Help My Preteen/Teenager is Driving Me Nuts!!!
By Kimberly Chastain , MS, LMFT
Do you feel like someone has abducted your sweet, innocent child and replaced them with a monster? Are you confused that somehow you have gone from knowing everything as a parent, to knowing absolutely nothing? Welcome to being a parent of a preteen/teenager. It is a brave new world. Being a preteen/teenager is difficult and being a parent of one is difficult as well. In this article, I will address just a few of the many “normal” aspects of adolescence and how to survive as a parent.
I have been a therapist for over 18 years now and have seen hundreds of adolescents. If I had a dollar for every time a parent said to me, “If I talked the way my kids talk to me when I was a child I wouldn’t be able to get off the floor.” I would be rich. Yes, talking back is normal. I also quickly add not acceptable. Our society through TV programs and in general does not show respect. Most sitcoms delight in making the parents look like idiots, gone are the days of the strong parents like the Cosby family. So, our society does not show respect and our children model that with us. Another normal aspect of preteen/teenagers is to think their parents know very little due to us growing up with dinosaurs or at least without VCRS much less DVD players, anyway. Most adolescents get all their information from their peers, who unfortunately don’t always give good advice. Acting like a “baby” one minute and an “adult” the next is extremely common. It is an extremely confusing time for them. Part of them craves the security and the easiness of childhood and another part “needs” the freedom and independence of being adult (they often forget the responsibility part). So, as a parent you are never really sure who you are talking to at any given moment. Do I have the “baby” who wants my support or am I talking to the “adult” who wants to make his or her own decisions? We often pick the wrong one.
So, what can a parent due to survive? In my e-book, “Help My Preteen/Teenager
Is Driving Me Nuts!!!” I list several strategies. Here are a few of those strategies.
1. When your child is talking back. Do not engage in conversation with them and certainly do not do something special for them, like taking them to the mall.
2. Try not to give unsolicited advice. I’m not saying quit parenting all together, but advice is often listened to more when your child asks for it.
3. Make sure you spend time listening to your children. Take any opportunity even if it is at 11:00pm to listen when your child is willing to talk.
4. Talk to the parents of your child’s friends and have a curfew that everyone agrees on. There is strength in numbers for parents as well. Then, you can say not “everyone” gets to stay out later than your child.
5. Talk to other parents for support. Often, when our children are small we share a lot with other parents. Sometimes, when our children get to be teenagers we keep silent. It really helps to know you are not the only parent having a difficult time.
In conclusion, it is tough being a teenager and a parent of one, but everyone involved can survive. Remember the favorite phrase, “This too shall pass.” You didn’t think your children would ever get out of diapers and now look, they are teenagers. Teenagers still need you, so stay involved in their lives. Learn about their friends and be willing to listen at anytime. Also, remember some of their seemingly strange quirks are really quite normal.