It is true that adolescence does contain its own set of unique challenges and changes. However, these adjustments don’t have to cause upheaval and disrupt the entire family structure. Most of the struggles faced during this time of growth are natural and necessary.
So, as parents, how can we tell if a certain behavior is ‘normal’ or if it is a cause for concern and/or action? Following are a few pointers to help parents tell the difference between the two and ways to make this remarkable time less difficult.
What is Going On? Adolescent rebellion begins as a result of the desire to become independent. The opposite of this would be a child who had no desire to leave home, refuses to take on responsibilities, and cannot make appropriate decisions. Becoming an adult includes the beginning of personal decision making and because our teens are inexperienced, they are naturally going to make mistakes. Failure is a critical part of the learning process!
- The adolescent examines and challenges parental values and ideas that were once accepted without hesitation.
- Comes and goes. It is not characterized by continual increasing defiance. Some days are going to be a challenge for everyone, but rebellion is not a way of life for the teen.
- Is a process that involves an increased desire to make personal decisions regarding things like hair style, clothing, music and what college to attend.
- Defiant outbursts and explosive anger accompanied by destructive behaviors and abusive language.
- Is marked by bitterness. Barriers of anger are built up between parents and teen, and constructive communication is impossible. The adolescent may manifest resentment towards all authority figures.
- May be rooted in adults who insist on high levels of control. Instead of working towards independence, the parents tighten their grip on the teen therefore blocking the natural progression towards maturity.
What Can You Do?
- It is essential that teens be allowed space to form personal opinions so that they have ‘ownership’ of the standards they adopt. This creates the strength of character needed to stand up for their beliefs in the face of opposition and peer pressure.
- Pick your battles! Decide on a few vital issues and rules that you feel are essential to the health and well being of the entire family and concentrate on those. Fads come and go quickly and are rarely worth the conflict.
- Remain approachable and flexible. Allow exceptions when you can and be willing to admit your own mistakes and apologize if necessary.
- Get involved! Show an interest in what your teen finds interesting and fun. They don’t need you less now, but more!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you believe that your teen is involved in dangerous behaviors seek advice from qualified professionals.