From crying toddlers to knee-scraped kids, suddenly they are asking for the car keys or trying to worm their way around missing the family dinner to hang out with friends. At times, you may feel like you are living with a stranger as their preferences may change on a monthly basis.
Or perhaps your teen is dealing with something more difficult. Instead of clear dreams, their future has become cloudier and full of doubt; instead of new friends at school, they have “enemies” in class; instead of broken toys, it is now a broken heart.
Fear not! While it is a tough task, you are not alone and you are not completely helpless. There are steps to help you help your teen. Consider the option of teen counseling as a way to help your son or daughter get professional help to work through whatever issues he or she may be facing.
What Does it Mean to be a Teen?
The standard definition of a teen for many years was someone between the ages of 13 to 19 years old – derived from the “teen” at the end of the number. But as the years have gone by, this range seems to have expanded in both directions.
Because of technology, particularly the internet and TV, younger children have begun to act like teenagers, copying the styles, mimicking the behavior, and generally trying to be older than their bodies suggest.
At the other end, the teenage years have grown to include the early 20’s. Due to financial constraints, many of these young adults still depend on their parents for the basics. And mentally, some still consider themselves teens, hence the term “tweens”, since they haven’t accepted the responsibility yet of being an adult.
Physically, teenagers are metamorphosing from a child to an adult. Voices are changing, hair is growing everywhere, muscles are strengthening, and curves are forming. At this time, they have become more conscious of their looks – either out of vanity, worry about acceptance, or both.
From another standpoint, teenagers have a distinct culture with rules and modes of interaction that differ greatly from kids and adults. Kids idolize them while adults think they are strange.
Moreover, though they are asked to behave like adults, they are also expected to respect parental and school authority like children. In this stage, they are beginning to define who they are, but family and societal expectations may put stress on that definition, causing them anxiety and doubt.
At the core of it all, teenagers are in the midst of discovering who they are on the outside, on the inside, and within their community.
Dealing with your Teen’s Problems
Because of all the complexities, these are delicate years for your child as they face issues that may help them grow or possibly scar them for life. Here are some ways to help:
1. Acknowledge the differences; Take note of the similarities
Today’s world is vastly different from before. Technology has made the world smaller. People have easy, unfiltered access to the beliefs, cultures, histories, and lives of people anywhere on the globe with the tap of their finger.
One can quickly connect with family, friends and new acquaintances from the comfort of home. And if the money is there, faster and more available transport can take people to the other side of the world in less than a day.
Furthermore, life now is less private than before. The allure of social media has people willingly sharing their beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and even actions for the world to see. And sometimes, even if we do NOT want such to be shared, camera phones and the social media of accounts of others may still subject our lives to public scrutiny.
Hence, it is no wonder why children seem to be “maturing” faster than before. They see what others are doing and envy their lives. They want to grow up and see the world NOW and not later on.
These changes, however, have also made things more confusing for them. They are comparing themselves to the ideals that mainstream media and social media are portraying and there is no one to tell them otherwise. So aside from envy, there is a lot more insecurity and doubt.
However, not everything is so different if we can just recall our personal past. Even before, being a teenager was a challenge. It was exciting yet frightening to experience the bodily changes.
Teens were as “cruel” in the past as they are now, ostracizing one another for being different. Conflict with parents was also there, regardless of how more hands-on our parents were before than we are now. And still, we had our own doubts about who we were and what we wanted to be, just like teens do now.
So we can help them now by revealing our personal struggles in the past and what we did to overcome them. This includes sharing the things we wanted to hear back then from our loved ones and why we might not have heard them.
2. Communicate with them
While technology has allowed us to get in touch a lot faster than before, it does not mean that such communication is authentic, especially when dealing with our complex teens.
Knowing where they are, who they are with, or their current emotional state online is still NOT the same as speaking to them directly about how they are inside. In fact, sometimes what is relayed to us through these devices might not exactly be what they are feeling because they know the world is watching them.
