Living With a Teenager
Living with a Teenager by Robyn Alagona, MFT
It can be difficult to predict daily life with a teenager. Teenagers have a reputation for being unpredictable, capricious, even inflexible. As an adult, living with an adolescent, it can feel frustrating, anxiety-producing and worrisome to experience the erratic changes teens go through in a week, a day or even an hour. However unsettling this may feel, you’ll be happy to know, this is perfectly normal behavior for a teenager. It is unsettling for us, because, as adults we often forget what it felt like to be in an adolescent body, experiencing unknown, overwhelming emotions and not knowing how to effectively communicate our own experiences. These memories fade in part, because many of them are painful. Adolescence is a time of great metamorphosis. Even the smallest shifts can feel enormous. It is our job as parents, caregivers, teachers, counselors and mentors of teens, to understand and acknowledge the challenges that they face and to help them make sense of this time.
The first step in doing this, is to acknowledge our own reactions to the challenges of living with a teenager. As mentioned before, this can feel frustrating, overwhelming, even insurmountable at times. But, as adults we need to manage our own feelings, so our teens have the space to experience theirs. You may be asking, how do I do this? Well, first and foremost, you, the caregiver, must first care for yourself. You must remember to do the things that keep you balanced and centered, prepared (as well as you can be) to handle whatever walks through the door.
So much of what adolescents want, is to be seen, heard and understood, as their own, unique selves. This concept can be difficult for parents. It is hard to watch children grow up and differentiate themselves from us, their families. This, however, is one of the most crucial developmental goals of this stage of life; to become an individual, who can go out into the world, eventually without us and thrive.
Understanding and integrating your teen’s need to be an individual can be extremely challenging, but it is one of the major goals of parenthood, during this phase. The important thing to remember, is that this is not about getting it right all of the time, it is about being willing to try. When we model for our children, at any age, that we can handle life’s challenges, that we can make shifts and practice tolerance for things that frustrate us, we are setting the best kind of example, one of flexibility, maturity, thoughtfulness and a willingness to grow.