“Ugh, you just don’t get it!” slams door. Every parent of teenagers is familiar with those words. You may also have heard “you are ruining my life” and “I’m not a kid anymore”, mixed with some “I know what I’m doing” and the ever-hurtful “leave me alone!”. Yes, teenagers are the reason most of us begin to understand why hamsters eat their babies. As much as we know there’s a reason behind all that teenage angst and rebellious outbursts, it’s hard to have the patience to deal with it sometimes. You need to find out the reason behind that kind of behavior and learn the difference between normal outbursts and a problem teen. If you take proactive steps to compromise and meet your children in the middle, you will help make those teenage years go by easier for you and your teens.
So first things first, rebellion is normal at that age. Kids are beginning to form their own identity and opinions, separate from the parent’s ideas. This can take some parents by surprise, because they are used to kids admiring them, wanting to please them and wanting to be like them. When kids start to transition from imitating their parents to forming their own identity, the most natural path to take is “doing the exact opposite my parents do”. This more extreme phase doesn’t last very long, and it will mellow out as your teens form their own opinions that are based on their own thinking, not yours (whether by imitating or by being opposed to it). Sometimes these opinions will be closed to yours and sometimes they will not. But the important thing is that they will be formed independently. Support them in that path, encourage them to question everything, even their own ideas, and you will raise teens with critical thinking skills.
Another reason teenagers lash out is a struggle for control. When they are kids, parents control every aspect of their lives, but as they grow up they need to take that control back. This is frustrating for teens because they have all these ideas about life, but little control over it. The solution is to trust your kids. Guide them as best as you can, tell them the reason behind your rules, but if they want to go out with those awful saggy pants, let them. They will regret it years down the line when thinking about their blunder years and you two will have a laugh together.
So, when should you ask for help? What’s the line between normal behavior and the sign of a problem? Pay attention to your kids. If their behavior is more extreme than that of their peers, there might be a cause for concern. Especially if it involves substance abuse. If your teen is not showing interest in any activity or things that they used to enjoy, there’s probably something bigger bothering them. Keep your communication open. Support your teens, respect their opinions and take their problems seriously. A High school break-up may seem like a minor thing for you, but for your kid, the whole world is falling apart, offer your love and let them know you are there for them.