A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
You've lived through 2 AM feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the "but I don't want to go to school today" blues. So why is the word "teenager" causing you so much anxiety?
When you consider that the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically but morally and intellectually, it's understandable that it's a time of confusion and upheaval for many families.
Despite some adults' negative perceptions about teens, they are often energetic, thoughtful, and idealistic, with a deep interest in what's fair and right. So, although it can be a period of conflict between parent and child, the teen years are also a time to help children grow into the distinct individuals they will become.
Understanding the Teen Years
So when, exactly, does adolescence start? The message to send your kid is: Everybody's different. There are early bloomers, late arrivers, speedy developers, and slow-but-steady growers. In other words, there's a wide range of what's considered normal.
But it's important to make a (somewhat artificial) distinction between puberty and adolescence. Most of us think of puberty as the development of adult sexual characteristics: breasts, menstrual periods, pubic hair, and facial hair. These are certainly the most visible signs of impending adulthood, but children who are showing physical changes (between the ages of 8 and 14 or so) can also be going through a bunch of changes that aren't readily seen from the outside. These are the changes of adolescence.
Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They're starting to separate from Mom and Dad and to become more independent. At the same time, kids this age are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and they're desperately trying to fit in.
Kids often start "trying on" different looks and identities, and they become acutely aware of how they differ from their peers, which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents.
One of the common stereotypes of adolescence is the rebellious, wild teen continually at odds with Mom and Dad. Although that extreme may be the case for some kids and this is a time of emotional ups and downs, that stereotype certainly is not representative of most teens.
But the primary goal of the teen years is to achieve independence. For this to occur, teens will start pulling away from their parents - especially the parent whom they're the closest to. This can come across as teens always seeming to have different opinions than their parents or not wanting to be around their parents in the same way they used to.
As teens mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They're forming their moral code. And parents of teens may find that kids who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves - and their opinions - strongly and rebelling against parental control.
You may need to look closely at how much room you give your teen to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: "Am I a controlling parent?," "Do I listen to my child?," and "Do I allow my child's opinions and tastes to differ from my own?"
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