What does a “normal” teen look like? What is typical behavior, and how does the modern parent find their sense of emotional well-being through it all? In this article, we explore this emotional issue and look at some common scenarios in which this focus on our teen’s behavior can become a mask for our own problems.
As parents, we are wired to worry, particularly as our children enter their teen years and embark on the trial-and-error of life learning. The teen years can be rocky, as our children begin to rebel and disrespect their parents; at the same time, we parents can be left feeling sad that our teenagers don’t need us anymore. These fears can be compounded by the pressures of perfection. We don’t want to become the overly concerned parent, nor do we want to become preoccupied with our teen’s lives, but the concern nevertheless lives on.
Scenario #1: The Grief of Growing Up
Your baby is now a teenager, and you are overwhelmed with a sense of loss. That little curly-haired toddler that used to always want you around is now grown up and nowhere to be found. Sometimes, the grief from your child growing up can cause us to fixate on their behavior.
Why does this happen? The process of grieving often involves sadness, but it can also invoke feelings of anger or hostility. These emotions can be difficult for us to process. We often displace those feelings of grief onto those aspects of our lives over which we have more control, for example, our teenage children. While we cannot go back in time to when they were tiny tots, we can try to control their behavior and become overly consumed in their day-to-day actions. Such hovering is not the grounds for a healthy emotional relationship. Often, the result is that your teen will push even harder for distance.
Scenario #2: Falling Out of Sync with Your Spouse
Marriage can be hard work. When you throw the added challenge of raising children into the mix, it is not uncommon for the relationship bond between spouses to falter as the years progress. Fractured marriages can occur over the years, so a solution to whatever began that fault line can be difficult to determine. When that damage occurs, though, some people try to avoid resolving it by instead focusing on their children.
Again, it comes down to an issue of control. One spouse might not be able to modify the other spouse’s behavior, but they can place limitations on their children in a misguided attempt to realign their marital relationship. This type of approach, though, is a recipe for producing disrespectful grown children.
Scenario #3: Emotional Anguish
Sometimes the emotions we feel are too strong or too varied for us to express them. This happens to everyone, but for some of us expressing emotions is more difficult than it is for others. Those who struggle to express their emotions often resort to states of chronic worry for all around them. Particularly their children. They might, for example, fuss overtly over their teenager’s problems or agonize frequently over how to deal with teenage attitude or disrespect. This emphasis on their teenager’s behavior is really a deflection of unresolved emotions. If not addressed, can result in permanent emotional and relationship damage.
The Silver Lining
If any of these scenarios sound like your life, take heart. These scenarios can all be remedied, and by working through them with the appropriate therapeutic guidance you can improve your relationship with your teenager for today and for the future. Emotional well-being is one of the best characteristics of a good parent and is paramount to surviving your child’s teenage years and for forming a healthy bond with them as they enter adulthood. Don’t get defensive with your teenager; don’t dawdle in their disrespect; hone in on your emotions and assess what you can do to make things better.
If you have any questions or would like help with how to break up with someone you love with, call, or text anytime at 757-340-8800 or go to www.drldabney.com.