Parenting complex adolescents has never been easy. And in 2018, it’s never been harder. While hormones and angst have accompanied adolescence since the beginning of time, we live in an ever-complex world. Gender identification, sexuality, and cyber bullying are just a few examples of complicated issues that kids are now facing more openly than ever. And with advanced technology at their fingertips, teenagers today may sometimes even feel as though they have to navigate two lives; the one they lead in reality and the one they have created for themselves online and/or via social media. As kids struggle with these new issues, they can often withdraw and isolate, sometimes presenting as angry and irritable in the process. For parents, this can be an alarming turn of events. Most of the time, this dynamic is just a frustrating reminder that a child is growing up. But in some cases, the problems may run deeper and be cause for greater concern.
While they don’t get paid for their efforts, it often feels as though a teenagers job is to be difficult. Its normal for them to feel misunderstood and confused. As a result, a teenager may feel angry, alone and lost while facing complicated issues about identity, peers, sexual behavior, drinking and drugs. Parents may feel frustrated that their child no longer responds to authority appropriately. Methods of discipline that worked well in earlier years may no longer have an effect. Parents may also feel frightened and helpless about the choices their teen is making.
Typical areas of parent-teen conflict may include:
- Time spent with Family vs. Friends (autonomy vs. belonging)
- Disputes over curfew
- Technology usage
- Dating & Sexuality
- Peer groups
- School & Grades
Dealing with issues of adolescence can be trying for all concerned. At the same time that teenagers are starting to push boundaries and experiment, parents are in a position where letting go is often their only choice. The days of being greeted at the door by an excited toddler are usually replaced by teenagers openly cringing at the very presence of their parents. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution for this inevitability of life. But for families raising teenagers, the most effective formula is often a combination of balance, fluidity and support. It’s essential that parents learn how to let go while maintaining a sense of structure and discipline. Teenagers are going to make mistakes. They are definitely going to make bad choices. This is part of their DNA. For parents, the ability to adapt to change while providing consistent support can make an enormous difference. Reducing dependence can be the hardest job for a parent. But it is simultaneously one of the most important.
Families that can maintain a balance of patience and empathy are generally successful at helping their children navigate these difficult years. However, there are several warning signs that things are not going well. These include aggressive behavior or violence by the teen, drug or alcohol abuse, promiscuity, school truancy, brushes with the law or runaway behavior. If any of these issues become prevalent, it’s important that parents are open to seeking help, whether via therapy and/or other types of services.
Please feel free to contact me with questions or to schedule an appointment.