As adults have gone through adolescence ourselves, we recognize that being a teen is a black-or-white, all-or-nothing time. You remember it yourself, don’t you? Everything was drama or disaster. If one thing happened, you were sure you never wanted to leave your room or talk to another living soul again. But you’re not still in your room and you have spoken to people since. Life, inexplicably, went on.
Much of this roller coaster of emotions has to do with the hormonal, chemical changes going on within a teenage body. But this struggle is not just physical; your teen is solidifying his or her sense of self — which is extremely fragile during adolescence. You may be aware of many aspects of this sense-of-self struggle, but your teenager is going to keep the most intimate and potentially hurtful aspects completely private.
How your teen really feels about him, or herself, will be better guarded than a top-secret military installation. While this may distress you, think back to your own teenage years. Did you share with your parents how you really felt about yourself during that turbulent time? No, probably not. After all, what you were going through was private.
There are a couple of key things you can do as a parent to help your teen weather this particular storm.
Cut Your Kid Some Slack
Don’t be quick to punch the ridiculous button if your teen erupts because of some event or circumstance that seems inconsequential to you. Just because you don’t see the earth-shattering importance doesn’t mean there isn’t one to your teenager. Belittling, minimizing, or dismissing whatever it is as irrelevant will only create more distance between you and your teen.
Instead, think of you and your teen as being from two different cultures. When you go to a foreign country, you’re more careful to pay attention to things that can cause cultural misunderstandings. You learn that words and actions that seem harmless to you can deeply offend members of a different culture. So you pay more attention and learn to wait before immediately reacting to what you see or hear.
It’s the same with your teenager — who is a member of a different culture, with different rules, different priorities, and different taboos. The best way to bridge the cultural gap is to ask respectful questions, to listen, and to empathize.
Don’t Pour Salt On The Wound
Your child’s self-esteem during adolescence is taking a beating. Be very careful about what you say and how you act around your teenager. Be lovingly honest. I’m not suggesting you lie to your teen or not tell the truth in what you say. I’m suggesting you be very intentional about how you interact with your teenager — the attitudes you communicate and the words you use.
Be A Loving Rock
Teenagers exist in a sea of turmoil because of the physical, emotional, and relational changes that are happening. They need parents to be a steady, reliable, loving rock:
- Finding patience to answer that ill-asked question
- Withholding judgement until you’ve had a chance to learn more
- Remembering that you’re living with a teenaged child, not a young adult
Be that rock for your teen.
To learn more about questions your teenagers are having, and how best you can answer them, be sure to read Dr. Jantz’s latest release, 40 Answers for Teens’ Top Questions.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.