What happened to your loving, caring, talkative little boy or girl? They grew up and they changed. Spend less time with you, not communicative, moody and private? Sounds like you are living with a teenager. It happens to all parents.
Teenagers can be challenging to us as parents, giving us worry and stress. Teenage children make us feel rejected, criticised and confused. We want our children to be independent, who doesn’t? When they start showing their independence however, we are not ready for it, thinking they are still too young. Cast your minds back, what were you like as a teenager?
Is it worse today than when you remember? Arguments with your parents may have led to you making promises to yourself that you would not be a parent like yours were. This is not a new conversation; your parents probably had the same questions when you were a teenager and their parents before them. Being a teenager is a big deal, not only is their body going through some pretty major changes but so are their emotions. How many of us can relate to the following story?
“Once upon a time there was a little boy. His world was wonderful, he lived with his loving Mum and Dad and younger sister, who could be a little annoying. Every day, he would play with his family and talk all the time about what was happening at school. Then the little boy started getting bigger, he became impatient with his sister and didn’t always want to play childish games with his family. Sometimes he spoke back rudely to his Mum and Dad and was upset that he had and didn’t know why he did and that made him sad. He wanted to say sorry but for some reason the words wouldn’t come out. There were friends in school that weren’t really friends anymore and he didn’t know why. Some of the other boys seemed to be getting bigger and hairier and he wondered why he wasn’t like them. He preferred spending time with himself when at home and got annoyed when others came into his room wanting to know what he was doing. Why can’t they leave me alone, I just want some privacy, he often thought, but could not say.”
Teenagers are going through a period of life known as adolescence and the whole point of this process is maturity, physical and emotional. The endpoint is meant to be independence, adulthood. In society it is a chance for the teenager to have their own identity and understand their place. In doing this, they must learn to cope with and understand their emotions. They are learning to build friendships and trust. Teenagers must learn to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences and their own conscience. It’s an exciting time, for the teenager it can be very scary. It’s a time when they need support, freedom and space, but they don’t always know themselves how to communicate their feelings.
Encouragement, support and understanding from parents is so important to help teenagers successfully transition through adolescence and become independent, balanced and emotionally secure adults. Nothing I can write will stop your child going through the teenage years but perhaps I can help fellow parents (yes, I currently have a teenage daughter) as they deal with their adolescent children. Below are ten tips to help you cope in living with your teenager.
As I write, I can reflect on my own teenage years and truth be told, I was horrible. I think back to some of the things I said and did and hardly recognise myself. Yet, my parents accepted (in the most part) and supported me during this time and without that I wouldn’t be who I am now. However, I am so glad I grew up at a time without the internet, that adds a whole new dimension of social pressures for being a teenager today, something we as parents need to be aware of for our teenage children, life was not always the same when we were their age.
There are no rules as to when things will change, you cannot compare one child against another (even siblings) and there is no quick fix to solve the issues this phase in your child’s life will raise. There will also be so many good times throughout this period and many fond memories to be had. Don’t let the teenage years consume you. It may feel at times you are losing your child and in some ways you are. This is a good thing, they are becoming an adult, independent and this opens up a whole different and rewarding side of parenting (or so my father tells me).
Ian Gross is the Principal at Kinabalu International School, Sabah, Malaysia and is currently studying for a Doctorate in Education through Bath University, UK.
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