Lifestyle

Don't worry, they aren't teens forever

Is the teenager in your life driving you crazy? Parenting an adolescent can be a hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing experience. Wrecking the family automobile, ignoring curfew limitations and talking back with disrespect are a few of the ways that teens push the envelope. Parents describe walking on eggshells as they try to avoid angry confrontations with argumentative, moody teens who have destroyed the peace and harmony of the family home.

Teenagers are noticeably more angry and irritable during adolescence. Consider all of the physical and hormonal changes taking place in their young bodies. The process of establishing independence from their parents and seeking their own individual identity has begun. This may lead to frustration, angry outbursts, and frequent arguments with parents as young adults test household rules and try to negotiate for more freedom and independence.

In addition, some teens deem their parents embarrassing and would prefer not to be seen in public with them. Parents tend to forget or have blocked out the memories of their own “emotional trauma” as adolescents, thereby increasing the challenge of identifying with the intensity of their teenager’s changeable mood. When young adults pull away emotionally from parents, peers become that much more important. After all, they have better things to do with their friends.

Adolescents are intense, unpredictable and preoccupied with peer acceptance. Seemingly small events can trigger emotional catastrophe. Not having someone to eat lunch with or not having a date for prom can be devastating. A poor grade or argument with a friend may feel like the end of the world without a healthy dose of perspective.

Professional assistance may be required if a normal adolescent stage has metamorphosed into a cry for help. If your teen seemingly changed overnight from a happy, sociable, well-adjusted student who received passing grades to an unhappy, miserable student who is failing one or more classes, then look beyond the label of teenager and find out what has changed in your loved one’s life.

Parents should recognize that the teen driving them crazy is no longer the idolizing child who desired to be just like their parents when they grew up. Remember to keep a sense of humor, and spend time with your young adult rather than avoid them. Teenagers need the love and support of their parents more than ever, even though they wouldn’t be caught dead admitting that fact. Keep your anger in check and stock up on an ample supply of patience. Soon your adolescent will be an adult, and even this will be a memory of the past. Adolescence is temporary, not terminal.

Jennifer L. Gray, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist in individual, couple and family counseling. She’s at 653-0168 and Psychotherapy Associates, Parklane Executive Center, 31620 23rd Avenue South, Suite 318, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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