Surviving the teenage years, parents, and teenagers.
Surviving the teenage years can be very challenging but also very rewarding.
The teenage years are also known as adolescence. During this time the teen will experience growth spurts and puberty changes. These puberty changes can happen at a slow rate, or a few changes can take place at the same time (6). The teen may grow several inches in a few months followed by times of slower growth (4).
The changes the teen experience is not only physical, but also mentally and socially. During this time the teen experience an increase in their ability for abstract thinking and start to make plans and set long term goals.
Here is a list of some of the changes you might notice.
- They start to think abstract. Abstract thinking is to be able to absorb information from our senses and connect this information to the wider world.
- They become more aware of and worried about political and social issues.
- They think long term.
- They start setting goals.
- Comparing themselves to their peers and other influencers.
- The teen shows a need for independence from their parents.
- Being influenced and accepted by peers are high on their level of importance.
- Romantic and sexual relationships become very important (4).
Teens intend to become very irritable as they start to develop an identity of their own. During this time, they distance themselves from their parents. The teen develops a strong need for privacy and are very defensive when parents ask them what they are doing. Although the teen does not want to spent time with their parents and family, they do find enjoyment in spending time with friends at activities away from home. Although the above is totally normal, when the teen is angry, sad, and chronically disengaged from family and friends it can be an indication that they are struggling (3).
During this time, it is important that parents take the words of Stephen Covey to heart, “Seek to understand, then to be understood” (1). Instead of getting upset at the teen, it is more important for connection with the teen that the parents try to understand why the teen is acting the way they do, instead of arguing with them about their behaviour. Create a safe space for the teen in this time of confusion and change.
When the teen begins to fight for their independence and seek to find their own identity their behaviour can appear bizarre and unpredictable, but a troubled teen exhibit behaviour, emotional or learning problems that is beyond the normal teenage issues. The troubled teen may practice at-risk behaviours such as drinking, drug use, sex, violence, skipping school, shop lifting and other criminal acts. It is important that parents are aware of normal teenage behaviour and behaviour that are indicators of serious problems (2).
Parenting a teenager can be hard, here are some tips how to cope.
- Look after yourself. Get enough sleep. Look after your nutrition. Get exercise. Don’t be scared to ask for help.
- Stay calm. Try to stay calm and focussed when you are talking to your teenager.
- Keep talking and listening. Make sure you keep communication channels open with your teenager.
- Set and keep boundaries. Same as with young children, teenagers also need boundaries.
- Allow teenagers to have time alone. Teenagers need time, they are working hard to create their own identity. Don’t feel rejected when your teen does not want to spent time with you, trust the process they are in now.
- Don’t give in to bad behaviour. If you give in to bad behaviour, your teen will use it more often. By giving in to bad behaviour means that you will reinforce their bad behaviour (5). Beware not to reward bad behaviour because you fear conflict.
How can counselling help?
- The counsellor provides a confidential, safe, non-judgemental space where the teenager can explore their feelings and emotions.
- Give the teen the tools needed to deal with their anger and aggression.
- Help the teen to explore their identity.
- Provided a safe space to vent.
- Provide a listening ear with empathy and understanding.
- The counsellor provides a confidential, safe, non-judgemental space where the parent can explore their feelings, emotions, and fears.
- Give the client tools to deal with the anger and aggression of their teenager.
- Help the parent to understand what their teenager is experiencing and why there are acting the way they do.
- Give the parent a safe place to vent.
- Provide a listening ear with empathy and understanding.
- Assist the parent in identifying boundaries that are broken and needs to be set.
The parent and the teenager.
- When the parent-teenager relationship is ruptured the counsellor can help them to talk and find strategies to repair the relationship.
- Proved a safe space to talk about their feelings where the counsellor can be the facilitator and mediator.
- Help the parent and the teen put boundaries in place.
Whether you are a parent or a teenager that are struggling remember you are not alone. Reach out for help, it is just a phone call away.
Corey Human has nearly 20 years’ experience working with teenagers and young people at risk, or struggling with self esteem, depression, video game addiction and other problems. He provides counselling to adolescents, adults, couples, parents and families in both English and Afrikaans.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
Goodreads, Stephen R. Covey Quotes. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/92125-seek-first-to-understand-then-to-be-understood
Helpguide.org. Help for parents of troubled teens. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/parenting-family/helping-troubled-teens.htm
Holthaus, J. Teen Behaviour: Normal Moodiness or a Warning Sign? https://www.pinerest.org
Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Growing Child; Adolescent 13 to 18 years https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org
killsyouneed. Coping with teenagers. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/parent/coping-with-teenagers.html
Stanford Medicine Children’s health, The Growing Child; Teenager (13 to 18 years) https://www.stanfordchildrens.org