As we discussed in Part 1 of this post, the teenage years can be difficult, and they can produce adolescent behaviors that have been fairly consistent across generations. For parents, knowing what to look for, and having a better understanding of what it all means, can be helpful.
Below are additional behaviors that you may notice from your teenager:
- Dismissive – In order to disguise the intensity of emotional and feelings twisting around on the inside and outside, teens will often take a global whatever Barely entering adulthood, they already display a sort of world-weary, seen-it-all, bored demeanor, especially where you as a parent and your rules are concerned.
- Collectively Independent – Teenagers tend to try on identities like outfits, looking for ones that seem to fit or look good to them. The goal appears to be establishing independence, but that independence is deceptive. Seeking independence from you is designed to produce acceptance from their collective group of peers. It’s an odd dichotomy of seeking approval from one group by displaying disdain for approval from another.
- Anxious – Teenagers have a great deal to be anxious about because so much of their essential nature is changing. Their bodies are changing; their goals are changing’ their anchor points in life are changing. It’s as if the ground beneath them is shifting, and, at any given moment, they have trouble finding their bearings. As much as the idea of being independent and away from you is exhilarating, it’s also terrifying. On this roller coaster, they are firmly at the front of the car, even when they’d like nothing more than to crawl into the seat behind you.
- Powerful – Of all the characteristics of teenagers, this can be one of the most disconcerting. Teenagers are moving from a reality where adults can usually be counted on to be more capable, more competent, and more able. This provides stability and security. They are moving to a reality where they may find themselves in the uncomfortable and often frightening position of power. Teens can by physically larger and stronger than the adults in their lives. In a technologically shifting world, they often find themselves more adept, more intuitive, and more savvy than many adults. Being in charge, as teens instinctively know, carries with it both a blessing and a curse. They are attracted to the power but intimidated by the responsibility that comes with it.
- Exclusively Inclusive – Teens act naturally like pack animals, even when loudly proclaiming their fierce independence. Most teens crave a sense of belonging, even if they are unable to find it in the people around them. Because of the way culture has shifted, an inclusive community for teenagers doesn’t necessarily need to contain the kids on the block or a group at school. There are online communities and affiliations based upon clothes, music, hairstyles, causes, disaffections, or just about anything else a teen wants to affiliate with. A band of brothers, sisters, or both is only a Google search away.
- Physically Awkward – Teens are still in the process of growing into their bodies, which can put them at odds with that very same body. Physical sexual development can run ahead of a teen being emotionally and cognitively ready to handle those changes. This leaves teens often feeling distinctly out of phase with their morphing bodies and the resulting emotional fallout.
- Overwhelmed – Teenagers, as the saying goes, have eyes bigger than their stomachs about all sorts of things besides food. This tendency results in some kids with schedules so packed, it’s dizzying. There are teens who seem to careen from event to event, propelled by sheer forward momentum. This drive to do can be as much their need to avoid saying no as it is any real desire to say yes. These teens cheat themselves on the important in order to feed the urgent. Getting proper sleep on a nightly basis is exchanged for over-hours-catch-up-whenever-possible on a weekends and no-school days. Proper nutrition is jettisoned for anything that is quick and convenient. They are short tempered, stressed, and at their wits end, all before school starts, and the day doesn’t get any better from there.
So how can you help navigate through all of these behaviors as a parent? Hopefully, going over this list of teenage characteristics has reawakened latent empathy for your kid. That latent empathy may have come wrapped up in painful remembrances of being a teen yourself. It may even have spurred some of your to mutter, “Better her than me!”
You know yourself that adolescence is definitely survivable—but it’s not easy, you remember. So as you’re lamenting how difficult it is or is going to be for you as a parent, hopefully you’re remembering it’s no picnic for your teen, either. When it comes to this phase of life, it’s definitely time to cut your kid some slack. We’re not talking about giving teens enough rope to hang themselves, but rather easing up a little on the parental end, recognizing how taut teenagers’ lives already seem right now because of everything that’s going on.
For more information on how to better understand and deal with the adolescent years, see Dr. Jantz’s book, When Your Teenager Becomes the Stranger in Your House.