‘Teenagers are difficult’ everyone says. But are they? Yes!! But it’s not for the reason/s you may have assumed. Maybe it’s us parents who need to find a different way to approach how to relate with our children when they are going through this intense life stage.
M y eldest daughter is well and truly a teenager now, and the most surprising thing for me about this time in her life is that I still find her loveable and adorable and even more interesting and communicative than ever before.
The reason this is surprising is that almost everyone literally guaranteed that she would by now have turned into a type of teen-monster and only transform back to human form after the age of 18 or so.
She is going through the usual teenage challenges – puberty, crushes, working out the social games at school, and so on, but she also has passion about social issues and environmental issues, and she questions how the world works, including how her school environment works (and so she has joined the SRC to lobby for changes that are important to the kids – something I’m very proud of). We discuss all sorts of things with each other, ranging from personal issues to global concerns.
And she is not unique in all this.
Her friends also care about their world and are trying to find ways to fit into it and to make it a better place.
They care about their parents and about what their parents think of them. They want to have a good relationship with their parents and even with their friends’ parents! They are truly delightful to talk to.
Even the Australian Institute of Family Studies supports my experience: in a recent report they found that 72% of teenagers were “highly satisfied” with their relationship with their parents, 82% of parents were were also highly satisfied with their relationship with their teenager.
So it seems it’s a myth that teenagers are necessarily difficult to parent.
Of course there are kids who are more challenging for their parents (I have one of those), and those that are concerned with only their social group and that group’s status in the wider group and so may not be the most thoughtful, fully engaged citizens yet (although how many adults are?).
But I wonder how many of the ‘difficult’ kids have issues living in our complex world, trying to learn in outdated education systems that cater to only some types of learning styles, and with busy, distracted parents or with overly involved enmeshed parents?
You have a choice in how you relate with your children
As parents we have a choice in how we interact with our teenage children.
We don’t have to create the stereotypical relationship with them, the ‘us vs them’ type of relationship.
For example, when your teenager listens to music, do you react as if it is awful and tell them to turn it down or do you listen with them and explore new music together? It may be that if you react strongly to something your teenager does or likes, it is because you are not in touch with that something in yourself.
So with music, for instance, if you have a problem with the music your teenager likes, consider if you have limited your own musical interests? You don’t have to like everything another person likes, but if you have wiped out a whole category/ies of music from your personal interests or you react strongly about a particular style of music (and what it represents), chances are you are disowing the part of yourself who likes that style of music and what it represents.
Another example is if your teenager is being loud and rowdy with their friends – do you storm in and yell at them to be quiet or do you ask what the excitement is all about?
And what if your teenager spends most of their time alone in their room? Maybe they are feeling unsettled in their world and the expectations placed upon them? Maybe they have anxiety? Maybe they have learning issues or feel they don’t fit in? Maybe they’re in relationships they don’t know how to handle? Maybe they don’t know how to deal with their sexuality?
There are many parenting resources available now, on all types of approaches to help connect with teenagers, and you’re certain to find one to help with yours specifically.
So if you’re struggling, find the help you need to help you connect with your teenager.
To improve your relationship with your teenager involves becoming aware of your own inherited rules and assumptions about how to parent, about how a teenager ought to think, feel and behave.
Have you disowned your own Inner Teenager?
Consider whether you’ve disowned your own inner teenager. Try to remember how you felt as a teenager and whether you find your teenager’s behaviours difficult because your child is reminding you of your own challenges.
I’ve come to believe that parenting a teenager is in essence no different to parenting a child of any age.
If you respect the child and take their concerns seriously, spend time connecting with them and discovering who they are, and enjoy yourself in their company, and if you allow them to contribute their ideas/preferences for family matters, and are willing to learn from them, your relationship will continue to blossom.
I’m hoping I’m right – I have three children and I’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out with all three once they’ve grown up!
See my book Enlightenment Through Motherhood for a light-hearted, entertaining and inspiring read on how our children can teach us so much about life, the universe and ourselves.