By Nikki Phipps
You’ve lived through early morning feedings and temper tantrums, but now you’ve taken on another battle, the teenage wars. Being a parent, even in the best of situations, is not easy but factor in a teenager or two or three, and life can really get chaotic. I realize that being a parent was never meant to be an easy job; the stress is overwhelming and continuous, and sometimes even I feel like just throwing in the towel and running away. Of course, I know this isn’t an option but trust me when I say teens can most assuredly test a parent’s patience.
As children between the ages of 10 and 14 (or even younger) make the transition from childhood to adulthood, you may notice significant changes, other than the obvious physical ones. There may be more back talk, more attitudes, more trouble, and more disrespect. As a result, there may be a definite increase in conflicts. While most people know these are simply the changes associated with adolescence, I like to refer to this period as “alien abduction.” Why? It started with the first one, a sweet girl who suddenly became a not so sweet back talker with lots of attitude. This was by far not my little girl, at least not the one I have known and raised all these years. This certainly had to be an alien from another world. My daughter would never talk back or disrespect me or anyone else. I was wrong.
Although it can be quite painful, an increase in conflict is supposed to be part of the normal development for children. These conflicts generally pertain to chores, money, friends, appearance (they suddenly demand more expensive attire), and possible substance abuse. You may also notice more conflicts with siblings and at school. During this time, your kids are trying to develop their own identity and with this may come their own opinions, separate from ours, their parents. This change in thinking causes teenagers to question our authority and rules. Teens will start pulling away from their parents, especially the parent whom they’re the closest to. I realize this isn’t comforting news for those currently going through this or even for those getting ready to. I do know that it does get better.
So far, I have been through this with three children, and I am preparing myself for another bout with my youngest son and stepdaughter. As stressful and painful as it will be, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those ‘aliens’ will return your child intact; the only question is whether or not your sanity will be. Until then all you can really do is practice empathy with your teens. Remember, we were once there ourselves. Teens enjoy shocking their parents with freaky hairstyles, unusual clothing, and even rebellious behavior all in an effort to see just how far they can go. It’s ok to let them get by with something harmless and temporary but keep the objections limited to the things that really matter such as substance abuse, sexual behavior, and other forms of wrongdoing.
As long as your teens know that you are there to give guidance and not to take control of their every thought or movement, they will eventually come around. There should always be boundaries, but teens need a little freedom of their own. If I’ve learned anything from the past three, it’s that. With a little love and a lot of patience, both you and your child will survive this alien encounter, sanity, hopefully, intact.5e2