What to Do When Nothing Sits Right With Your Teen

With summer right around the corner, it’s time to prepare for more time with your teenager. If your son or daughter has hit that phase where everything you do seems to get under their skin, summer can be a daunting prospect. Of course, you don’t want to spend the entire summer walking on eggshells around your teen, but it can often help to understand exactly why your teen feels this way. If we get to the causes of their behavior, we can look at some ways to alleviate tension and make summer fun for everyone.

The Dawn of Independence

Arguably the most defining experience for any adolescent is the growing-up process of separating themselves from their parents. You’ve probably noticed little flare-ups of independence or defiance throughout their earlier years, but in teen years, this behavior kicks into high gear. Subconsciously, teenagers sort their parents’ behaviors and ideas into two categories: things they want nothing to do with, and things they will most likely go on to emulate in their own lives. For an example, let’s take your fashion sense. If your teenager decides you dress horribly, you’re never going to hear the end of it. Your outfits are suddenly embarrassing your teens and they can’t stand to be seen in public with you. You may wonder why they care so deeply about what you are wearing, but you have to understand that while they strive for independence, their identity is still closely connected to yours. When their emerging identity and yours clash, they grow resentful. The main result of this sudden onset of independence is that nothing you do seems to sit well with your teenager. This can be a particularly trying time for everyone in the family, but there are ways to weather the storm.

Changing Your Perspective

Parents instinctively tend to clamp down when their teenager begins to assert themselves. This can cause more harm than good, since you’re essentially fighting a natural process. Teenagers have to become independent, make their own mistakes, and discover who they are. Without this experience, they will never grow up. When you’re able to look at your teenager’s “bad attitude” and see that it’s really just the growing pains of a healthy teenager, you’re likely going to be less bothered by it. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you should just completely dismiss everything as “normal teen stuff”. Firmly remind them that, while you understand that they’re annoyed or frustrated, it’s not acceptable for them to be openly rude or disrespectful. Acknowledge that you understand differences of opinion, but make it clear that you’re still the parent and they’re still under your roof.

Take This Opportunity to Connect

There are ways to turn this uncomfortable growing phase into a positive experience, as well. One option is to work with your teen to find solutions. It takes a certain level of humility, but consider setting aside your pride and asking your teenager what they would like you to do, since a lot seems to bother them. You might be surprised to learn how simple their requests are. They might say something as small as, “I wish you wouldn’t hug me goodbye in front of my friends”. If it’s something that little, it might be worth asking yourself how big a concession it would really be to change your behavior to minimize the parent-teen drama. This period can be an opportunity to develop your own support system too. Rest assured, you’re not the only parents who are going through this. Find some other parents to hang out with, where you can get together and share the outlandish behavior of your teenagers. Take your parent partners out for dinner while your teenagers are at the movies and blow off some steam. While the tendency of most parents is to over-exert themselves trying to remedy the relationship with their teenagers, the reality is that there’s usually nothing to fix. Your time would be better spent preserving your own sanity and taking care of other important relationships in your life.

Have Faith in the Process

The best news of all, at the end of the day, is that time is on your side. It can be challenging, but experience shows us that teenagers will grow out of this phase. The main problem stems from teenagers’ inability to separate their parents’ identities from their own and their indignant reaction when those two identities are incompatible. As they grow and their cognitive processes develop, they will become able to see you as a complete person, separate from them. They’ll be able to appreciate and love you for who you are again – and probably feel really dumb about the way they acted during their teen years! So don’t worry too much. Do what you can to get through these years. Try to see things from their point of view, make some reasonable concessions here and there, and have faith that, at the end of the day, your teenager will come out the other side a well-rounded, mature young adult. You’re doing just fine and that music you listen to which makes your teens howl can become the soundtrack to an awkward phase of life which you and your kids will laugh about someday. Together!