‘Teenagers are difficult!’ everyone knows. But are they? Maybe it’s parents who need to find a different way to approach how to relate with their 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 and those that are concerned with only their social group and that group’s status in the wider group and so may not be fully engaged citizens yet (although how many adults are?).
But I wonder how many of those kids have parents who spend time connecting with them, listening to them, supporting them, hanging out with them, taking an interest in them and their interests, even if those interests are different to their own?
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?
Have you disowned your own Inner Teenager?
Consider whether you have disowned your own inner teenager who is full of energy and curiousity about the world and who values fun, and whether you find these behaviours annoying in your teenage child because your child is expressing that energy.
I have come to believe that parenting a teenager is essentially 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 am hoping I am right – I have two more daughters yet to reach the teenage years!
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.