, is not always disrespectful. It is important to realize that all the behaviours you find so bothersome only occur sometimes. Therefore, be prepared to take the time to resolve conflicts. Don't be afraid to apologize if you feel you are wrong or if you have made a mistake. Acknowledge that raising a teenager is a new experience for you too, and that you are learning as you go along.
Remember, regardless of how bright your child may be, you have the vastly superior advantage of experience. Remember, too, your youth. You survived it and so will your child.
The goal is to raise a socially responsible adult, able to withstand the trials and tribulations of an increasingly complicated, and often outrageous world.
If you feel overwhelmed by the experience of the teen years, there are resources and professionals available to help you, and your teen. The strengths and experiences of your various family members can be invaluable. In the community, there are agencies and professionals
available to help. Have you investigated the family life courses and life skills classes that the school offers to your child? Have you spoken about your concerns with your family doctor? Very often, a frank discussion with a professional can bring things back into perspective again.
These are your children, and your love for them is unconditional. Recognize they are on a very difficult passage to adulthood and are often scared of what awaits them. The tribal behaviour and conformity of youth is a coping mechanism. Empathetic and kind behaviour, and honest observations rather than criticism on your part, might go a long way in keeping lines of communication open. "Do unto them, as you would have them do unto you" is ancient, but still applicable wisdom for our modern world. Mutual respect and trust should be the goal. Don't we all like people we can respect and trust?
Many resources are available to assist both parents and teens, including educators, school counsellors and family physicians. A helpful book is Six Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenager by James Windell.