Coming to Terms with Your Teenagers Coming of Age

“Coming of age” is a phrase describing transitioning between childhood and adulthood.  Some people think coming of age is determined when a child is of “legal age”; others think it is when the child is through puberty.  In this article, coming of age is a point in time when your teenager starts pursuing more “adult” interests, such as relationships and sex.

The time when your teenager moves toward adulthood is an important time; however, it can be among the most difficult for a child AND their parents.  Books, music, and movies many times refer to the theme of coming of age and relay the challenges associated in the transition.  For families, this is a most emotional time because parents often are faced with disappointment and broken hearts as they feel their child no longer needs them, while their teenager is separating from them and developing new social circles.  And although most teenagers are excited about this time in their lives, some are saddened or miss the safety that they had in their childhoods.

It’s important to remember that at least 5 percent (the most advanced parts) of the human brain develops when adolescence is nearly over.  Teens can appear unstable and unpredictable because of this fact.  Today’s culture also challenges teens’ brains in making good decisions when it comes to scary things such as drug use, sex, and violence.  Parents play a huge role in this phase of development.  It is important that parents remember and make it known that teenagers are still children and they need to be taught and guided.  The best way for parents to handle these situations is to remain calm, even when you’re struggling inside.  It is important to set curfews and limits for children of every age, and remain consistent with these, even when you have a “raging” child on your hands.

If you have a child who is acting out, experiencing mood swings, contemplating suicide, dealing with bulimia, or anything similarly severe, please seek help from a professional counselor right away.  Kids can become wonderful, upstanding citizens even if they go through a period of acting out and being wild and doing things such as stealing, skipping schools, and using drugs.  The most helpful thing for a parent to remember is that you are the parent; you are in charge.  You are not your child’s friend.  It is your job, in the end, to regain your authority, dig your family out of the ditch, and restore the love and sense of family between parents and child that you once held.

Here are some thoughts on how to stay connected with your teenager:

  1. Let your teen be himself, rather than who you want him to be.
  2. Listen and do not offer advice for every issue your teen encounters.
  3. Be available when your child wants to talk.  Hint: Teens tend to want to talk late at night.
  4. Don’t try to dictate your teen’s style (hair, grooming, etc.).
  5. Welcome her friends.  Keep snacks for large groups of teens, and smile when her friends take over your house, unexpectedly.
  6. Praise is important at any phase of parenting.  Don’t overpraise, but be sure to praise instead of always finding what’s wrong.
  7. Don’t take your teen’s outbursts personally.  If your teen says, “I hate you”, guess what?  You’re doing your job!  How do you not take that personally?
    a.    take a deep breath
    b.    know that your child does love you
    c.    lower your voice
    d.    remember what it’s like to be a teenager
    e.    respond calmly
  8. Make sure your teenager sees and acknowledges that your family relationships are golden.
  9. Make opportunities to be together, whether it’s once a day or once a week.  Do something your child likes to do.
  10. Welcome your teenager’s times of dependence.  Let her act childish sometimes at home.  This shows that you acknowledge that she is still a child, and it allows her to let her guard down if she is feeling peer pressure to be more independent when she is away from you.

If you are worn out and you feel like you’ve tried everything to get through to your teen, it may be time to seek professional help.  Maybe you need to learn about ways to repair your relationship with your teen in order to make a change in your household.  Maybe you are literally overwhelmed with everything you’ve tried and everything that has not yet worked.  Let the professionals at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you to help yourself, as well as your teen, get through this troublesome time in your lives.  Call us today at 949-220-321, or schedule your appointment using our online tool.  Help is only a phone call away.

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