“Have I completely failed as a parent, or is my teen really this crazy?!” Most parents raising teens can identify with this sentiment at some point or another. It’s hard to watch the same baby whose diapers you changed suddenly scream, “I hate you, my life sucks!”
As teens work to develop their identity, judgment and emotional control, they often make plenty of mistakes, act defiantly or even out of control. In addition to the raging hormones, mood swings and impulsivity that make raising teens difficult, parents are also up against a tidal wave of negative and potentially dangerous social influences that further complicate this challenging stage.
For parents struggling to not only survive the teen years, but also ensure their kids grow into strong, smart and contributing members of society, here are some suggestions:
1. Partnership is critical. Put aside differences whether married or single and begin to co-parent as a team. Negotiate differences in approaches for the benefit of everyone. Support one another unconditionally and work as a tag team. When one parent’s energy and patience fails the other can step in. Single parent? Enlist help from friends, relatives and community organizations.
2. Listen, listen, listen but don’t respond to the content. “You hate me!” spoken by the child you have loved without reservation for 13 years may elicit, “That’s crazy—of course I love you.” Responding to the irrational statement will usually lead to a standstill. Try instead, “It must be awful to feel like that. Tell me more about why you feel that way,” to open discussion and build understanding.
3. Get out of your own way. Put aside personal thoughts and feelings and try to put yourself in the teen’s shoes. Remember feeling angry, scared, depressed, and not fully understanding why? Get out some old pictures of yourself during those years to spark discussion and find common ground with your teenager.
4. Stay Cool. Being out of control will only make a situation worse, and is often frightening for the child. In spite of pushing the limits of patience, teens expect their parents to remain consistent, strong and loving.
5. Pick Your Battles. Maybe the room can stay messy most days, as long as it’s cleaned once a week. Avoiding daily flare-ups over minor things can help you focus on the issues that matter most.