Surviving the Teenage Years

During their teenage phase your children will tell you one thing and act in another way. So how can parents survive the teenage years with their relationships and sanity intact?

How long will my teenager drive me nuts?

Face it, folks. As long as you have a teenager around, you have a crazy-maker in the house. And despite what you’ve read or been told, this common strain of insanity may last even longer than you might imagine… possibly as long as 14 years! Yes that would make your darling child at least 25 before you and your spouse can take a deep breath and regain any measure of peace.

Your survival depends on the strength, stamina, and emotional endurance you have developed before the teenage years arrive. To train for the rigours of the impending marathon, an in-depth review of yourself and your marriage will be first on your preparedness list. Next, it will require the development of some good friendships to support you. Last but not least, by reading anything available on the subject of teenagers you will come to know that that you are not alone.

The teenage phase can best be described as a search for self, conducted with a magnifying glass. Your teenager will use a magnifying glass to distort every life detail, exaggerating both size and importance. Teenagers become emotionally near-sighted, sometimes to the point of complete blindness.

During their teenage phase your children will tell you one thing and act in another way.

Double signals keep you from being in charge of yourself by allowing your teenager to rule your roost. You, as parent, need to be in charge of yourself and your home. Parenting does not give you the right to push your kids around, but nor do they have a right to confuse you and thereby take control.

You may feel trapped between anger and fear, with no idea what to do. Your child’s teenage years can be used as rigorous exercise of your emotional muscles. You can learn how to cope with manipulators everywhere during these years, if you manage to hold yourself and your marriage together.

Teens frequently learn double signals from their parents. For example, my husband used to wake our daughter by saying, “Wake up – it’s 7:00 and the school bus will be here at 7:30, you overslept, hurry, hurry.” So she’d get up and dressed very rapidly and rush into the kitchen where she’d sit down at the table and start to eat. I would come in and I’d say to her, “Not so fast, it’s not good for your stomach.” Aha - a double signal! No wonder the cereal bowl hit the floor with a crash! She’d been told ‘rush, rush, rush’ by one parent, and ‘don’t eat so fast’ by the other. It’s an innocent double signal, but a huge problem for youngsters who are often bombarded by conflicting instructions.

Your teenager is also a jumble of double signals. At Christmas, for example, they may speak out against commercialism in religious holidays but will also give you a list of their favourite stores and brands.

The skill is to keep your brain and the brains of your teenager watchful and attentive. Perhaps you, as parent, can teach and model this behaviour to your teenager. At school, popularity, peer pressure, A-levels and sport all combine to form giant sources of double signals. Then these pressures aggravate their behaviours at home and interactions with you. The storekeepers tell them not to use skateboards but all their friends do. Parents will ask at bedtime if all the homework was finished and in the next breath complain: “you never help around the house.”

Life is not smooth sailing with a teenager in your house. Like the Man in the Iron Mask, you can count the years and cross them off one by one. Enduring the 14 years ahead of you takes patience and fortitude. Just remember, they, and you, will somehow survive these rough years.

Related links

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  • Video Diary: Communication is the key to understanding older children's behaviour. As seen on Supernanny, a Video Diary could help get you and your child talking again.
  • Stop Your Child Being Bullied: When your worst fears are confirmed, there are plenty of ways you can help to stop the bullying. Bulling Online has this guide for parents.
  • How to Tell if Your Child is Being Bullied: There's nothing worse for a parent than worrying that your child is being bullied. Bullying Online has this guide on how to tell if your child is being bullied.

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