Coping with our disruptive teenagers
Being a parent to teenagers can be a challenging, worrying and sometimes distressing time. While teenagers are pushing against the system in their search for independence, parents can feel rejected, criticised and confused. The home may become a battleground with constant power wrangles and high emotion. But this is just a pale reflection of what's going on inside your teenagers body.
The average teenager's body is changing at an alarming rate, which, by the way, is one of the reasons they sleep so much! As hormones shift and surge, the body, brain and emotions are on a permanent roller-coaster. Those raging hormones are likely to cause a range of embarrassing physical complaints for the ever self-conscious teenager to deal with. BO, spots, clumsiness and sprouting body hair to name but a few. The extremes of emotion that adolescence are susceptible to, are also partly due to hormones. Boys are coming to terms with large quantities of testosterone surging through their bodies while girls have to cope with the mood swings that accompany oestrogen. But hormones are only part of the story.
The psychological goal of adolescence is to become independent from parents and establish their own identity and place within society. This involves building their own friendships and controlling their own emotional responses. Making their own decisions and moral choices based on consequences and conscience rather than fear of punishment. Developing their own beliefs and plans for the future. It is an exciting time for teenagers, but also a very scary and challenging one. A time when the support and encouragement of parents is paramount to their successful transition into adulthood.
Tips for Coping
- Be There - contrary to how it may seem at times, your teenagers do want to talk to you. But you need to let it be in their time and at their pace.
- Be Reassuring - a lot of teenagers are scared by the feelings they're experiencing and the new wave of responsibilities that they have to take on. They need lots of reassurance that they're not going mad and they will cope.
- Be Consistent - research shows that consistent, non-punitive limits and boundaries which also respect the young person's boundaries will best help them to foster their own sense of security whilst in inner turmoil
- Be Ready - to discuss the rationale behind your behaviour and your rules. Remember that they are learning from you how to be and think like an adult.
- Be Approving - research confirms that both males and females have higher self esteem in early adolescence if they perceive that they have the approval and support from their families.
- Be Patient - while teenagers are trying to find the right balance of behaviours and independence, they often swing too far in the opposite direction. But in time, the pendulum will swing back and settle in a more comfortable position.
- Be Gentle - even though your teenager may act as though they're indestructible, they're emotions are still very fragile - so handle with care.
- Be Loving - remember that while your child may seem to be pushing you away, they still need your love. A teenagers silent plea is often "hold me tightly as I grow, but please don't let me see you holding me!".
- Be Honest - sometimes you will feel stressed and emotional yourself. Don't be afraid of letting your teenager know how you feel. Each time you do, you're showing them that it's ok not to be perfect and it's ok not to have all the answers.
- Be Supported - there are literally millions of other parents out there going through the same things as you. Take time to share your burdens and let off steam. You will be better equipped to support your child, if you are getting support for yourself.
- Be Hopeful - this is only a phase. It is normal for teenagers to drift away from and even reject their parents. But it's also normal for them to come back and develop a meaningful relationship that will last the rest of your lives.
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