Parenting an Adolescent
Tales from the Parent Zone
It's worthwhile to spend time listening to your child, even when you disagree (or, worse yet agree but want to move on to another topic). When my stepson was a teenager, he often wanted a forum for his burgeoning political and social ideas. Some of his thoughts weren't yet well developed, but it was important that he be heard, and that he knew that his thoughts and thought process were respected by us. The older he got, the better his argumentation, and the deeper his perceptions.
Stress, stress, stress. Yet what do far too many adolescents do? Stress their bodies even more through eating poorly, not sleeping well, playing too many computer games, drinking, and smoking. You can help by teaching him coping strategies. Enroll him in a yoga class, spring for a massage, get him involved in a volunteer effort. By diversifying your teen's activities, you may find at least one area in a teen's life that is stress free. Kids (and adults) can also learn to rely on self-relaxation techniques.
You'll be happiest and probably most effective as a parent of an adolescent if you can remove yourself psychologically (even just a bit) from your child's plight. It's his angst! (If you are getting gray hairs over your child's adolescent agonies, you're probably not doing this.) You'll also do better if you can distance yourself just enough that you're not as invested in how well behaved or successful your child is. Is this possible? Probably not completely, but it's something to strive for.
It's a Good Idea!
Enlist yourself as your adolescent's ally. Let her know that you know life is difficult, and that you are available to help her figure it out. (You're not in charge of figuring it out!
Look to Your Child
So much of what we do for our kids in general is in response to our own needs and experiences. If you wanted to be doctor but were foiled in your interests, you might push med school. Don't give him what you needed, give him what he needs.
Adolescents can be as infuriating as little kids, and it's helpful for both of you to stay as positive as you can. It applies for big kids as well.
When Life Gets Hard
How a kid handles her stress and her developmental tasks depends on the child. Ava L. Siegler writes that kids have five basic responses to the stresses and fears of adolescence: anxiety, rebellion, depression, withdrawal, or overattachment. All kids will experience some or all of these responses, and the only time to really worry is if your child gets “stuck” in one of them. If your child doesn't seem to be moving through to a resolution, it's time to get some outside help.
More on: Teen Social and Emotional Issues
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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