Sadly, many parents hesitate to take that step to bridge the communication gap. First, there is fear of either being rejected by our teens or driving them further away. Second, we might feel it is a waste of time and that eventually, they will just outgrow the stage in the same way we did in the past.
But if this is our mindset, then we are leaving our teens vulnerable to those who may give them wrong advice and possibly wrong emotional care. Just like us, most teens DO want to have true communication with their parents, they just don’t know how.
Rather than avoiding the issue, parents need to show them how. Start communicating but without expecting much in return. You cannot expect them to respond positively right away if your relationship is already strained.
It might seem awkward at times since only you are doing the talking, but know in your heart that they are listening. The hope, however, is that as you do share how you feel and who you are, your teen will eventually open up. Then the healing may begin.
But be careful not to reverse roles where your teen ends up being your personal therapist as you unload all your problems and fears. If that occurs, you might end up driving them further away as it is not the job of the child to fix their parents’ problems. Always check your personal motives for sharing and consider whether what you share is meant for the kids or someone else.
3. Be consistent
It is easy to say but quite difficult to do, yet it is something that people, especially teens, expect. Trust is built when the person we are dealing with is consistent in their actions and promises. In business, for example, we would not want to partner with someone who fails to deliver on time, provides shoddy services or products, or reneges on a deal. The same of course occurs in personal relationships.
As parents, we are to provide them boundaries to follow and to uphold them as necessary. We ought to be role models as well so that we can properly walk the talk. If we can do so, our teens will see the importance of it all.
But human as we are, it can be difficult at times. We too are burdened with issues of our own at work, at home, and even internally. Every time we say “yes” and then change our minds, we break their trust. Every time we increase their punishment arbitrarily based on our ever-changing mood, we break their trust again. Eventually, they will simply ignore us or rebel if we cannot be consistent.
4. Know their friends
When problems arise, teens often turn to their friends first as they believe their friends understand them more than their family. As parents, we may want this to change but if we just recall our own past experiences, we will realize that it is just part of the process of growing up and letting go.
However, to have some peace of mind, it is important to know their friends. This may be achieved by opening up your home so that you can get to know them better.
If this is not possible, then at least try to strike up a conversation every time you see them – just be careful not to be too intrusive nor share any embarrassing stories about your own teen. And in today’s times, befriending them on social media may also help to know them more.
If successful, you will find out what kind of advice and emotional support they are receiving. Additionally, it helps to know which of their friends is trustworthy and which to be wary of.
While you cannot force your teen to just drop their friend, if you have had good communication, you have been consistent, and you know the other friends well, then your teen may listen to you on important issues such as avoiding the wrong crowd.
5. Get some support
Despite all of the above, sometimes the problems might just be too much to handle. Severe depression, outright rebellion, illegal activities or addictions are things that most parents cannot solve on their own. In such a situation, professional support such as teen counseling is needed.
Teenagers are often able to open up more and respond to adults that are not their relatives. When coming from the mouth of another, teens feel that the advice has been validated by someone impartial to the situation.
Aside from individual teen counseling, family counseling also helps to clear the air between all parties involved. Hidden issues can be discussed in a neutral area with an educated arbitrator to guide everyone along. In this way, the problems have a better chance of being solved permanently.
Raising a teenager is a challenge but one that does not have to end in heartaches for all. Follow the tips and know that you are not the only one having difficulties. It will be hard at first but stick with it, knowing that it is for the benefit of your family.
Yet should you feel that you need more support, there is no shame in reaching out for help. It is better to address the situation quickly and properly before things become even worse. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for teen counseling. It might just make all the difference.
“Her own girl”, Courtesy of Ian Dooley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Cyber”, Courtesy of Freestocks-org, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Daughter,” Courtesy of Mario Campello, flickr.com, (CC BY 2.0); “Teens Having Fun,” courtesy of Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)