Teens can be pretty surly. It’s what they’re known for. As parents we joke about it in an attempt to lighten the mood and to know we’re not alone in having rude, angsty TEENAGERS. It’s hard for us parents to come to the realization that our precious little cherubs are closer to being adults than they are to being babies.
The metamorphosis between childhood and adulthood is downright overwhelming. Between school, homework, sports, dating, peer pressure, parental pressure, and preparing for the future while stuck in the present; it’s no wonder our teenagers are sulky, ragey, and contradictory.
They have a lot going on in their lives. They have multiple problems. They have differing needs and competing desires. They struggle with so many different aspects of becoming adults while still being treated like children that it becomes overwhelming.
They can suffer from depression. They can have broken hearts. They can be stressed out. In fact they are often all of those things at once. For them, there is angst and pain from which there is no escape.
They are having an existential crisis on a daily basis.
Our teens are dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, and it often comes from within. They have hormones and thoughts and feelings that may be too much for them to handle. In the article, THE NEGATIVE VOICES IN YOUR TEENAGERS HEAD, in Psychology Today, Sean Grover gives eye-opening examples of the dark thoughts our teens may be having and seven helpful tips on helping them deal with their internal struggles.
As a former angsty teen myself, and as a mom with an 18-year-old who is exiting this stage, a 16-year-old who is in the throes of it, and an 11-year-old who is barreling headfirst into it, I have some opinions on how to deal with these difficult teens. And they can be summed up into one major theme: Let go.
Let go of the past.
I hear so many parents say to their kids, “Stop growing up, you’re growing up too fast! Where did my cute little baby go?” But kids are supposed to grow up and become adults. Don’t lament the loss of your sweet, obedient, cuddly LITTLE BABY.
Instead, celebrate the witty, intelligent, responsible, compassionate and fun adult your child is becoming. Take comfort in the fact that you don’t just have 18 years with them before they’re gone for good. Hopefully, you’ll have many more years developing a beautiful, fulfilling relationship with your child as an adult.
Let go of their hand.
Stop trying to micromanage your teenager. They can and should be allowed to make decisions and even mistakes, on their own. Let them explore the real world and gain a little experience while they’re still under your tutelage. I recently let my 18 year old drive an hour and a half away to pick grandma up at a major international airport.
I’ll admit I was freaking out a little. I knew he would have a hard time navigating through the airport, and he did. I knew he would be frustrated and upset, and he was. But I also knew it would be a good learning experience for him, and it was. He missed the terminal, had to drive back around (which is not nearly as easy as it sounds), try to touch base with grandma, and got flustered and angry. But he did it. He figured it out. And he’s proud of himself for doing it on his own.
Let go of control
We literally can’t force our teenagers to do anything they refuse to do. We can and should have some expectations of responsibility and proper behavior and withhold privileges when our rules are not followed. But the more we tighten our grips on our teens, the more they’ll fight us.
Give them a little freedom. Let them make decisions for themselves. Let’s be honest, they’re going to do whatever they want anyway, we might as well stop fighting it. For the most part. There are, of course, exceptions. But there comes a point when we need to trust that we’ve already taught them how to be good, responsible people.
Let go of your expectations
I have a teen who tends to be lazy (though lately I’m thinking of it more as efficient). I have another one who is hard on himself to the point of virtual paralysis. I always expected my kids to enjoy high school, get good grades, get into a 4-year UNIVERSITY, and enjoy that too. After all, that’s the path I took. It’s the right way to do things, right?
But I realized my “efficient” teen was happier when I quit harping on him and let him enjoy his life and just get passing grades. He’ll probably do junior college before he goes to a university. Which is fine. He makes it a policy not to stress himself out needlessly and I gotta say, he’s definitely living his best life.
My stressed out kid, is taking the state test for passing high school which, will allow him to drop out and start junior college. A non-traditional approach, but one that is more flexible and makes him feel as though he is not wasting time with busy work and fluff. Not the path I would have taken, but a good choice for him. If he pursues this path he won’t ever have the opportunity to go to prom or even his own high school graduation. But that doesn’t bother him in the least. He’d rather get a job, start junior college and go to his college graduation sooner.
Let go of your worries.
Don’t worry, they won’t be like this forever. My teens regressed into whiny TODDLER-types when they were in the midst of all those hormonal changes. They were completely irrational and impossible to reason with. But it passes. Eventually their hormones even out and they become much more reasonable.
It’s heartbreaking to watch our teens suffer and not be able to do anything about it. So we try to fix it. We yell, we cajole, we bribe, we threaten, we do literally ANYTHING we can think of to make them behave the way we want them to. To make them happy. To make them see things our way. To make them act like adults.
But try to cut them some slack. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Try to love them just the way they are. And try to just let go.