We all know that the teen years can be a very challenging time, when parents and teens may feel anxiety and confusion as they navigate the “new territory” of adolescence. But these years are also an exciting time, when young people get to experience many significant rites of passage – like earning a driver’s license, and feeling the sense of pride that comes with a hard-earned paycheck.
For parents, this transition can be difficult and confusing. Some parents describe their teenagers as withdrawn or less involved in family time. They even experience feelings of loss and longing for the past, when they felt more in touch with their children.
In my practice, I encourage parents to remember three things:
Your teenager does want to stay connected to the family. In fact, they need you more than ever. However, they also need time alone and apart from the family to establish their own identity as an individual.
Figuring out the answer to the question, “Who am I?” is a full-time job for a teenager. According to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, adolescence is the time we work the hardest to develop our identity. On top of all that, teenagers carry the responsibility of completing their educational requirements and setting goals for the future.
Social development is an important hallmark of the teen years. During this time, young people shift their focus to building and deepening their relationships with friends. It is easy to underestimate the emotional energy it takes for them to work on and maintain friendships.
Though this process can be stressful, it’s a wonderful part of being a teenager that often results in life-long friendships. When I work with teens and parents in my practice, I witness this whole process in action.
In my next blog post, “Spread Your Wings, Part II,” I’ll share three tips that can help teens communicate and deal with adults!
As a teenager, interacting with adults can sometimes be awkward. The generation gap can make it feel like you’re living in separate worlds – like you can’t really relate to each other. Your parents play a huge role in your life, but not in the same way they did just a few years ago.
Here are 3 tips to help you communicate and deal with your parents, teachers, relatives and strangers:
Don’t feel pressure to share everything. Many well-meaning adults will ask you about your dreams, goals, and plans for the future. It is their way of engaging you in conversation and showing that they care; but it can feel like a lot of pressure. Remember: You don’t have to share everything, and you don’t need to have all the answers. You can change the topic by talking about what you’re studying or doing right now. Or, ask them questions to shift the focus of the conversation.
Be open to what the adults in your life have to say. Ask them questions about what it was like when they were teens. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, they probably know what you’re going through. By communicating with the adults in your life, you can gain a lot of helpful insight from someone who’s been there before. Of course, you can choose to take away what works for you, and leave what doesn’t.
When life is tough, turn to an adult you can trust. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your parents. If you feel more comfortable talking to a friend’s mom, a school counselor, or a relative, share your thoughts and feelings with them. They may be able to give you the guidance and support you need.
Being a teenager is stressful and fun at the same time. Many of the teens I talk to juggle multiple responsibilities, as a student, a child, a friend, or a teammate. This is a transformative time in life, when many people start asking themselves: “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?”
Here are 3 tips to help you on your journey:
Embrace your uncertainty. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do. In fact, most people don’t know when they graduate high school, or even college. Many older adults decide to switch careers or make huge life changes down the road. Keep in mind: You have time to figure it out. Don’t get bogged down in deciding your future now. Focus on your responsibilities and allow life to unfold as it happens.
Find your comfort zone. Think back to when you were 7. What did you want to be when you grew up? What did you like to do? What about when you were 10, or 13? Take some time to think about what makes you special. Your likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests will change as you evolve as a person. Give yourself the opportunity to really know yourself by trying new hobbies and activities, and hone in on what makes you happy.
Focus on the present moment. If you get overwhelmed with thoughts about the future, grab a pen and paper and write down a few of your worrisome thoughts. Once you see them in writing, make a list of short-term solutions you can start working on now. Prioritize the ones that require immediate action. For example, if you have an application that is due soon, tackle that first. Take it one thing at a time.
You may feel like you are alone with an impossible task. Don’t forget: You can ask for help! It’s important to turn to a trusted adult or counselor when you need advice or even just someone to talk to. Most adults will be happy to offer their support.
|Deborah Brautman, M.S., LMFT||