Editor’s note. Today we welcome Chelsy Ranard to the the Lose The Cape Blog. She’s looking back on her teen years and given some perspective on what parents can do to help get through those trying teenage times!
From the age of 13 to 16 I was a terror. My teenage self was selfish, unhappy, combative, and the eternal victim. My grades were slipping, I had bad friends, and got into trouble in almost every area of my life. My dad, who raised me as a single parent, had his hands full. His once happy, focused, and loving daughter had turned into this hateful stranger that stalked around his home looking for a fight. I know I caused my dad a lot of heartache, tears, and frustration during those years.
Today I am 26 and have a fantastic relationship with my dad, but I remember those days clearly. We didn’t understand each other, felt like we needed more from each other, and drifted away from each other a lot because of it. For other parents raising teenagers it’s important to understand the problems with your teenager, have tools to help your relationship with them, and remember that you aren’t alone.
Understanding the Problem
Everyone knows about the terrible-twos, but the bigger problem for some parents seems to be the terrible-teens. The first step to dealing with a difficult teenager is first to understand why they are being difficult in the first place. During this time in a child’s life there are a lot of changes happening to them biologically, socially, and personally. Puberty causes a ton of hormonal changes in teens that can lead to confusion, irritability, and self-consciousness. Your teenager is just now beginning to worry about how they are perceived by their peers, they are seeing bodily changes, and comparing themselves to others. Social standing becomes more of an issue than it has before and they are stuck juggling all of these new experiences by themselves. They are learning independence and drifting away from their parents, which is completely natural, but all of these changes are hard on your teenager which is why it’s important to remember these things when they are being difficult.
Along the same lines of understanding the problems that your teen might have is opening up the channels of communication to better understand them. Getting your teenager to confide in you and understand that you want to understand them might not be the easiest task, but it’s important that they know you are interested in their lives. Ask about their friends, their classes, and their hobbies. Don’t interrogate, but show interest. You also need to feel comfortable in confiding in them in order to expect the same from them. Tell them if you’re angry, confused, or worried and start the conversation. If they seem depressed, stressed, or happy, ask them about that as well. These conversations will not always go smoothly, but it’s important that they happen.
Asserting rules in your home is no doubt an issue with your teen, but it’s important to keep them. The key here is to pick your battles, practice consistency, be transparent, and have their safety in mind. It’s important to be prepared for the fights about curfew, but also understand that your teenager is starting to learn their independence. It’s okay to agree to a later curfew or to reward good behavior with a dip in the rules, but consistency is key. It’s okay to negotiate a little, but don’t let your teenager break your confidence. Do not, however, become lenient with rules that involve their safety. Driving safety is especially important to discuss with your teen and it’s best to be strict with driving rules in order to keep them safe such as implementing drive-safe technology, limiting their driving to certain times of the day, and practicing strict punishment for breaking seatbelt rules or driving infractions. Other rules that don’t involve health or safety, though, can be discussed and amended once your child is old enough. The important thing to remember is to have balance. Your teen will be rebellious with too many rules but letting them run wild won’t do them any favors either.
Trying to raise a teenager with attitude issues can be exhausting and highly upsetting for many parents. It’s important to know that many parents are also handling the terrible-teens in much the same way. When your teenager is being combative or difficult it’s okay to take some time away from them. Take a vacation with friends, get your nails done, watch the game at the bar, or just grocery shop alone. You are your child’s parent but you are also a human and it’s normal to become frustrated with their behavior. Luckily, the teen years don’t last forever.
Today my dad and I laugh about a lot of the fights we had when I was a teenager. We joke about how ridiculous I was, the crazy things I said, or how many times I now say, “You were right,” from those days. Despite our light-hearted nature about it now, it was a hard time for the both of us. My teen years were hard but I learned independence, better communication with my dad, and that he loved me unconditionally. Someday I’ll have children of my own and I’ll dread the teenage years, but I’ll be able to look back on my own teenage years and remember how they were for me. I have no doubt that I’ll be calling my dad during those times to ask for advice and apologize, yet again, for my own terrible-teens.
Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree in 2012 from the University of Montana. She enjoys throwing a Frisbee with her dog, travelling, and reading with a glass of wine. Follow her on Twitter!