As everyone knows, the teenage years can be trying and difficult for the adolescent, the parent, siblings and the extended family.
I often (laughingly) say to the teenagers and parents with whom I work, that in my experience, there are two basic ways to negotiate adolescence: the hard way (or the hard road) and the easy way/road.
The main differences between these roads is whether or not the adolescent keeps the trust of their parents and can show their parents that they can make good decisions.
As many parents of adolescents have no doubt experienced, teenagers often think their parents don’t know much of anything. (Hence the frequent eye rolls.) For this reason, it is often is easier for a teenager to hear advice from someone other than their parent and also to have an adult other than their parent available as a resource to confide in and ask questions.
One of the developmental tasks of adolescence is to establish greater independence. In order to do this, teenagers sometimes have to establish themselves as different from their previously revered parents. So it should come as no surprise that they try new things out, make a lot of mistakes and can be quite oppositional.
Obviously this can be very hard on the parents, who worry about their teenager’s safety and often feel hurt or saddened by the adolescents’ surly attitude, oppositional behavior or tendency to want to spend all their free time with their friends.
Despite their outward demeanor, teenagers often are also somewhat anxious about their newfound independence, increasing responsibilities or what will be expected of them in the near future. Sometimes adolescents will flip back and forth between acting adult like and independent in one moment and then child like and needing help the next.
Sometimes their own experimentation and independence actually almost scares them and they have trouble admitting this to their parents (for fear the parent will over-react and take some of their independence away).
All these factors often put teenagers and their parents at odds.
Therefore it can be extremely helpful for a neutral third party to serve as a safe confidant, a sounding board, a wise advisor, and to help negotiate some of the inevitable bumps along whichever road the adolescent is on.
A therapist can help provide the teenager sound advice that is more palatable coming from someone other than their parent, can negotiate impasses between the adolescent and the parents, and can help the parents and teenager to better communicate.
Adolescents often need a face-saving way out of a dilemma. I try to provide them that.
I also try to help negotiate those impasses between teenagers and their parents, and to help parents understand that the need for adolescents to rebel against their parents is part of a natural process of differentiation from their parents.
Because they sometimes have to establish themselves as different from their parents in order to establish their independence, the closer they feel to their parents, the more vigorously they have to oppose them.
The adolescent’s goal is often to socialize and have fun. The parent’s goal is to keep the adolescent safe and alive. These goals frequently seem to collide.
I try to help parents balance the need to protect their teenager and the adolescents’ need for independence.
For more information on Adolescents, the easy road and the hard road click on the links below.
For more help with your specific situation, feel free to contact me for an initial appointment.
Adolescent Advice to the Kid – Information for teens on how to negotiate a happier adolescence
Adolescent Advice to the Parents – Information for parents on how to negotiate a happier adolescence