Surviving the teen years
When you consider that the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically but also 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.
the Teen Years
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 between the ages of 10 and 14 (or even younger) 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.
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?"
Parenting During the Teen Years
to Your Child Early Enough
You know your child. You can hear when your child's starting to tell jokes about sex or when attention to personal appearance is increasing. This is a good time to jump in with your own questions such as:
Are you noticing any changes in your body?
Are you having any strange feelings?
Are you sad sometimes and don't know why?
A yearly physical exam is a great time to bring up these things. A doctor can tell your preadolescent child - and you - what to expect in the next few years. The exam can serve as a jumping-off point for a good parent/child discussion. The later you wait to have this discussion, the more likely your child will be to form misconceptions or become embarrassed about or afraid of physical and emotional changes.
Furthermore, the earlier you open the lines of communication on these subjects, the better chance you have of keeping them open throughout the teen years. Give your child books on puberty written for kids going through it. Share memories of your own adolescence with your child. There's nothing like knowing that Mom or Dad went through it, too, to put your child more at ease.
Yourself in Your Child's Place
Your Teen - and Stay Informed Yourself
Know your child's friends - and know your child's friends' parents. Regular communication between the parents of adolescents can go a long way toward creating a safe environment for all the children in a peer group. Parents can help each other keep track of the kids' activities without making the kids feel that they're being watched.
the Warning Signs
Extreme weight gain or loss
Rapid, drastic changes in personality
Sudden change in friends
Skipping school continually
Talk or even jokes about suicide
Signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use
Run-ins with the law
Any other inappropriate behavior that lasts for more than 6 weeks can be a sign of underlying trouble, too. You may expect a glitch or two in your child's behavior or grades during this time, but your A/B student shouldn't suddenly be failing, and your normally outgoing kid shouldn't suddenly become constantly withdrawn. Your child's doctor or a local counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you find proper counseling.
Your Child's Privacy
In other words, your teenager's room and phone calls should be private. You also shouldn't expect your teen to share all thoughts or activities with you at all times. Of course, for safety reasons, you should always know where your child is going, what they're doing, and with whom, but you don't need to know every detail. And you definitely shouldn't expect to be invited along!
What Your Child Sees and Reads
This Ever Be Over?