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Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster of Adolescence

Veronica scanned the channel listings, automatically rejecting anything that looked like a drama; she had enough of that at home. Sitcoms are out; she simply couldn’t stand watching inane banter in a make-believe household. Same with sports; she was trying to get away from conflicts of any kind. Thank heaven for the Discovery Channel and the History Channel; she’d take the burrowing habits of mole crickets or the engineering feats of the Roman Coliseum any day of the week. She wanted escape and nothing remotely related to anything she was going through; although, she had to admit, burrowing had an odd sort of appeal.

She’d just hit her channel of choice when she heard the front door open and then quickly slam. Ahhh, Tyler was home. Let the drama begin. Veronica used to cringe at the thought of teen angst partnered with estrogen and menstruation. But her daughter, Robyn, had nothing on Tyler. Everything was either a crisis or a celebration with him; the roller coaster started when he was thirteen, a little later than with Robyn, but nothing had been smooth since.

When things are good in Tyler’s life — completely determined by him as opposed to mundane considerations like outside circumstances — Tyler was on top of the world. He operated at Mach 10, almost airborne. Of course, when he was down, he operated about an inch below the ground, slogging along at a snail’s pace, apathetic, dejected, and lethargic. She’d almost gotten used to the weekly mood swings, but, lately, he’d been careening back and forth, sometimes multiple times a day. Veronica couldn’t keep up; she was so tired of the whole thing, she could feel herself withdrawing from him.

With a sigh, she realized that just wasn’t an option. If he didn’t either fly down the stairs on elation’s wings or drag himself down within fifteen minutes, she’d go up and try to get a gauge on what was going on now. This was just exhausting. Where was neutral on that kid’s controls?

I said before that adolescence is a roller coaster your teen is on, with you along for the ride. Now, don’t get me wrong — I like roller coasters. They’re an awful lot of fun — if you can really use awful and fun in the same sentence. The nice thing about amusement-park roller coasters is that you get to choose whether to ride them. They’d have much less appeal if you were forced to ride them even if you didn’t feel well or if you were required to keep getting back on as soon as you got off. After a while, the body jerking and the stomach dropping and the head straining would become very old.

How do you think your teenager feels about the emotional roller coaster of adolescence? At least you can go read a book or channel surf or take a walk and actually get away for a bit, but teens gripped by adolescence don’t always have that option. They are in total reaction mode, and life serves as a huge trigger.

The above is excerpted from Chapter 3 of my new book, The Stranger in Your House. I’ll be posting more excerpts from it here in the weeks to come, but you can receive a FREE copy of the book itself between now and December 15, 2011. To participate in this book giveaway, simply share some of your own thoughts or experiences about raising teenagers – in the comments section of this or future blog posts, or on the Facebook or Twitter pages linked to below.

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