Stress seems to peak for most parents when their children are in their teens. Problems range widely, including curfews, drug and alcohol issues, driving privileges, grades, depression, running away, minimal communication and defiant cantankerousness. Volumes are written about teenage angst.
I am personally no stranger to these stresses, but have watched all my children survive their teens and moved on into creating their adult lives. I admit there were times I had grave doubts.
You may find the following principles helpful in negotiating the trials of teenage angst, whether you are a parent or a teen.
First, recognize the psycho-spiritual work adolescents must do to transform themselves from children to adults. As parents you may have to restrict privileges, insist they earn some of their own money, or even strongly urge an older teen to move into their own place. Understanding what is happening psychologically may help with the next principle.
Secondly, keep your cool. A significant part of the teen’s work is to test limits and either fight to leave the nest or fight against the parents’ urging them to leave.
For many teens it becomes a contest. If you keep your cool in the midst of the turmoil, you aid their transition and you remain what you always intended to be, a good adult role model.
Thirdly, keep lines of communications open. Their work is to become independent of you, and that includes not discussing everything with you. Your job is to use the best principles of communication you can muster. Listen with interest, acknowledge what they are saying, don’t interrupt, take a time-out if they (or you) are too emotional, make what you have to say interesting to them and create a brightness of the future.
Fourth, stress commitments, not rules. While a 13-year-old is expected to follow a rule about what time to be in, what he is learning is to keep a commitment to be home by a designated time. By the time he is 17 or 18, he should be specifying when he’ll be in.
All the emphasis should be placed on his keeping the commitment to be home by then or immediately contacting family if there is any change in plans.
Fifth, keep on loving them. No matter how unlovable your kids may seem at times, we need to keep on loving them and letting them know it. If they are pulling away, it is towards becoming independent adults.
They are also trying to learn how to have an adult relationship with you. Over the next few years, you may be much more valuable to them as an older, wiser friend than as a parent.
Dr. Neill is a Central-Island Registered Psychologist. You can reach him at 250-752-8684 or through his website www.neillneill.com/contact.