Overwhelmed by the challenge of raising a teenager? You’re not alone. When faced with a son who won’t talk or a daughter who is lying about drinking or teens that sext it might seem like crisis management is the new routine. Our houses may go from cozy spaces where we protected our little ones to places where we interrogate our kids or stay up ‘til the wee hours anxiously waiting for them.
We ask ourselves, ‘what happened?’
Short answer: just regular, everyday normal growth.
The strangely secretive and possibly dangerous behaviours of our teenagers catch a lot of parents off guard. Which is a bit weird because as my friend Patricia pointed out the other day, “not too long ago we were all teenagers ourselves; does everyone just get amnesia about it?”
Actually, this is a big part of the problem.
Our own offspring seem too young for bikini photos in social media. We say they don’t know what they are talking about when they speak of quitting school. But the desire to attract attention or steer our own ship are natural human impulses. The same impulses you probably felt when you were their age. I sure did!
Yet we might feel compelled to squash these desires; to deny them; to forbid them.
Good luck with that.
“It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time.”
– Peggy O’Mara
That’s a quote about being patient when our little ones are needy, obviously. However, the reverse is equally valid: why would we begrudge the blossoming independence of our teenagers? How possible is it to change spring back into winter?
Attempts to keep our kids forever young are delusional, and understandable given the defiance we encounter. But neither can we fast forward to young adulthood.
What drives this urge to hold our teenagers back from their appointment with destiny? What makes us feel desperate to control their journey?
More scary truths about teenagers:
- Teens are biologically driven to differentiate themselves from their parents. They can’t help it. Neither can you.
- They think their own thoughts!
- They do what they want!
- Their behaviour is almost always developmentally appropriate, no matter how inconvenient or disagreeable it may seem.
If we feel scared about the increasing independence of our teens that is something for us to look at. Maybe it’s our expectations that need to shift. Maybe the necessary change comes from within.
When your child was 3 and s/he sobbed about losing a toy under the couch that was also completely developmentally appropriate, even if you thought s/he needed to get a grip.
The teenager you have in front of you now is, in all likelihood, behaving in a developmentally appropriate manner.
So if your teen is right on track, where does that leave you?
You love your teenager. When you TRULY love you are prepared to learn new skills, have their backs, and change yourself when needed.