Updated: Feb 7
Adolescence can be a stressful time for both parents and teenagers. When your children reach adolescence, the lovely relationship you had with them becomes a daily challenge, putting a lot of pressure on the whole family.
Why is adolescence so hard? In this developmental stage, your teenager is in the process of figuring out what kind of person they might become. While hormonal imbalance favours this process, it definitely doesn't favour the way they feel about themselves.
Their body is changing, and they’re experiencing emotions they’ve never felt before. They know they have to become adult, but the insecurities they are experiencing in this stage, feel unbearable.
Your teenager is:
Trying to become more independent.
Exploring ways to assert themselves.
Feeling like it is living on a rollercoaster.
Not liking him/herself in the transition.
Comparing him/herself to peers.
Comparing him/herself to their parents.
Trying to keep up with parental expectations.
Trying to keep up with social pressures, which hit their peak at adolescence.
All these changes impact the adolescent, but this doesn't mean your child's teenage years are a walk in the park for you! Decisions that were ultimately in your hands are now shifting to be in your child's, and this is scary. Many of your interactions now revolve around strenuous negotiations between their needs and your peace of mind. You also experience some grief around the loss of your role, of their childhood, of the challenging but in some way simpler years. The letting go of the process can be hard.
What does your teenager need?
Family connection is vital during this time, listen to their needs and connect through open communication. Communication is essential when it comes to teenagers (and all other relationships). While teenagers are looking for independence and may not seem like they want to talk, keeping communications lines open is important.
Communication is generally a two-way street; however, make sure you’re listening. Be curious about their lives and what they’re experiencing. Try to understand them. Listening without giving advice helps your teen talk longer and allows them to unravel their thoughts. They will ask for advice when they need to if they feel welcomed and not judged. Supporting your child through respectful communication will increase the likelihood that they will go to you later in life when they need help or advice.
Although your teen is becoming more independent, they still need limits and rules. But how do you decide what to put in place? Imposing limits without explaining the reason for the restriction can be confusing for a teen. It’s also confusing when rules are inconsistent. It’s a good idea to explain the reason for the rule and be consistent in reinforcing them.
Expect your teenager to break the rules even when they understand and agree with them. The thrill of violating them is too intense. That’s okay, and it’s all part of growing. The consequences of breaking the rules are up to you, but setting boundaries is important in understanding right from wrong, and knowing there is still someone who is taking care of them.
Respect their space
Although communication is important, teenagers also need their space. It’s perfectly normal to miss the past relationship you had, especially when your teen is distant, but remember this phase will pass. Respecting their space will result in them respecting you in return.
How do you respect space?
Try not to intrude in their social lives (their friends are their friends, not yours)
Respect their privacy (you don’t need to know everything)
Avoid unnecessarily criticism
Allow them alone time to process feelings.
Support new friendships and social outings
Support new interests even if they’re not in line with yours
Connection with their peers
Peer relationships are fundamental in adolescence. During this time, young people increasingly demand independence from their parents; peers become more significant for social and emotional support. The attitudes of adolescents’ friends can be both positive and negative. Given the importance of peer attachments, positive experiences boost a young person’s wellbeing. In contrast, bullying issues can have significant psychological, physical, academic and social-emotional consequences for both victims and perpetrators. Again, paying attention and keep an open communication will help you detect problems as soon as they arise.
A challenging time
Being a parent is never easy, and adolescence is particularly challenging. Every teenager is different and will go through their own experience. It is vital to remain flexible and open to what happens, be as supportive as possible and keep communication lines active. These are the building blocks to a strong future relationship.
When adolescence has ended, and they’re young adults, they will come back. And you will be ready to support them through their next journey.
As always, I’m here if you need guidance and support.