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    The (Teenage) Stranger In Your House

    He’s in his room for what seems like days, emerging periodically and answering questions with sullen, monosyllabic responses.

    She’s moody, teary, and irritable, one minute demanding you drop everything to tend to her needs and the next minute demanding you just leave her alone!

    He’s not going out for tennis this year, even though he did well last year. When you ask him why, he can’t really give you an answer, other than he’s not interested anymore. As you think about it, there are a lot of things he just doesn’t seem that interested in anymore. He seems to fill up his time somehow, but you’re not sure with what. When he was younger, his life was an open book; now, he’s closed the cover and locked you out.

    She’s constantly negative – about everything. Nothing ever goes right; she never looks right; you never act right. She used to be a fairly happy kid, but now she’s just difficult to be around, which kind of works out because you hardly ever see her anyway.

    He complains about headaches and not feeling well. It’s hard to get him up in the morning to go to school. If he could sleep until noon every day, you think he would, and suspect he does when you need to leave early for work.

    She’s rarely at the dinner table anymore. Instead, she says she’s already eaten, grabs a bag of chips and a soda, and goes to her room. When you ask her about it, she says she’s too busy to spend time with the family and prefers to work in her room, but you’re not exactly sure what she’s doing in there.

    He used to spend hours chattering away about all sorts of things; you used to spend time together. Now, having a root canal seems higher on his priority list than spending any time with you.

    As sure as she is that she’d really rather not spend time with the family anymore, that seems to be all she’s sure about. It takes her what seems like hours to get dressed in the morning, her chair piled high with discarded outfits. She doesn’t know what she wants to do or what she wants to eat, and getting her to sit down to do her homework is almost unbearable.

    You know he’s got clean clothes because you do the laundry, but he seems to constantly wear the same clothes you could swear he went to bed in. His hair is never combed, and you’re worried about how often he’s doing things like brushing his teeth and wearing deodorant. He never seems to stand still long enough for you to really tell. Instead, you see more of his backside leaving than anything else about him.

    You’re living on pins and needles, wanting to maintain family rules and responsibilities for the sake of the younger kids, but it’s sheer torture to get any sort of commitment from her to do her chores. She always promises to do them later, but, somehow, that later never seems to happen. It’s often more tiring to keep asking her to do her chores, so you just end up doing them yourself.

    Sunday mornings are even worse than weekday mornings. Getting him up and ready for church hardly sems worth it. He used to go willingly, but now there’s always a reason why not. Just getting him in the car is a 30-minute argument.

    All of this wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t get that sense in your gut that your teen is unhappy. It’s as if he or she walks around in a swirling cloud of discontent, frustration, and irritation. Sometimes it’s so thick you have trouble making out the person inside. It hurts because that person is still your child, no matter the age.

    None of us want our kids to be miserable as they’re transitioning from child to adult. And none of us, frankly. want to be miserable ourselves, weathering an incessant barrage of teenage moods and behaviors. Navigating this time of life can be complicated, and it’s perfectly reasonable to reach out for some answers and some help.

    The above is excerpted from Chapter 1 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 paricipate 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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