Why is it that parents dread the topic of teenagers? The truth is this: the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically, but emotionally and intellectually as well, causing confusion and frustration for many families. It is no secret that parents are biologically driven to protect their children, thus, sometimes getting in the way of the teen and their desire to “grow up” and “separate” to gain their independence. This is often the time period when parents begin to feel stress and conflict with their teen for a variety of reasons. It is vital that parents take this time to understand their teen and the very real changes that they are undergoing. It may also be of great help to both you and your teen if you attempt to understand the ever-changing and challenging world they are living in, while also taking a look at yourself as well during this process. Here are some tips on how to approach this:
Let it go: Your child has to grow up at some point in life and adolescence is there for that very reason. It is normal for teens to pull away from you. Because parents are biologically driven to protect their child(ren), it can be extremely challenging to let go and allow them to achieve independence. Some questions you can ask yourself are: “Am I a controlling parent?”, “Do I listen to my child?”, “Do I allow my teen’s opinions to differ from my own?” Remember, while you are driven to protect your child, your teen is biologically programmed to separate during this time. The best thing you can do here is to embrace the fact that your teen is entering into a new stage of life.
Inform your teen: Experimentation and risky behaviors are often presented during the teen years. Many parents tend to ignore or avoid the subjects of sex, drugs, and alcohol; consequently, making it worse for their teen down the road. Discussing these tough topics prior to your teen’s exposure will make your child more likely to act responsibly when presented to these types of scenarios. It is okay to share your family values and what you believe to be right versus wrong.
Know the warning signs: Change is normal during the teen years; however, drastic or long-lasting behavior or personality changes may be a signal for trouble. Some warning signs include but are not limited to: extreme weight gain or loss, signs of alcohol or drug use, skipping school, sudden changes in friends, and/or run-ins with the law. Inappropriate behavior that lasts longer than 6 weeks may be a sign that your teen needs to seek professional help.
As most parents are aware, the teen years are filled with both highs and lows. Take the time to understand your teen, ask questions, and know that your teen still needs you even if they think or say otherwise. They will slowly develop into becoming responsible and independent young adults as you navigate through these challenging, yet exciting times.